70 Years Ago...

Curtis Brookshire

As we're all aware, 70 years ago today the ET&WNC ran its last revenue train from Elizabethton to Cranberry and back. This was probably the best documented freight train - we've seen some nice rolls from passenger excursions. Jack Alexander, Vince Ryan and John Krause's photos are all familiar to us. So, what was in that train and where were those cars going? The following is based on some published stories and some basic railroad operating philosophies, but has a degree of speculation, so feel free to correct any errors you might find.

The famous shot of the train climbing State Line Hill shows a couple of gondolas followed by a string of boxcars. The gondolas were bound for Cranberry with told for the scrappers. I would assume the cars might have been used to hold rails being lifted by said scrappers. Some of the boxcars had been sold to be used as sheds on local farms. Sherman Pippin is said to have bought three of them. At least one car was a load - wood picked up in Roan Mountain for Graybeal Lumber - the last narrow gauge revenue load. Any remaining cars would have been brought back to Elizabethton for scrapping. When a railroad lists a line as abandoned, they usually run a "funeral train" to bring any remaining interchange and company cars off the line, as from this point forward the line would no longer be dispatched and under the control of the salvage company. I'm also told that at least one of the motorcars was leased by the scrappers. Without known photos of the scrappers in action, I have no visual proof. #11 ran at least once more after this date. Standard gauge #204 derailed its tender in Elizabethton and there is a photo of 11 assisting in re-railing the tender. 11's front coupler knuckle is missing and the engine is more heavily weathered than it was on October 16th, so we've concluded this took place after the last run to Cranberry. 

Even though the Narrow Gauge ended service, the spirit of the ET&WNC still lives through us, our photos, models, museums and of course the DRG and Tweetsie RR. 

Best wishes,
Curtis Brookshire
Pine Level, NC

Join ETWNC@groups.io to automatically receive all group messages.