Scott County, Tennessee
FNB Chronicles

This page was created 06 Sep 2008

The Railroads in Scott County

By G. Allen Storey
Contributing Correspondent

An Introduction

This is a beginning of a history project. It is an attempt to put in one place a simple and short history about railroads in Scott County. It is in no way a complete history. Too many people who live, or have lived, in Scott County know far too much about their own history with the railroads for this work to be complete. The problem is, while a lot of people know about this subject, not too many people are telling others about what they know. The end result is several generations of young people who do not know of what a rich railroad heritage that they inherit by living in Scott County. This article in the FNB Chronicle attempts to do three things: first it attempts to let the young people in the county understand what kind of work that their father, or grandfather or great-grandfather did when he "worked on the railroad." The second thing is to provide an understanding about the railroads in Scott County, and why this place was so special for such a long time. The third thing is to provide a place for discussion and to gather individual histories from those who remain with us before it is too late.

Brimstone #35, now in California under private ownership, was one of the famous "Brimstone Shays" that kept the railroad operating under steam power for forty years. (Jan Giardot)

This article starts with a simple question, "what is a railroad?" The author asks for the patience of those who know the answer to this question. This section is for your family members who never really understood what it was that you did on the railroad. Knowledge about railroads was once as prevalent as knowledge about computers or airplanes are today. Unfortunately, this knowledge is being lost as time marches by, so a little discussion is needed to bring everyone up to date.

Types of Railroads in Scott County

So, just what is a railroad? Surprisingly enough, there is more to a railroad than what meets the eye. Basically a railroad is a guide path for wheeled vehicles to carry people or freight from place to place. Usually there are two guides, or rails, which bear the weight of the vehicles and provide the route for travel. The rails have some method for maintaining a constant and consistent distance between them called a gauge. Devices, called a switch are used to change the direction of single vehicles or a set of vehicles connected together in a train. There are at least seven types of railroads in the world, four of which exists, or existed, in Scott County: railroads, trams, inclines and pole roads.

Figure 2. American Lumberman April 2, 1910 edition has the only known photograph of one of the Shay locomotives used on the Tennessee Railroad. (Tom Gentry)


The railroad that we are all familiar with is so common that it does not have a name. This railroad uses two iron or steel rails, separated by being spiked into wooden ties that maintain a gauge. The ties are kept in place on the ground with coarse gravel or stone called ballast. The ballast also drains water from the track.

The trains are pulled by locomotives which are manned by a crew. The train wheels have extensions to the inside of the wheels called flanges. The flanges fit between the rails and acts to keep the cars on the track. American trains have between two or three wheels connected together in a device called a truck. The truck holds the wheels together by their hubs in journal boxes, which may be friction seated or use roller bearings. The journal box with friction seated bearings contains grease soaked packing material to keep the wheels rolling smoothly. The trucks maintain stability with springs and are connected to the car at one of two ends in a pivot called a bolster. The trucks are free to turn as controlled by the rails, which causes the cars to follow along.

The cars are connected by mechanical links called couplers. The couplers can be controlled by trainmen to open, which disconnects the train can, or to close, which connects the cars together. The modern car is equipped with hand brakes and air brakes. The hand brake is a wheel on the side which the trainmen turn to tighten, or sets, the brake, and to loosen, or resets the brakes when it is not moving. Air brakes are controlled by the locomotive and are used to slow the entire train when needed.

Figure 3. American Lumberman April 2, 1910 edition featured the New River Lumber Company Mill in Norma. This mill was the reason why the Tennessee Railroad was extended beyond Paint Rock. (Tom Gentry)

The locomotive is a self-propelled train car than is used to pull or push the train along the track. Locomotives in Scott County used steam or diesel engines for power, and used a variety of methods for changing that power into motion.

There are several types of train cars in a train, too many to talk about in this article. The ones in use mostly in Scott County were box cars, coal cars, gondolas, flat cars and passenger cars. The box car is an enclosed car with two doors on both sides. This car is used to carry freight that need to stay dry. The coal car is a tall, open topped car with special hoppers in the bottom. The hoppers can be opened and closed by control levers. The coal cars would be loaded by dropping coal from the top and unloaded by opening the hopper doors. Gondolas are short sided open top cars without hoppers in the bottom. They are loaded and unloaded from the top. The gondola car carried coal, rock and clay. The flat car is a flat platform on railroad wheels. It was used to carry timber, which is cut trees, and lumber, which is trees cut into boards. The passenger car was a special, long boxcar with windows and seats for people. Modern passenger cars had air conditioning and rest rooms on board. The passenger car was specialized into coach cars, which were full of seats, like a bus, diner cars, which contained a portable restaurant, and sleeper cars. Sleeper cars are passenger cars that contained beds and even small apartments for first class passengers. The best were those built and operated by the Pullman Company. These cars were used in trains operating through and in Scott County.


The tram is a small railroad that uses small steel rails. The track looks like a miniature version of the railroad track. The cars are usually pulled or pushed by people, animals or small electric locomotives. Trams operate in very tight places, like coal mines and are usually used to carry coal from the mines to the tipples, which are structures used to load coal cars.

Figure 4. Brimstone Shay in its shed, 1963. (Jan Giardot)


Trains on a regular railroad are heavy and requires heavy locomotives to pull them. When a railroad goes through mountains, like in Scott County, it presents a problem for the locomotive. They usually cannot carry trains of any length for grades greater than 3 percent, which is a piece of track that goes up three feet for every one hundred feet in run. While automobiles can do this easily, you must remember that automobiles weight only two tons and are powered by 150 to 200 horsepower each. While a locomotive may be powered by 4,500 horsepower they carry trains of over 4,000 tons, so an uphill grade can be a problem. Usually a railroad can solve this problem by making the grades as level as possible, filling a small hollow, cutting through a hill or drilling a tunnel through a mountain. Usually they wind around the mountains in long curves that keep the grade to 2 percent or less.

Sometimes it is impossible to keep the grades this level. Some times the grades are much greater, like over 70 percent, 70 feet up for each 100 feet out. In this case the incline railroad is used. An incline railroad goes straight up a mountainside. The trains are limited to one or two cars. Its "locomotive" is an engine based at the top of the mountain. The engine is connected to a winch which uses steel rope to pull the car up, and to let it down the mountain. In short inclines a single track is used and the engine pulls the car up to the top of the mountain. The car is disconnected from the cable and usually connected to a small railroad locomotive at the top of the mountain, which takes the car to a place to be loaded, and then returns the car to the incline, where the cable is reconnected and the engine lowers the car back down.

Figure 5. The Brimstone Shays were known for being the best kept working locomotives in the country. At the engine shed, 1963. (Jan Giardot)

Very high or very long inclines used either the 1 ½ track or the double track method. The 1 ½ track method operates like the incline railroad in Chattanooga. Two cars are balanced against each other on a single steel rope, which is wrapped around the drum of a winch. The engine pulls one car up while the other car is let down the incline. At the middle of the incline the track splits into two separate tracks with a special switch. When the two cars reaches this point , one always takes one side up and the other takes the other side down, passing each other safely. The only difference in the weight of the cars is in the load. The car going up is empty and the car going down is loaded. The weight of the loaded car is pulling the empty car up. The engine is used to control the speed of the cars. Double tracked inclines do the same thing, but the crossing point is unnecessary.

There were many inclines in Scott and Fentress Counties. Two in Scott County were used to carry coal and were pretty well built. They were in Dean, on the Tennessee

Railroad and in New River, on the Brimstone Railroad. Two used to carry coal were lightly built and hard to find today, one was on Smoky Creek on the Brimstone and the other was down to Wolf Creek near Jamestown on the Oneida and Western Railroad. There were many other temporary inclines built throughout the counties in the Cumberland Plateau.

Pole Roads

Pole roads were pretty common in the timber areas of Scott and Fentress County, but they are pretty much forgotten today. A pole road used small trees, usually eight to twelve inches in diameter, cut down and trimmed into long poles, as rails. The poles were kept into place by using their weight into the ground. Sometimes wooden pegs, like very large tent pegs, were driven on the down hill side to keep the poles in place. The poles were connected together into smooth rails by splicing them together with metal pins.

The pole roads used wagons as cars, pulled by teams of mules. A narrow gauge pole road would be wide enough for the team of mules to pull the wagon in a single file. The usual width of the pole road was wide enough to allow a normal, double file, teaming of mules to the wagon. There was usually only one wagon per mule team and it was operated by a single teamster. The pole road usually carried timber to a lumber sawmill or to a loading point for a logging railroad to carry the load to the mill.

The wagons for a pole road were fitted with special metal wheels that were shaped to fit around the pole for guidance. They looked much like modern automobile wheels without the tires. There was usually one derailment, where the wheels "jumped the track," per day, where the teamster became instant track maintainer and repaired the pole rail and reset the wagon onto the track.

Pole roads were light weight railroads and over the years they rotted away, back into the forest floor. It is difficult, if not impossible, to find these old pole road routes today.

The other three forms of railroads? They are cog, electric and monorail railroad.

Figure 6. Oneida and Western # 27. (Tom Gentry)

Types of Railroad Companies in Scott County

There were three types of railroad companies in Scott County, the Common Carrier, the Coal Railroad and the Logging Railroad

Common Carrier

The common carrier railroad is a railroad that is designed to carry anything that a railroad may carry. The Norfolk Southern Railway is an example of a common carrier. They carry passenger and freight from place to place and charge for the service. They do not specialize in any particular operation or commodity. While a common carrier railroad can function as a coal railroad or a logging railroad, they usually don’t and leave those types of special operations to branch line railroads.

Coal railroads

The coal railroad is a railroad that specializes in carrying coal from the mine to the common carrier railroad. In the old days a coal mine, wither a drift mine or a shaft mine, the coal was taken out using a tram railroad. The trams were routed to a structure called a tipple, named because it was the place where the tram cars were tipped over to empty the coal. Some of the simple tipples were either chutes from the hillside or small bridges over the railroad tracks. The tram cars were tipped so that the coal would fall immediately to a coal car directly below. The coal car would be placed there by the coal railroad. Some of the tipples were large, like the one preserved at the Blue Hereon historical site on the Kentucky and Tennessee Railroad in McCreary County. These tipples sorted the coal by their size and sometimes made "dustless" coal by spraying the chunks of coal with a light mist of oil. These types of tipples straddled two or more tracks, arranged in a small rail yard. Each track was for a particular size grade of coal. Some tipples had their own small locomotives to push the cars under the tipples, in order to load the coal without waiting for the coal railroad to provide one. Other tipples had the track on the empty side built on a slight uphill grade. The coal train would push the empty cars under the tipple and past it, up the slight hill. A car hand would then climb up the car and set the brakes. When it was time to load the cars, a car hand would climb on the car nearest the tipple, the lead car, release the brakes and ride the car until it came under the tipple chute. There he would set the brakes and wait for the coal to come down the chute. When it was full, he released the hand brake and let the string of cars roll down until the next empty was under the chute. The car hand would then set the brakes and the process started over again. The coal railroad would collect the loaded cars at least once a day and deliver empty cars for the next day’s operation. Because the cars contained graded coal destined for specific customers, detailed records were kept. The cars were marked by the owning railroad with the name of the railroad and a unique car number on the sides and the ends. The coal railroad would carry the cars to the interchange point in long trains. Each car was then weighed in special scale tracks because they customer was billed by the weight of the load carried, and then placed into an interchange yard, usually owned by the common carrier. The yard in Oneida is such an interchange yard, designed to handle coal loads from the Tennessee Railroad and general merchandise loads by the Oneida and Western Railroad. The common carrier would take the coal loads to their destinations and provide empty cars for the coal railroad to pull back to the mines.

Logging Railroads

Logging railroads were special railroads in that they were uniquely intertwined with their load. Most logging railroads had a main line, usually lightly ballasted, but pretty well maintained. They also had many branch lines. The Brimstone Railroad was reported to have a branch up every hollow for every stream feeding the Brimstone Creek. This was probably true as the logging railroad was noted for lightweight, temporary, unballasted track. This track would wind up the hills and have grades exceeding 4 percent or more. Many of them would use switchbacks, tracks where a train would go up in one direction as far as it could go, past a switch, and the, once the switch was "thrown" – made to change the direction of travel, the train would go backwards, up the hill to another switchback. This continued until the train climbed in a zig zag method to the loading point or over the mountain itself. At the loading point there was special equipment used to load the cut trees onto the flatcars.

During the first cutting of timber in Scott County, during the early 1900’s the process used mules and "donkey engines." When the trees were cut down they were trimmed by hand on site and then pulled by mule teams using chains to the loading point. Sometimes the trees were carried to a logging point where they were cut into flatcar-length logs and then dragged to the loading point. If the trees were very high up on the hillside, they were "skiddered" down the hill.

A "skidder" was a system by which one tree was left standing at the loading point, but it was trimmed like a pole. At the top was fastened a set of pulleys and the pole was stabilized using guy wires. Steel rope was run from a winch drum up the skidder pole and to another pulley pole high up the hillside. The heavy logs would be connected to skids on the steel rope by chain and lowered down the cable. In some mines coal was lowered to tipples the same way, in cable buckets. The skidder was powered by a "donkey" engine, an upright boiler steam engine mounted on sledges and usually connected to a gypsy winch. A good skidder operator could load a flat car straight from the hillside down to the car. Usually the logs were skidded to a loading point which consisted of poles laid on their side like a simple platform to allow the logs to roll easier. The end of the pole platform would be positioned so that they would be level to the deck of the flatcar when it was positioned by the locomotive. Unlike coal railroads, logging railroads rarely left empty cars to be loaded by the logging crews. The trains were taken to the logging site and the logs were rolled onto the flatcar using the donkey engine and chain. The logs were then secured to the flatcars with chain and the car was moved for the next log. When the train was full it was taken back down to the main line.

Usually the logs were taken directly to the lumber sawmill which was usually located at the beginning of the railroad, called the railhead. The W. M Ritter Mill at New River was located at the railhead of the Brimstone Railroad. In some cases, like in the Hegermeyer Mill in Glenmary, the Oneida and Western took logs out to the yard in Oneida, where the Southern delivered them to the mill, until it burned down. The O&W then delivered the logs to the mill in Verdun which was on its route. The Tennessee Railroad got its start first carrying coal, then carrying logs and lumber for the New River Lumber Company in Norma and then, once again carrying coal as the Tennessee Railroad.

The sawmill would cut the logs into boards and then loaded flatcars, by grade and type of lumber. The logging railroad would then carry the lumber filled flatcars to the interchange yard for the common carrier. The Brimstone would leave their flatcars for the Southern to pick up and leave empties at New River. In this case the yard at the top of the hill was relatively small, so the Brimstone would leave cars when a train to pick them up was due. The other full cars would be left in a yard at the bottom of the hill, next to the mill for other trains to pick up later.

Because of the steep grades, tight curves and light rail, special steam locomotives, called geared locomotives were used on the logging railroads. The temporary nature of the logging railroads makes them hard to locate. Their definite locations are hidden away on drawings in the logging company archives or lost forever. This brings up an interesting observation: the light track of the logging railroads allowed for vast quantities of timber to be taken out without the permanent scars of logging roads used today. Logging roads laid down fifty years ago are still easy to find, but hundred year old logging track is impossible to trace because of the lack of permanent road beds.

Types of Locomotives in Scott County

There were two types of locomotives operating in Scott County: Steam Locomotives and Diesel Locomotives.

Figure 7. Oneida and Western # 28. (Tom Gentry)

Steam Locomotives

Steam locomotives used steam power to move the trains. These locomotives were usually divided into two major parts, the boiler and the engine. The steam is created in the horizontally mounted boilers. The boilers had built inside of them special fire boxes which held the coal or wood fires that heated the water. The fire box had a grate which penetrated the boiler at the back and bottom for air, and a fire hole which penetrated the boiler at the back, or the "backhead," of the boiler. The coal or wood was fed to the fire through the fire hole. Later locomotives used oil or coal fed through augers to feed the fire. Flues and heating pipes lead from the fire box at the back of the boiler to the smoke box at the front of the boiler. The heat of the air and smoke caused the water to boil and make steam.

The steam was fed by the throttle valve to the steam engine. The steam engine was a large piston connected to a wheel. In a stationary steam engine the wheel was a flywheel, which kept the piston from stopping at the dead points. In a locomotive the wheel was the driving wheel. The steam engine is unique in that each stroke is a power stroke, unlike automobile engine where the power stroke is the fourth stroke per cylinder. The steam was injected in the back of the piston by a timed steam valve piston located next to the main piston. When the power stroke was completed the valve piston was moved by the valve gear to a position where the steam at the back of the piston can be exhausted and the steam could be injected at the front of the piston. The process is continued over and over again for each rotation of the driver wheel. Because the locomotive has no flywheel it requires two main pistons to operate smoothly. The pistons are set up so that they are off cycle by 90 degrees. This is controlled by connecting the pistons to the driving wheels connected by the same axle. The steam exhaust is routed back up to the smoke box and out the smoke stack. This causes a draft through the flues and fire box and makes the "chuff, chuff" sound that a steam locomotive is noted for.

Steam locomotives had tender cars permanently attached behind them. The tender cars carried the wood, oil or coal used to burn in the fire and at least enough water in the tank to replenish the water boiling out of the locomotive. When a train stopped at a coaling or fueling station, the tender was the car that was loaded with fuel and water.

There were two types of steam locomotives used in Scott County, the rod locomotive and the geared locomotive.

Rod Locomotives

The rod locomotive has its steam engine located at the front with the pistons located on either side, in front of the driving wheels. These locomotives were the most common in use and were specialized in the types of trains that they carried. A passenger train, which was usually concerned about speed, used large diameter driving wheels. The freight train which sacrificed power for speed used smaller diameter driving wheels.

The power from the main pistons was transmitted to the main driver wheels by a movable crank rod called the main rod. The power was transmitted to the other driver wheels by another rod called the drive rod. The valve gear was used the main drive wheel as a timing wheel. The timing was also controlled by the engineering on a moment by moment basis.

Figure 8. Official Railway Guide, showing the routes and timetables of railroads in Scott County: the Tennessee and the Oneida and Western. (Tom Gentry)

The number of wheels and their locations were also important to the design of the rod engine. There were usually at the most three sets of wheel on a locomotive. The first set of wheels at the front, before piston or directly under them, were called the pilot wheels, the next set of wheels were the large driver wheels and the final set was the trailing wheels. The number of sets and the number of wheels in each set depended on the job and operation of the locomotive.

A yard locomotive, which operates on the tight curves found in switches, would have no pilot, between four to six driver wheels (counting both sides), and no trailing wheels. These two switching locomotives would be given a "Whyte" wheel designation of 0-4-0 and 0-6-0. If a engine is designed to move fast through relatively broad curves then a pilot wheel is used. If the locomotive is relatively heavy or very fast for its class, then two pilot wheels on a truck would be located in front. There would be 4,6,8 or even 10 driver wheels on these locomotives. If the firebox was large or the boiler made longer and was too heavy to stick out behind the drivers, one or two trailing wheels were placed on a truck to support the weight. The wheel arrangements were given names. On the Southern, through Scott County, the most common were the Mikados (2-4-2) and the Mountains (2-8-2). The Tennessee used Mikados and Santa Fe (2-10-2) locomotives.

Sometimes extra power was needed and steam locomotives were built with two steam engines under the boiler. These were called Mallets, after the French engineer who designed the first one. They were also called "articulated" locomotives because the first steam engine and its set of drivers were made to swing to either side of the boiler in order to accommodate curves. The pilot was attached to the articulated frame. The second engine was attached to the boiler the normal way, by a rigid frame.

Geared Locomotives

The geared locomotive was a special type used for logging and coal operations. There were three types of geared locomotives used in Scott County: the Shay, the Climax and the Heisler. All of the geared locomotives worked much the same way, the steam from the boiler was directed to smaller pistons which drove a crankshaft, like in a car. The crankshaft was connected to the driving wheels by a set of rotating shafts and gears. This converted the power from the pistons to increased torque, which was needed in carrying timber and coal loads out of the mountains. The result was a set of tough, lightweight locomotives that did not need heavily laid track to carry heavy loads.

The Shay locomotives were built by the Lima Locomotive Works in Lima, Ohio. They were named after their inventor, EPHRAIM SHAY. The shays used in Scott County usually had three pistons attached to a three crank crankshaft set at 120 degrees apart. The valve piston and gear was timed by the crank shaft. The pistons were mounted on a large steel plate on the right side of the locomotive (from the back of the locomotive and facing forward). The crank shaft was connected to the drive shaft and the drive shaft was connect to the power trucks by universal joints and sliding shafts. The drive shaft had large beveled gears which were meshed to equal sized bevel gears mounted on the wheels. The wheels were all the same size, about 36 inches in diameter and were set into a bolstered truck to accommodate curves. The engine would sound like it was running 90 mile per hour while the locomotive was moving barely 10 mile per hour. All of the steam locomotives running on the Brimstone were shays and two of the early Tennessee Railway locomotives were shays.

The Climax locomotive was built by the Climax Manufacturing Company. These locomotives solved a particular problem the shays had in making steep right hand turns, they could easily bind, depending on the skills of the engineer. The Climax solved this problem by mounting two pistons in a 45 degree angle on either side of the boiler, in the center of the locomotive. The pistons drove a flywheel which drove a gearbox. The gearbox turned a drive shaft down the center of the locomotive, under the boiler. The driveshaft connected to a geared set of trucks. The Climax locomotives were used by the Stearns Coal and Lumber Company in the section of track that dipped into Scott County north-west of the No Business area. The Tennessee Stave and Lumber Company used two Climax locomotives on the Wolf Creek branch, below the incline in Fentress County.

The Heisler locomotive had its pistons mounted in a "V" on either side of the boiler at the center of the locomotive. The pistons drove a crankshaft which drove a centerline driveshaft under the boiler. The connection to the wheels was much the same as the Climax locomotive. The Stearns Coal and Lumber Company used two Heislers before finding them unsuitable and changed to rod locomotives for this section of their railroad.

Diesel Locomotives

The only railroads that used diesel locomotives in Scott County were the Southern and the Tennessee. While vastly different, all diesels work the same way. A large marine diesel, designed for boats and ships, are mounted on the deck of the locomotive carbody. The engine is directly connected to a electric generator. The generator is connected to a control box which allows the engineer to control power by a throttle lever. The control box controls the power output of the generator to the electric motors connected to the axles below. The control box also controls the speed setting for the diesel engine. There are usually only three or four speed settings for the diesel, which makes it possible to design the engine to operate at its most efficient power for each speed setting. The electric motors are attached to the axles and not to the wheels as in a steam locomotive. The axles were attached to the wheels in a bolstered truck to accommodate curves.

Diesel locomotives use the electrical power from the generator to the electric motors to pull their trains up the hills. When going down hill the diesel uses a special form of braking called "dynamic braking." Dynamic braking switches the motors into generators and use the magnetic field of the motor coils to slow the train down without using air brakes. This reduces wear and tear on the breaks on each train car, but it also creates a lot of heat in the motors. The diesel locomotives with dynamic brakes have large fans mounted on top of the car body which are used to cool the very large radiators that are used to cool the motors. These fans make the characteristic whine heard when these locomotives go down hill.

In diesel locomotives the wheel designations were changed to count the number of axles. There were three truck configurations, "A," which was a three axle design with one axle offset behind the middle one, "B" which was a two axle truck and "C" which was a three axle truck with equal distance between the axles. The A truck is a discontinued design and now only two and three axle locomotives run through Scott County. The Southern and Norfolk Southern run both types but have been purchasing three axle power lately. The Tennessee ran six two axle locomotives built by the American Locomotive Company, better known as ALCO. Today the only manufacturers of diesel locomotives are General Electric and General Motors Electro-Motive Division (EMD).

Running a Railroad

To understand how railroads impacted and influenced Scott County and its people you must also understand how trains were operated in the 1880’s to the 1930’s.

The main line railroad that runs through Scott County, the Cincinnati Southern, and later the Cincinnati New Orleans and Texas Pacific ran from Cincinnati to Chattanooga, over three hundred miles. In order to manage such a long railroad it was divided into three divisions. These divisions acted as shift controls for trains and their crews. In the 1880’s the divisions took about six to eight hours for a train to complete. At each division point the train crews would be replaced by a fresh crew. It would take approximately 24 hours for an average train to get from Cincinnati to Chattanooga. While very slow for today, this service was a vast improvement of the one to two weeks it took for shipments to be moved between these two cities prior to that time. There were four division points for the three divisions: Cincinnati, Danville, Rockwood and Chattanooga. Each division was divided into maintenance sections and operational blocks. Maintenance sections had special gangs, called maintenance crews, who knew the area and the section of track very well. The section foreman lived in a company provided Section House, which served as the section’s maintenance office as well. In Scott County there were section houses in Oneida, New River, Robbins and Glenmary.

Operational blocks were sections of track that were approximately two to five miles long. These sections were used to space trains apart. If the rules were followed then no train would be closer that five miles behind another train. Bad weather, missed orders, bad clocks and other events sometimes intervened and rear-end collisions occurred, but the blocking system did a good job. The block boundaries were usually indicated by a set of signals. The signals were operated by men in the signal towers next to the signals. Signal blocks were also controlled by railroad stations. In either case, the signal operator would be told how to signal the trains by telegraph from the dispatcher. The dispatcher could make changes to the timetable to meet the day to day requirements of the railroad. These changes were in the form of signal control and train orders. The signal could order a train to stop, slow or continue past, into the next operational block. Special Order signals, usually located at the station, were used to slow or stop a train in order for the crew to receive new instructions from the dispatcher via the train orders. The dispatcher would telegraph the train order to the station master where the change in orders will go into effect. The stationmaster would then change the special order signal and the train would slow down to walking speed or stop at the station. The orders would be given to the train crew who had to understand it completely before proceeding.

Stations were different from signal towers. Stations held offices where the railroad’s customers would go for service. The station usually had a freight house associated with it for freight cars to be unloaded and held for those customers that did not have special sidings built connecting the railroad to their business. The stations also had a team track where raised platforms facilitated the transshipping of freight off a freight car and onto a wagon where teams of horses would carry the freight to customers. They also had waiting rooms for passengers to wait for their trains, as well as a ticket window for purchasing of tickets on those trains. Scott County had, at one time, 7 stations: Winfield, Oneida, Helenwood, New River, Robbins, Elgin and Glenmary. Oneida, at one time, had three stations, one for the Southern, one for the Tennessee and one for the Oneida and Western. If the three stations were built in one building with shared waiting rooms and ticket windows, then it would be a "union" station, albeit a small one. The station master was the railroad employee in charge of the railroad station, in general. He, or, in some cases, she, would be responsible primarily for operating the telegraph and writing up the train orders, and for the general upkeep of the station. A station, like Oneida, with a large interchange yard, would also have an agent. The agent would be responsible for obtaining empty cars to be provided to the customers of the Tennessee and O&W. He would also be responsible for making sure the full cars are attached to the correct trains and make it onward to their destinations. Passenger agents would sell tickets to the passengers, often routing them on other railroads as needed. The passenger agent had to know and understand the time tables of different railroads in order to get the passenger from his station to the passenger’s destination in the minimal time necessary. Both types of agents were responsible for billing the customer. Stations were also offices for railroad detectives. These special agents made sure that freight was not stolen while on the railroad property. He also monitored for vandals, vagrants and hobos. In small stations, like those in Scott County, the stationmaster, freight agent, and passenger agent were one and the same person.

The most important parts of a railroad are the trains. Trains were operated, as said before, under the control of a timetable or train orders. Trains are organized by destinations and by the type – freight or passengers.. Trains that collect or set off cars from customer sites or interchange yards were called local freight trains. They were usually associated with a station. The station in Oneida usually operated two to three locals at one time. The cars would be brought into the yard and sorted by the general direction that they were going. In Oneida cars were organized by those heading for the Tennessee or the O&W. Cars arriving from these railroads would be sorted into Northbound and Southbound destinations. Through freight trains would collect these cars according to the direction that the train was heading, and drop off cars ordered by the freight agent. The through trains would drop off the cars from Oneida at the classification yards at either end of the railroad, where the cars would be sorted into trains of common destinations. Express freight trains would carry these cars from classification yard to classification yard. Sometimes the trains would be too long for the locomotives to carry, so the trains were broken down into sections. These sections would be outside of timetable rules so they would carry little white flags mounted on the smoke box, at the front of the locomotive, to indicate to the signal operators that this train was operating under special rules.

Passenger trains also operated in much the same way. Local passenger trains would collect passengers form branch lines to the main line. In Oneida the Tennessee and O&W both operated passenger service for most of their existence. These railroads would have their passengers collect in the Southern Railway station in Oneida waiting for the through passenger trains. The most famous of these passengers was the World War I hero Sergeant YORK of Pall Mall, who rode the O&W to Oneida and then boarded a southbound Southern passenger train south to his induction camp. Through trains, like through freights, stopped at each station providing point-to-point transportation and collecting passengers bound for other parts of the country. The through passenger trains would allow their passengers to make connections at the Union Station in Cincinnati or Chattanooga, or to change railroads or connect with an Express or Limited Stop Passenger train at the larger cities, such as Lexington, Danville, and Harriman Junction. Limited Stop trains, or the "Limiteds" usually ran from major city to major city. They were often divided into sections because of the passenger service class provided. First class Pullman sections would always adherer to the timetable. Second class Pullman would make up a second section and coach trains would make up the third or fourth section. The First Class Pullman would have Pullman compartmented sleepers with first class dining facilities. The Second class Pullmans would have aisle –access bunk-beds that were converted into coach seats in the daytime, as well as a dining car. The coach trains would have a dining car and a lounge, but no comfortable sleeping facilities. Such trains would originate in cities such as Chicago, Detroit or Philadelphia and be routed through Cincinnati, where it would make a stop at Union Station. Cincinnati passengers would be allowed to depart or board the train while the locomotive and train crews would be changed from one railroad to the Southern. Pullman cars had their own employees, so those crews would be known to their first and second class passengers for the entire trip. The next stop would be Chattanooga, then, if heading to Miami, the next stops would be Atlanta, Jacksonville and finally Miami. If heading to New Orleans, the next stop would be Birmingham before the Crescent City.

The local freights, local passenger and express trains within a certain section of a division were under the control of the trainmaster. The trainmaster would troubleshoot problems in keeping the trains on time. He could make decisions over-riding agent orders and standard policy in order to get the train to its destination on time and safely. The trainmasters all coordinate closely with the dispatcher. They are his intermediates and they, with the stationmasters act as the dispatcher’s eyes and ears along the railroad. The dispatcher controls where and when a train should be in order to maintain the timetable. He used special wide sheet control forms that indicated the location and condition of every train on the line. He could assign a trainmaster to ride any train to a trouble point. At any other time the trainmaster would "float" between trains, riding any one that he wanted within his district.

All trains are operated by their train crews. The train crew consisted of the Conductor, Engineer, Fireman and several Brakemen.. The conductor was the foreman of the train. He rode in his special office car, called the caboose. The word "caboose" comes from the Dutch word which is the name of the rearmost cabin on a sailing ship, where the Captain’s office was located. The term was applied to the car which was known elsewhere in the world as the "Brake Van." Railroads during that time did not have air brakes. In today’s trains, when the engineer applies brakes in the engine, the air brake system applies the brakes to every car in the train. Before air brakes the conductor would listen for special whistle codes from the engineer. One code was used for setting the brakes and another code for releasing them.

During the 1830’s the trains were short enough for this system to work. The train consisted of the locomotive at the front, which had brakes, and the Brake Van at the back, which had brakes, and a few cars in between, which did not have brakes. As the trains became longer this became impractical and the freight cars were installed with hand brakes. Brakemen became a part of the crew. It was their job to listen for the engineer’s whistle codes and then to climb up on top of the moving cars and "walk the train", setting the hand brakes on each car as they walked on the catwalk on top of each car. On a short train the brakeman would set the brakes, walking from the caboose to the engine and, on the engineer’s whistle, release the brakes on his way back to the caboose. This was done day and night. Low bridges, but especially tunnels were a brakeman’s curse. The railroad would place dangling ropes on a cross arm raised on a pole beside the track a quarter mile before a low bridge or tunnel. If a brakeman should lose track of where the train was on his route, the ropes brushing past him would tell him to fall flat on the catwalk, immediately. If the brakeman was flat on the catwalk in a tunnel then he had the pleasure of being pulled through the foul air and heat of the steam locomotive’s exhaust, and water dripping from the tunnel ceiling. His alternative was to climb down the ladder between the cars and wait it out in relatively fresh air, but, if the tunnel was long or the train was slow or the cars especially "jumpy", he had to hang on the ladder for dear life in the dark.

The two men that everyone knows are in the front of the train, in the locomotive. Actually, they were in the locomotive cab. The cab was an open air enclosure for the driver, known in America as the engineer, and the fireman. Both men rode behind the steam locomotive, where the firebox was. The steam locomotive used wood or coal to heat water into steam. The steam was used to work the pistons in the part of the locomotive known as the steam engine. The engine worked the timing between the valves and the pistons and the driving wheels so that the locomotive can move forward or backward along the tracks. Steam locomotives on the Southern commonly weighed about 150,000 pounds and pulled trains weighing 2000 to 4000 tons, so it took a lot of fire to boil a lot of water to make a lot of steam to pull the train, and it took a lot of coal to maintain that fire. It was the fireman’s job to maintain the fire. The needs of the fire changed along the route, and the fireman had to know how to control it properly. When a locomotive was on a flat stretch of track the fireman had to know that the next hill was a few minutes away and the engine needed more steam to pull it, but if the fire was too hot now, the excess steam would be lost through the safety valves, and would then be wasted, or worse, the train could run out of water before the next water tower. He had to position the hot coals on the grate so that they were burning evenly. He watched the smoke out of the smokestack, too much was a sign of not enough air in the fire box and he opened the grates a little bit. Too little and the heat was just passing through the boiler to fast to make much steam. While he was watching the smoke, fire and water he was shoveling the coal from the tender into the firebox. He had to time this so that he had a load on his shovel and swing it around to the fire hole, which was covered, as he was swinging around he would step on the lever that opened the firebox door and throw the coal onto the firebox grate, not just anywhere, but at the place where the fresh coal was need most. While he is doing this the fireman is looking for obstructions on the track on his side of the locomotive, watching for signals that the engineer may have missed and, when the train passes by stations, any new train orders not given on the engineer side because of the location of the station.

The one job that was shared by both the fireman and engineer was monitoring the water level in the boiler. The steam locomotive was built with the firebox inside the boiler. Only the back end of the firebox, called the backhead, was not totally surrounded by the boiler. The firebox got very hot. In practice, the firebox was hot enough to melt the iron, and later, steel that was used to make it. Only the boiling water’s removal of heat from the surface of the firebox would keep it cool enough to stay together. The water had to cover the top of the firebox, called the crown sheet. A special sight tube was provided to indicate the level of the water in the boiler. Later locomotives were supplied with a special steam whistle inside of the cab that would warn the engineer and firemen that the crown sheet was exposed. When the crown sheet was exposed for more that a couple of minutes it would sag and collapse under the pressure of the steam which would blow down through the grates and blow open the fire hole. The end result would be flame, high pressure steam and hot water through small, reinforced holes. The steam locomotive would literally become a rocket, with the cab crew in the middle of the fatal engine exhaust. Steam locomotives weighing 7 ½ tons have been thrown over fifty feet into the air and three hundred feet down the track because a crown sheet failed.

With this in mind, the engineer is driving the train. He is also looking out for obstructions on the track and he is listening to his locomotive. The reason why railroads are so efficient in carrying heavy freight is because they use metal wheels on metal rails, so the friction is very small. All eight wheels of a modern freight car have the contact area the size of a dime. This means that it takes relatively less power to make the car move that an equivalent weight truck. It also means that when power as applied to the driving wheels of a locomotive, the easier it is for the wheels to slip. Slipping wheels is not only wasting time and energy, but could damage the track. So the engineer is constantly listening and watching for the driving wheels slipping. While on the move the wheels may slip as the locomotive begins to go up a grade. The engineer can control the power of each stroke of the engine by controlling the travel rate of the piston valves. This is done by moving the Johnson Bar backward and forward. In most locomotives there are no powered control devices, so the engineer had to control the power strokes by his muscle power alone. He must anticipate the power requirements for the grade or curve and make adjustments by instinct. The fact that these power requirements change depending on the weather, train load and track conditions must be taken into account by the engineer. The direction of the locomotive is controlled by the same device, so if the engineer overpowers the Johnson bar he can throw the locomotive into reverse, which would not damage the locomotive, but would cause a lot of noise, spinning wheels and embarrassment. Oil or water on the tracks is taken care of by the judicious use of sand from the sand domes on top of the locomotive. The sand is kept dry by the heat of the boiler and is routed down small metal tubes to the front of the driving wheels, where they can soak up the oil and water and provide a bit of grit for some friction over the slippery spot on the rails. The engineer opens and closes the slide valves for the sand with another level in the cab. While all of this is going on the engineer is also monitoring the speed of the train. The basic speed control was the throttle lever, which controlled the throttle valve on top of the boiler. The throttle controlled the amount of steam to the engine. The engineer’s hands were in constant motion between the brake lever, the throttle and the Johnson bar.

Some sections of track have slow speed orders due to maintenance, weather and/or track conditions. These orders must be strictly observed in order to avoid a derailment, or overtaking a train and wrecking into it. At the same time the engineer has a schedule to keep and must know where his train must be along the line at any particular time to keep up. For safety reasons he must be the one to blow the whistle at the road crossings. He also had to blow the correct whistle signals for the brakemen to set or release the breaks while he is doing the same for the locomotive.

Tunnels are also not a favorite thing for a locomotive crew. When the locomotive enters a tunnel the exhaust is blown directly into the ceiling and is then blown back along the locomotive. The heat and the fumes enter the cab where the fireman and engineer are laboring to operate the locomotive. At times the blast of the exhaust has been known to loosen rock which falls on the locomotive and brakemen. The last thing that the engineer wants to happen is to have the locomotive to lose traction and stall out while in a tunnel. He and the fireman take special care to prevent this from happening.

The train crew does not rest when the train stops. When he stops the locomotive, either at a passenger station or at a coaling station, the engineer must leave his post in the cab and check the locomotive for lubrication. He will add oil to joints and check the grease and look for leaks or sticking equipment. Meanwhile his fireman is filling the water tank and the coal bunker in the tender while watching the water level in the boiler. He is also controlling the blower, a jet of steam blowing up the smokestack in order to maintain a draft while the locomotive is standing still. The brakemen would be walking the train, this time on the ground, watching for "hot boxes", when the lubrication in the wheel journals of each car is dried out and the cotton packing is in danger of catching fire. They are also adding lubricating oil to the journals that need it. The conductor is also walking the train and meeting with the engineer with latest instructions or to compare the time on their two watches or discussing the latest train order handed to them by the station master. When the train stops at a station the conductor is responsible for checking his watch with the station clock. The station clock is synchronized with the dispatcher’s clock by telegraph messages. The conductor’s watch is used to set the engineer’s watch so everyone is on the correct time.

As mentioned before the railroad operates interchange yards along the route. The Southern also had classification yards in Cincinnati and Chattanooga. Locomotive and rail car repair shops were located in Cincinnati, Somerset and Chattanooga.

The main thing was that the railroad was more than the trains and the track. Each section, station, yard, shop and train had people, and many of these people were from Scott County. The author’s father, grandfather, great-grandfather, great uncle and 5 uncles all worked for the Southern. His grandfather, CLAUDE E. STOREY, great uncle ROY STONECIPHER, and father GLENN STOREY were all agents at Oneida at one time to the other in consecutive order. His great-grandfather, PLES STOREY was a teamster in Oneida, carrying freight for the railroad on wagons to customers. Glenn Storey worked on the railroad since 1950, ROY STONECIPHER since 1925 and CLAUDE STOREY since 1917. The author’s five uncles who worked for the Southern were ROBERT STOREY, agent in Somerset, PAUL STOREY, agent in Soddy-Daisy, CLAUDE STOREY, Jr, agent in Rockwood, and GEORGE STOREY, agent at Pine Knot. CLAUDE Jr and GEORGE became mobile agents when their stations were discontinued. A railroad family was close to their work and close to each other, and a large number came from Scott County.

The Railroad Comes to Scott County: the Cincinnati Southern

"The Secret Oasis in the Great Railroad Desert"

Scott County is cut out of the Cumberland Plateau, which rises a thousand feet above the Tennessee River Valley floor. Although rich in vegetation and wildlife the land has always been difficult for travel. The Yuchi American Indians settled in this area thousands of years ago. Their isolation by the plateau was so complete that their language, Yuchian, a form of Sioux (Macro-Siouan) changed to the point that other local Indians could not communicate with them. The Yuchi peoples eventually disappeared and the land saw only temporary settlements by the Cherokee hunting parties until the arrival of the first white settlers around Brimstone Creek. For almost two hundred years the people of the plateau lived on subsistence farms and hunted within one of the richest hardwood forests in the nation. Beneath their feet lie vast deposits of limestone, coal, oil, gas and clays. When the land became a nation and the State of North Carolina designated the plateau as a part of Knox County there were no roads into the area. The first of the nation-building roads that passed through the region was the Jacksboro Road, as identified in maps drawn in 1836.

As the country grew it swept to the north and south, around the Plateau, expanding into the Pacific Coast long before America found Scott County. The county was in the "Great Railroad Desert," a region of the Appalachian Mountains from Washington, DC to Chattanooga, and from Richmond, Virginia to Nashville. This area did not see railroads until well after the Civil War and after the Union Pacific connected San Francisco to Chicago. This is the story of how the railroads entered Scott County, their effects upon the land and its people and of the technology with which they had to cope.

Of Cities, Ships and Civil War

The first highways of the Americas were the great rivers. The Ohio, Mississippi, Cumberland and Tennessee were of greatest importance to Scott County. On the Ohio would be founded two cities whose competitive rivalry would change the course of history for Scott County: Cincinnati and Louisville.

Louisville was founded in 1779. It was born due to the Falls of the Ohio, a set of rapids that required freight from keel boats and even flatboats to be transferred on land, carried around the falls and reloaded onto keelboats positioned on the other side. In 1799 Congress made Louisville an official Port of Entry. 1811 brought the first steamboat to the city and Louisville became the main distributor of agricultural and manufacturing goods to the South.

Cincinnati was founded 150 mile upstream from Louisville, at the mouth of the Little Miami on the Ohio as the wilderness Fort Washington in 1810. A year later the first steamboat made its way up the Ohio and the settlement grew into a city as commerce flowed up and down the Ohio. By 1840 Cincinnati was the hub of twenty railroads serving the newly opened Midwest. Because Cincinnati was upstream of Louisville, it became the dominant commercial city, being the first major port from the manufacturing centers to the North. Later development of manufacturing and merchant companies intensified the hold that Cincinnati had over the Midwest. Railroads entered the city connecting with New York, Philadelphia, Columbus, Detroit, Cleveland, Indianapolis, Chicago and St Louis. Louisville suffered from being on the South side of the Ohio at a time when building railroad bridges across such a major river was daunting and expensive.

Soon a serious rivalry arose between these two cities. In spite of its handicap, Louisville also became an important manufacturing capital as well as an agricultural center. Both cities supplied the Midwest and both knew of the next growth area in the country: the rich middle southern states.

During the 1850’s the national roads were rutted dirt paths that could accommodate teamed wagons and stage coaches. Manufactured goods ordered from the North would reach near their destinations via riverboat within four to six weeks; the road conditions were so bad that the final hundred miles from the landing to the store could take another one to two weeks. The business men of Louisville decided to take the economic lead in a direct challenge to Cincinnati’s commercial domination by building a railroad southward to Nashville. The railroad was to be called the Louisville and Nashville, or the L&N, and would spur growth into the Great Railroad Desert.

Figure 9. Southern Railway Station in Oneida, 1918. (Tom Gentry)

The city of Cincinnati was not caught sleeping. Its businessmen had been discussing a railroad to Nashville for years. The problem they faced was not the technical difficulties, but legal ones. In the two decades from the 1830’s to the 1850 railroads grew worldwide at a phenomenal rate. The fastest was in the United States, which used the rails for rapid growth and transport. They were also used to for stock and bond fraud. During this period of time more railroads were promised than were built, and all of them used stock and bond sales to generate capital needed to build. More often than not, the sales of stocks and the issues of bonds failed to produce the money needed to build and the "officers" of these paper railroads would disappear into the wilderness with the cash. Since the cities were issuing bonds for these railroads, only to find them unable to produce the interest as promised, were defaulting them at a rapid rate. The Ohio municipal bonds were at the risk of becoming valueless. The situation became so severe that the Ohio state legislature drafted an amendment to the state constitution which prohibited cities from issuing bonds for commercial ventures such as railroads. While this situation protected the smaller cities of the state, it hindered the businessmen who needed the deep coffers provided by Cincinnati to build a railroad south.

The L&N prospered, after reaching Nashville in the year 1859. Transport of goods to the south increased in speed and volume, but only if you were along the railroad. For example, the roads between Nashville to Chattanooga were so bad, that a merchant ordering goods from Nashville and Boston, would receive his order from Boston weeks before the Nashville wagons could reach him. In fact, it was faster for freight shipped from Nashville to Chattanooga to be first sent by rail to Louisville and then to be transshipped by river boat down the Ohio to the Mississippi and then on the Tennessee to Moccasin Bend. Travel to Knoxville was permissible only during the fall, winter and spring months when the Tennessee was navigable.

Railways were built from Memphis to Chattanooga and to the town of Terminus, Georgia, later renamed "Atlanta." The Chattanooga-Atlanta connection opened the Deep South to the Atlantic costal cities in the Carolinas, Georgia and Florida. Extension of the L&N mainlines from Nashville deeper south to the sea allowed geologists and industrial developers to investigate the mountain of red dust found in the middle to the state. It was found to be iron oxide and steel mills, and the city of Birmingham was located there, forming the third large railroad city in the South. To the north, Knoxville, the host city of the Great Southwestern Railroad Convention became a railroad city with the East Tennessee, Virginia and Georgia, running down the Tennessee River valley to Chattanooga, and several other railroads climbing the mountains into Virginia and North Carolina. In 1859 the Knoxville and Ohio railroad started its way north up past Walden Ridge and into Campbell County. There it would make its way to Jellico in 1882, after being consolidated with the ETV&G.

A railroad network was forming in the South with only the Louisville and Nashville connecting it to the Midwest. For two short years the city of Louisville prospered while the city of Cincinnati fumed, then Fort Sumter was fired upon, and the Civil War was begun. During war two people grew into prominence which would make Scott County the surprise railroad oasis that it came to be. They were the Civil War General Burnside and a young lady named Matilda Slidell.

During the Civil War the Confederate States of America was desperately seeking support from a disinterested Europe. President DAVIS assigned JAMES M. MASON of Virginia and JOHN SLIDELL of Louisiana as ambassadors to England. The two gentlemen and their family took passage aboard the British vessel HMS Trent. On its outbound voyage to London the Trent was stopped by a US Navy ship and was boarded. The two ambassadors were removed from the vessel, but not without a fight from Miss SLIDELL. While one young lieutenant may have been bruised by the Mr. SLIDELL’s daughter’s defense of her father, Miss SLIDELL gained great fame upon the remaining family’s arrival in London. The "Trent Affair" almost caused the British Government to enter the war on the Confederate side. This threat caused the United States government to relinquish the Confederate ambassadors, who finally rejoined their families in London. The Trent Affair also created great celebrity for Miss SLIDELL, soon to be the toast of Europe, and established her to be of great influence on the future of Scott County.

Meanwhile, General BURNSIDE fought his part of the Civil War with headquarters on the great landing of the Cumberland River, south of Somerset, Kentucky. General BURNSIDE’s problem was his great difficulty in getting supplies out of the landing. This was the furthest inland that goods could be brought into the Cumberland Plateau. Bad roads and worse trails slowed transport of good up the mountains onto the plateau, southward, and the Kentucky River gorge created difficulties moving northward to Lexington. General BURNSIDE requested permission from President Lincoln to build a military railroad from the Kentucky River gorge to Knoxville. While awaiting an answer the General ordered his chief surveyor, WILLIAM A. GUNN of Lexington, to identify and plot out routes through the Cumberland Plateau to Knoxville. The plan was to complete the Lexington and Danville railroad, which had stopped at the Kentucky River gorge. There John Roebling, the designer and builder of the Brooklyn Bridge, had built the support towers for a suspension bridge across the gorge. The effort was stopped by the war. Unfortunately for General BURNSIDE, President LINCOLN could not raise the money or equipment for the railroad and the surveys were archived when the surveyors made their way back to headquarters.

After the completion of the Civil War the city of Cincinnati was eager for rail service to the South. Until then, Cincinnati merchants had to barge their goods 150 miles downstream to the railhead at Louisville. They then had to pay highly discriminate rates in order to load the train cars from the barges. The process was reversed when the goods were received by the Cincinnati merchants. In an attempt to share the wealth generated by these rivaling towns, a small, new railroad, the Louisville and Frankfort constructed a line from LaGrange, Kentucky to Cincinnati, providing the city a railroad connecting the Kentucky side of the Ohio to the L&N, south of Louisville. Called the Cincinnati Short Line the businessmen of Louisville thwarted these plans by insisting that the charter, written up by the Louisville dominated Kentucky Legislature, require that the railroad to be built as Northern Standard Gauge (4 ‘8 ½ ") instead of the Southern Standard Gauge of 5 feet. This would cause the Cincinnati Freight to "break bulk" and be transshipped to the 5 feet gauge of the L&N.

With this final insult the city of Cincinnati became hot with railroad fever. Louisville’s L&N line suffered some damage in the south, as did all of the southern railroads, and Cincinnati was planning to establish itself before the other railroads could recover. The Ohio state constitution ban on public bonds investing in private concerns was circumvented by the brilliant legal tactics of EDWARD A. FERGUSON. In his efforts he determined that while the city could not issue bonds for capital in a commercial venture, there was no prevention from its bond issue of a railroad that would be owned by the city. The issue was raised to the Ohio Supreme Court, who found no fault in the reasoning and the city of Cincinnati began its audacious venture to the South. The charter for the new Cincinnati Southern railroad was granted by the State of Ohio in June of 1869, and by the State of Tennessee in January of 1870. A problem was to arise in the State of Kentucky. The problem was that a large number of the Kentucky legislature either owned stock in, or was closely associated with those who owned stock in the L&N. This presented a stalemate where as long as the State of Kentucky refused to issue a charter, the CS could not be built. During the expansion of the L&N some promises made to cities in the east and central portions of Kentucky were forgotten by the politically assured railroad. People in Cincinnati remembered them, though, and backed the campaigns of central Kentucky candidates in earnest prior to the Election of 1871. When the dust settled, all of the legislature members from the western and central part of Kentucky served by the L&N RR, were replaced with new representatives, all backed and supported by the city of Cincinnati. Those new representatives whose regions fell into the potential path of the Cincinnati Southern drew up the charter and the remaining new members passed it. The Kentucky Governor signed the bill into law in February of 1872. The L&N rail monopoly was ended and Cincinnati now had its own way South. Meanwhile, Miss SLIDELL maintained her celebrity in Europe, but her heart would remain in the South.

Cincinnati in Scott County

The city of Cincinnati started its plans for the Cincinnati Southern Railroad in 1869. The first act was to commission surveyors to find a route from Cincinnati to Knoxville or Chattanooga. The railroad was to be of a new type, it was to be a "bridge route" from the North to the South. This meant that the railroad was to take the fastest and shortest route to connect the new rail hub of Cincinnati to the triangle of rail hubs in the South: Chattanooga, Atlanta and Birmingham. Freight trains entering Cincinnati would be sorted and South-bound freight cars would be routed directly to Chattanooga along the fastest route available, through the "great railroad desert." Earlier railroads, such as the Baltimore and Ohio climbed over the Appalachian Mountains by using tight curves, steep grades and low ceiling tunnels. This limited them to smaller, less powerful locomotives and short trains. The builders of the CS wanted faster trains with greater load carrying capacity than what the B&O, and more importantly, the L&N, could provide at the time. Passenger service, especially the first class Pullman Service trains, could be routed from Chicago, Detroit, Cleveland, and even New York, through Cincinnati and then south over the CS to Atlanta, Miami and New Orleans. In order to accomplish this, the builders of the CS would depend upon engineering techniques developed in building the transcontinental railroad from Saint Louis to San Francisco: the Union Pacific. The builders studied the archived routes that General BURNSIDE’s men surveyed during the Civil War. They eventually hired WILLIAM GUNN, General BURNSIDE’s chief surveyor, to find the most direct practical route from Cincinnati to Chattanooga. In two years the surveyors identified no less that 26 routes. During this time the CS was busy with the idea of buying the Kentucky Central railroad, which ran from the Kentucky side of Cincinnati, Ludlow, through Paris, Kentucky and then to Lexington. The plan was to also buy the Lexington and Danville, which was still stymied by the Kentucky River gorge. After several attempts, thwarted by the owners of the KC, the city decided to take the literal middle ground between the KC and L&N and build a line from Cincinnati to Lexington by way of Georgetown, Kentucky, noted for its Baptist College and as the birthplace of Bourbon whisky. In Lexington the CS would connect with the newly purchased L&D to the Kentucky River. The line would then go to Somerset where decisions were to be made as to how to proceed and as to which city will be the terminus, Knoxville or Chattanooga. With this plan in place the line was started at Kings Mountain, Kentucky on December 24, 198-. The tracks would be completed northward to Cincinnati with the completion of the bridge over the Ohio River. It should be noted that the L&N did not stand by quietly. The railroad purchased the Kentucky Central and extended it from Lexington to Knoxville, through the rough mountains of Harland County. The L&N served as the prime coal hauler in Kentucky and out of the Cumberland Mountain mines in Kentucky. The route to Knoxville ran through Jellico, just on the other side of the ridge that defines the Scott County – Campbell County border. The L&N would interchange with the Knoxville and Ohio, later purchased by the East Tennessee, Virginia and Georgia.

The route south was rapidly reduced to a choice of one of three. In all three cases, the driving factor was the Cumberland Plateau. Because of the "bridge route" concept, the Cincinnati Southern was to be one of the few railroads in the world that did not follow the relatively gentle river routes in planning its route. This was because the terrain from Cincinnati to Kings Mountain was relatively flat and easy to cross. Kings Mountain provided the first major obstacle and constituted the first of what was to be 27 tunnels along the route. The first route kept the CS on the Cumberland Plateau and entered Jamestown, where it would reach Crossville and then down the plateau to Chattanooga. The second route would continue through the peak areas of the Cumberland Plateau and travel down the mountain to the valley at present-day Harriman and Rockwood. The third route would run into Scott County as the second route would, but then turn Southeast through Paint Rock, into the New River valley and then on to Chattanooga via Knoxville. While entry onto the Cumberland Plateau from the north was relatively easy, the first route, through Jamestown, presented grades of 90 feet to the mile on the south side. The third route was rated the hardest because after cutting through the mountain country in Kentucky, the Paint Rock route would trap the railroad in the New River valley, forcing either further long tunnels through, or massive engineering cuts and fills over Brushy Mountain, Frozen Head or Windsock Mountain, only to be faced with the shear cliffs of Walden Ridge the descent to the Tennessee River Valley and to Knoxville. Portions of this route were later taken by the Tennessee Railroad.

The second route was selected for a very simple reason. Even with grades of 60 feet to the mile, it was the most direct route. At the time the most costly part of a railroad was the construction and maintenance of bridges. The next was the track. Manpower was cheap, especially in the South where recently freed slaves were available for hire, and available as conscript, or prison, labor. With the realities of post Civil War South, it was easier and cheaper to drill tunnels through mountains, and to build fills through hollows, than it was to lay track along easy grades offered by the Jamestown route. The Cincinnati Southern committed itself to the route which would enter Scott County near the community of Isham, cross the New River in the center of the county and then exit at the Southwest border with Morgan County.

Construction Northward from Chattanooga began in 1879. The route from Chattanooga to Harriman was relatively easy as it ran along the Western ridge of the Tennessee River Valley. North of Harriman the grade became steeper and tunnels were to be constructed. The route was also continued from Kings Mountain Southward. The plan was for the two construction gangs to meet at the construction camp of New River, north of the planned bridge.

The CS was designed to be operated under a timetable and with train orders. A time table was the principle control over trains planned over the railroad. These trains were prime passenger trains and express freight trains. The time tables were planned so that the scheduled trains would remain several miles apart to prevent collision. It also indicated where two trains would "meet," in this case a railroad term indicating when and where one train would move off of the main line and into a siding while the other train passes by on the main line. It was the responsibility of the train crew to keep the trains on time. Train orders were also issued to newly constructed daily trains which delivered or picked up freight cars to railroad customers along the line called local freights.

The point in common between scheduled trains and ordered trains was the location that they were to be at the time they were to be. These locations rarely had anything to do with actual towns, especially after the CS began the climb up and over the sparsely populated Cumberland Plateau. It was the normal practice for railroads to give place names to specific sites important to the railroads. Bridges were all given names, usually the name of the river or creek crossed, but sometimes bridges like High Bridge were named after the engineering feats that they had become. Tunnels were given numbers, counting from the North to the South. Other points were named because of their importance to the grading of the railroad. The highest point along the CS between Cincinnati and Chattanooga is located in Scott County. Normally this place would have been called "Summit", but the name could become confused with the existing town of Somerset thus it became High Point. The railroad was initially built with a single line of track. Sidings and passing tracks were constructed at strategic places along the route. Sidings were used to place freight cars so that customers can use them and passing tracks allowed the railroad to run trains in both directions at the same time, one train would be ordered by a train order and/or the time table to enter a passing track and wait for one or more trains to pass it before it can proceed onto the main line. Each siding switch and each passing track was given a place name, to be used in the train order and time table. Steam locomotives carried the fuel, wood, and later for the CS, coal, and water in tender cars directly behind them. After so many miles, the tender cars had to be replenished and so refueling and watering stations were created. These stations had specific place names. For cities and towns established before the railroad was routed, the office houses were named after them. These office houses could provide passenger stations, freight houses, and/or agencies, as needed.

In Scott County, the only communities that the railroad would pass through were to be Isham and Rugby Road. At the time of construction, there would not yet be a Stearns, Kentucky, Winfield, Oneida, Helenwood, New River, Robbins, Elgin, or Glenmary on the maps. These names were assigned by the railroad for their timetables and train orders.

The railroad was constructed through Scott County using the five-foot gauge as its standard. This meant that the rails were placed so that the inside parts of the top of the rails were five feet apart. This was an unofficial standard throughout the South, and one of the selling points for the CS was through service. Other railroads which used different gauges required that freight would be off loaded from the cars of a different railroad and put onto cars of their own type. Today this is known as trans-shipping and is very expensive to the customer. The use of the "Southern" gauge allowed the Cincinnati Southern to provide "straight through" service. The box car that the customer loaded in Cincinnati would be the same box car that the customer’s customer would unload at the destination.

The railroad entered the county in 1879, passing through Isham and then along its course to the small trestle at Bear Creek. It would then take a gentle westerly curve in an open plain and then turn south again a mile later. A siding and a branch line switch in this meadow would give cause for one of the Cincinnati Southern’s Chattanooga lawyers, CHARLES D. McGUFFY, to name the place "Oneida," after his hometown of Oneida, Ohio. Two miles down the track the summit was met at High Point and the coal branch lines for Helenwood not far south. Then the railroad continued its curving, heavy grades to New River. From the south the railroad gangs entered Scott County where sidings would be located at Glenmary and wound its route up the mountains for Rugby Road. This was a place where a road was constructed to the English colony of Rugby, in Fentress County (See FNB Vol etc.). The CS planned to provide passenger service to the relocated gentry at this place. The siding that was completed at the time was named "Elgin," instead, because "Rugby Road" could become confused with "Rockwood" further down the line. From Rugby Road/Elgin the route cut through low hills into what would become Robbins and the Robbins Tunnel.

The construction gangs consisted of paid and conscript labor, under the employee of engineering contractors to the railroad. The contractors for the southern part of the CS were located in Birmingham. Since the Civil War the city used its natural resource of iron ore and its strategic location as a major railroad hub to attract civil engineers and to build railroads. The Robbins Engineering Company of Birmingham was used to construct grades and tunnels in Scott County. The last tunnel, Tunnel 15, was to be built by A. J. C. ROBBINS, for whom the town of Robbins would be named, had several engineering and non-engineering problems in the construction of this tunnel. It was a long tunnel, 2580 feet long cut into limestone. To his advantage, this meant that the tunnel did not require "lining," a coating of bricks, fitted rocks or concrete to hold back loose soil and rock, but it was full of underground seepages where water would leak through. His non-engineering problem was the construction gang. ROBBINS was bringing white and black construction gangs up from Birmingham and elsewhere in the South into what was developing into a paradise for hunters, fishermen and slackers. In previous tunnel work along this route ROBBINS found that people would sign the timecard, get their tools and enter the tunnel opening, but then they would take advantage of the busy coming and going of men during work and slip out into the woods. After a day of fishing or hunting, or just enjoying the day, these men would slip back into the tunnel and then march out with the rest at the end of the day, signing the timecard along the way. ROBBINS solved this problem at Tunnel 15.

Tunnel 15 Was Built From The Inside Out

ROBBINS carefully surveyed the tunnel entrances at the north and south ends. At the north end he had to fill the hollow and make a grade along the opposite side of what is now known as Railroad Hollow, in order to meet up with the bridge crew at New River. At the south end he had to cut the slope about a quarter of a mile before the overburden became limestone high enough to bear tunneling through. Rock and dirt dug from the southern part of the tunnel was transported on wagons and used as fill on the north grade across the hollow. On top of the hill ROBBINS start his third construction site and solved his missing personnel problem. He dug a large hole straight down the mountain, on top of the route that the tunnel would take. The hole was stopped at the level that the tracks would be in the tunnel, and then dug the tunnel from the north and south ends of the hole, toward the tunnel entrances. Workmen, tools, equipment, rocks and dirt were hauled out of the hole using steam powered elevators. Small tram tracks were built in the tunnel, like in a deep mine, for removing the rock and dirt. The trams were raised by the steam powered elevators and then were pushed to a transfer point onto wagons pulled down the hill. This rock and dirt was also used to make the fill and grade for the northern approach. When the workday started the men and tools went down the elevator. Nothing came out during the day except for the little ore cars. A crew remained on top to operate the elevator and to push the ore cars to the transfer point and back. Lunch was taken in the tunnel and the men were let out at the end of the work day. This was how ROBBINS got conscript labor to work in paradise.

The New River Bridge was built by T. F. PYOTT of Chattanooga. A construction camp was located on the hill where New River is located today. The first New River bridge was constructed of iron and was a modification of the Fink bridge truss used through out the L&N. The entire bridge was 930 feet long consisting of 730 feet of iron trestle with a 200 foot long central span over the river, supported by four masonry piers.

The Cincinnati Southern was completed in Scott County. The two track gangs met "Union Pacific style" inside Tunnel 15, three feet south of mile post 216.

The Cincinnati Southern began train service from point to point on December 19, 1879 and passenger service began in February of 1880. The railroad used Baldwin Locomotive Works "American" type steam locomotives to pull passenger and freight trains through Scott County. The railroad was operated as three divisions. At the ends of each division would be located locomotive service facilities, and crew facilities. A train would be coupled with its locomotive and crew at the beginning of a division and run to the end of the division. There the crew would be changed with a fresh team and the train would be driven through the next division. The CS located its division points in Danville, Kentucky, and Rockwood, Tennessee. The first division would leave Cincinnati, cross the Ohio river, drive up the hill out of Ludlow, and then over the Central Kentucky Plain , across High Bridge over the Kentucky River Gorge, and into Danville. The Second Division would leave Danville and make its way through Kings Mountain Tunnel, then down to Burnside, onward to Cumberland Falls, Pine Knot, then to what would be Stearns, Oneida, Helewood, New River, Robbins, Elgin/Rugby Road and Glenmary, through to Sunbright, Nemo, Harriman, Harriman Junction and into Rockwood. The Third Division would leave Rockwood at the floor of the Tennessee River Valley, in the shadow of the Cumberland Plateau and down the relatively easy grade to Chattanooga.

The Second Division became famous by cutting its course through the Cumberland Plateau. The Cincinnati Southern cut no fewer than 27 tunnels in the 100 Miles between Danville and Rockwood. Back to back these tunnels would run five miles long. Over half of these tunnels are on hills and on curves, making the job of the train crew much more difficult. When there were no tunnels there were bridges, and where there were no bridges there were tight curves and steep hills. The crews described running a train through the division made them feel like rats running through ratholes, creating the famous nickname for the third division: the Rathole Division. The steam engines would blast free rocks and brick tunnel lining from the exhaust of their smoke stacks. Hot steam, black smoke and foul gasses flowed back to the engine’s cab, where the engineer and fireman had to endure time and time again the dangerous runs thought the tunnels. To this day speak of the Rathole in relation to railroads anywhere in the world with rail fans and they all know of the history of the route.

At the cost of tens of millions of dollars and 6 years, the businessmen of Cincinnati had finally achieved what they so desperately needed: A direct, high speed, scheduled train service connecting directly to the South. The railroad was an engineering wonder of its day – 336 miles long it included the Kings Mountain tunnel which was 3,984 feet long and the Ohio River Bridge – 5,100 feet long, with a channel span of 519 feet – the longest in the word at that time. The Robeling bridge site was completed by the first iron cantilevered bridge in North America, High Bridge, which was also the highest bridge in America at the time. The 27 tunnels thought the Third Division, and through Scott County, would take up 5 miles of the route and 105 bridges and viaducts including spans over the Ohio, Kentucky, Cumberland, and Tennessee rivers also made up 5 miles of the route, when placed back to back.

After one year the Cincinnati Southern was deemed to be too much burden for the city to operate, so the lease clause in the Ferguson Act was exercised and bids were requested to lease and operate the line.

The Baron, The Belle and The Plan

During the four years of construction and operation of the Cincinnati Southern, Miss Slidell was still in the highlight in England. Courted by several suitors, she not only had marriage on her mind but also the South in her heart. Hearing of the terrible conditions of the South after the war she monitored the effects of reconstruction for twenty years. In the mean time Baron EMILE ERLANGER finally caught the eye and engagement of Miss MATILDA.. Baron ERLANGER was of the gentry from Germany whose family makes its fortune in investing in railroads throughout Europe. After marriage, the Earl and his wife created the Emile Erlanger Company of London, a $25 million investment organization with the intent of rebuilding the south’s railroads. The Erlanger Company was one of many such financial institutions making money by operating and consolidating railroads in the world, J. P. Morgan and Huntington and Vanderbilt being the three most famous in America. The Erlanger Company developed and finished construction of the Alabama and Chattanooga Railroad and renamed it the Alabama Great Southern. This railroad, combined with the newly acquired East Tennessee, Virginia and Georgia gave the Erlanger Company connections from the seaboard to Chattanooga, Atlanta and Birmingham, and greatly helped the reconstruction of these cities after the war. Upon hearing of the city of Cincinnati request for bids for leasing the Cincinnati Southern, the Erlanger Company responded with a most generous, and winning bid. The Erlanger Company won the right to sign a 99 year lease, in which the track and right of way owned by the city of Cincinnati was to be operated by the Erlanger, with reasonable track improvement and remodeling costs to be shared by the city and the Company. During this time the ERLANGERs were completing a railroad connecting Birmingham to New Orleans, the New Orleans and Northeastern (NO&NE) railroad. With the Cincinnati Southern lease in hand the Erlanger completed a plan wherein they had control over the direct connection of trains between the seacoast and Midwest, especially between Cincinnati and New Orleans. Minority ownership of the Texas and Pacific (T&P) could be leveraged for trackage rights, or at least favored rates over the T&P from New Orleans to El Paso, Texas, were the T&P interchanged with the Southern Pacific railroad. This series of connections and contracts gave rise to the name of the new railroad leased from the Cincinnati Southern: the Cincinnati, New Orleans and Texas Pacific Railroad Company. The deal included rent of $800,000 per year for the first five years with a ramp up to $1.25 million per year thereafter. The deal also included a cut of the profits and required constant upgrade, monitoring and maintenance of the track. Any spurs, branches and new routes had to be approved by the city first, and the right of way was to be purchased by the city and then incorporated into the lease agreement. Success smiled on both the city and the railroad. Within two years the railroad carried 600,000 passengers, owned 54 locomotives, 2,274 freight cars and 42 passenger cars.

New paint, new locomotives and new money established the CNO&TP as the railroad to watch. High European standards applied across the board. The railroad was immediately upgraded with a telegraphed signal control system. On the Cincinnati Southern the trains were controlled by the time table and by train orders generated by the Dispatcher, the head of day to day operations for the railroad. The Dispatcher was connected to stations up and down the line by privately operated telegraph line. To reduce problems in case of breakage in the line, the Dispatcher’s office was placed in Somerset, roughly halfway between Cincinnati and Chattanooga. The CNO&TP installed more stations and special signal towers which had telegraph sets installed. The Dispatcher could now get more firm feedback data from the operators up and down the line. The signal tower operators controlled the semaphore signals which told the engineer to proceed, slow down or stop. The signal towers were placed at each end of a tunnel, at sidings or, later, when the CNO&TP was made in to a double track line, at places where the track was forced into single track. The result was a safer railroad.

The ERLANGERd invested in advertising their new railroad. State of the art Pullman trains from Cincinnati to New Orleans rode on their "Queen and Crescent Route." Cincinnati, the "Queen City" now had access to the South and to the Pacific Coast. New Orleans, the "Crescent City" had for the first time, and alternate route besides the Mississippi River for rapid transportation.

The new CNO&TP began to open its tracks to new customers with their own railroads. Branch line railroads sprang up along the line, all asking for interchange with the CNO&TP. To interchange with a railroad meant that, in this case, a smaller railroad would be physically connected to the larger railroad by a switch. There may be a small siding called an Interchange track involved, or a set of sidings in parallel and connected together with switches, called a yard. In the interchange the small railroad would receive cars from the outside world. The CNO&TP would have a train to stop and put those cars on the interchange track or yard. The small railroad would then operate a locomotive and move the cars left on the interchange track to the small railroad customer’s site or siding. The empty cars would be returned or full cars are set on the interchange track for delivery by the CNO&TP, or routed through it to other railroads until the destination is reached. The two railroads communicate to each other via Agents. A railroad agent is the person who keeps the money coming into the railroad. He, or she, is the person that a user or customer contacts for services or cars to be delivered at the customer site. The agent locates empty cars in the railroad’s classification yards by talking to the yard agent. The yard agent has the cars placed on a train with instructions to "set off" these cars at the requesting agent’s location. The agent then locates the cars in his siding or yard and then assigns them to a local freight that is going to the customer site. In an interchange situation the "customer" is the branch line railroad, who has its own agents which does the same thing to get the car to and from the customer. The was important because of the fourteen independent branch line railroads connecting with the CNO&TP over the next hundred years, over half of them would operate in Scott County.

Surveyors, Hip Pockets and Railroad Moguls

In the twenty years between Burnside’s Surveys and the construction of the Cincinnati Southern, the surveyors kept more than location data in their notebooks. They kept detailed notes of the areas that they were surveying in their hip pockets. Not long after the CS was started, word was coming out of the Appalachians of a beautiful, untouched land, full of virgin forests of hardwoods and softwoods. Deposits of coal were noted as well as shale, limestone and even high quality clays. News about Scott County began to be circulated amongst speculators and lumber magnates. For the next ten years the CNO&TP would operate, bringing passengers through Scott County and providing a through conduit for investors in the north to examine and plot out large sections of land for the future.

After this ten years of peaceful operation a dark cloud brew up from Richmond, Virginia, over the railroad that Cincinnati built. During the loose confederation of the Erlanger’s Queen and Crescent Route the Richmond Terminal Railroad and Warehouse Company started growing. Its location in the port city of Richmond, Virginia, under rapid recovery from the Civil War, gave the Richmond Terminal Railroad the wealth to branch out and to consolidate with other railroads. The RT’s charter as issued by the State of Virginia limited its ability to consolidate ownership of railroads that it, or its subsidiaries actually connected with. Thus the railroad was forced to grow by connecting with target railroads or by being connected to a railroad that was connected to the desired railroad. While it slowed the growth of RT’s controlling grip it did not stop it. By offering financial help during the reconstruction the RT gained control of East Tennessee, Georgia and Virginia, and the through it, the controlling interest of the Queen and Crescent Route. The Depression of 1891 placed the RT in great stress until it was declared insolvent in 1893 and filed for bankruptcy. Over 75% of the railroads in the South were owned by this conglomeration. For a year the fate of these railroads was fought in the courts. Finally Drexel, Morgan and Company agreed to revive the RT. After looking at the books, ownership and stock control structure SAMUEL SPENSER, J. P.Morgan’s railroad advisor, recommended a complete restructuring of the independent railroads into one. In 1984 the Southern Railway Company was formed and Spenser was elected its president. Eventually ownership and control of these railroads became impossible under a single railroad company, so the Southern Railway Company maintained controlling interests in its largest segments and was reorganized as the Southern Railway System. A year later the Southern completed its negotiations with the city of Cincinnati over the control of the CNO&TP, and to honor the lease arrangement. This meant that the CNO&TP would exist as an independent organization, with majority ownership by the Southern Railway System and minority ownership by the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad. Ohio law still prohibited the City of Cincinnati to invest in stock of the company that it leased its railroad to, but the city benefited all the same in the deal.

The Railroads in Scott County

Moving from the North to the South, there were a total of seven in operation within Scott County from 1880 to the present. This is half of all of the independent branch line railroads that were ever connected to the CNO&TP. All in all there were just over a hundred miles of railroad in Scott County. In this article the Northernmost railroad considered is the Kentucky and Tennessee Railway. Although it starts in Kentucky, the branch west of Bell Farm, the Stearns Coal and Lumber Railroad Company, operated tracks down Rock Creek through the northwest corner of Scott County, north and west of No Business, on its way to Jamestown. Two railroads operated out of Oneida during this period, the Tennessee Railway trekked down the New River valley into Anderson and Morgan counties in search of coal and timber, and the Oneida and Western Railroad crossed the Big South Fork of the Cumberland River to reach Jamestown. Helenwood hosted a modest coal railroad at one time and New River was the interchange point of the Brimstone Railroad, owned by the W.M. Ritter Lumber company of Virginia.

Robbins hosted the first branch line railroad, the Knoxville and New River into the Brimstone Creek area, and was the first and only "Narrow Gauge" railroad in the county. Finally the Glenmary Coal and Coke Railroad served a mile and a half from the interchange at Glenmary up to Coal Hill.

Most of these railroads were built after the consolidation of the Southern Railway System. The Southern’s operation of multiple-railroad passenger service brought more people into, and out of, Scott County in one year than had been in the area since the Yuchi settled there hundreds of years ago. Interest in Scott County’s resources and people grew because of the railroad and caused more railroads to be built in the area to haul out the resources.

The Southern Railway/CNO&TP

The CNO&TP operated the railroad until its takeover by the Southern, as caused by the collapse of the Richmond Terminal Railway empire. The CNO&TP participated in one of the engineering wonders of the world when all of the railroads in the South converted from 5 foot gauge to Standard gauge, 4 feet 8 ½ inches, in one day. Much planning went into this conversion. The section crews had spent the better part of a month spiking tie plates in the standard gauge position for one side of the track. A tie plate is a steel plate with little ridges used to hold the rail and to prevent it from wearing into the wooden tie, causing it to be replaced too often. Switch components were prepositioned for changing the gauge for the many switches in the yards and sidings. The car shops had been modifying the car wheel sets and wheel trucks for months. Then at Midnight , on June 1, 1886 the trains all stopped in the South. For the next 13 hours the CNO&TP section crews and shop crews would be converting the railroad. The section crews pulled spikes form the inside part of the rails on one side of the track. After a distance where the rails are relatively flexible another crew would force the free rails up onto the tie plate and under the inside spike. A third crew would then follow the other two and re-spike the outside rail to the new gauge. Gaugemen would check the work continuously. Meanwhile the shop crews were busy hoisting up the cars, one by one and rolling out the old trucks and rolling in the new trucks, on their special standard gauge track, and settling the cars onto them. Locomotives required special work but new wheel sets were onhand and they too were converted. The next day the railroads started and the Standardization was completed.

The Southern Railway ran the CNO&TP as a single track line until the first set of modifications were deemed necessary in the early 1900’s The trains became heavier and the track was replaced to support the load. Bridges were replaced, including the New River bridge in 1906. The piers were replaced by concrete piers and the iron Fink truss was replaced by the steel modified Pratt truss bridge. The CNO&TP was converted to a double tracked line about this time. Existing and replaced bridges were maintained as single track components, as were the tunnels, but in the line between these points the main line was doubled. This aided in keeping the trains moving in both directions. This made some signal towers redundant and made others very important. Two very important towers in Scott County were NR at New River and RO at Robbins. These two towers guarded the single track on the New River Bridge and the Robbins Tunnel.

In 1928 the railroad was caught by the crash of the stock market and did not recover until the 1960’s. The railroad stopped buying new steam locomotives and maintained its fleet until it was replaced by diesel locomotives. Some of the newer locomotives entered the roster when a new railroad was acquired or when a good used locomotive came on the market, but the Southern roster was one of the oldest in the nation. On the other hand, it was also one of the best maintained roster in the nation.

In 1941 the Southern tested the first diesel electric locomotive on the CNO&TP, through Scott County. The locomotive was painted green and white with a gold stripe and gold lettering. It was locomotive number 1600. Its photograph on the new Cumberland River ridge at Burnside became famous, with the fireman, CHARLES F. DENNY, waiving at the camera. CHARLES DENNY would later die as a Marine private at the American conquest of Okinawa. The locomotives did exceptionally well and the Southern bought them and placed orders for more. The railroad was forced to wait until the end of World War II before it could replace its entire steam locomotive roster with diesel. The last steam locomotive on the CNO&TP was locomotive number 6330, a --- type, on June 17, 1953. The Southern Railway was the first railroad in the country to be fully dieselized. The decision to convert to diesel power was economically easy. The typical steam locomotive of 1941 was a heavy Mikado (2-8-2) which when run on the CNO&TP could pull 3,100 tons on the First Division, but was forced to reduce its load to 1750 tons over the Rathole and into Scott County. The run took 6 hours. The new diesels took 4,000 tons over the same Rathole division in only 5 hours. The diesels lasted longer, the first diesel locomotive that the Southern purchased already logged 400,000 miles by 1947 and still had just began to show any signs of wear. The diesel locomotives were easier to manufacture, operate and to maintain. The locomotive was made of a standard marine diesel engine with the drive shaft directly connected to an electrical generator. The cables from the generator went to a control box and then down to four or six motors, mounted on the axles of heavy-duty rail car trucks. They could take curves better than the steam locomotives and the fuel, diesel, was much easier to handle than coal. The control box meant that several diesel locomotives could be connected together to a single control in the lead locomotive cab, called Multiple Unit, and the entire string of locomotives could act as one. Steam locomotives that were connected together for more power had separate crews in each cab and they had to understand exactly how to do this or the result would be that the locomotives fought themselves instead of pull together. They were easier to maintain, as the shop did not have to wait for a day for the boiler to cool down for repair, or for boilermakers to enter still-hot boilers. The engines were surrounded buy a car body that provided easy access to all parts. Finally the diesels did not require firemen. After a long and hard effort to reduce the engine crew the result was an easier to operate locomotive with less crew required. The diesel locomotive engineer still must listen to his locomotive for proper operation, but now the controls are somewhat automated or power boosted, which reduces the exhaustion and increases the safety factors of operation.

In the 1950’s Southern was the first railroad to use the Centralized Traffic Control system. The CNO&TP was used as the test track. Electric light signals on signal bridges were erected at all operational blocks and the signal control cables were all directed to a large board in Somerset. The CTC board as a map of the railroad painted on it, with every switch setting and every signal setting indicated on it. Special train detectors were installed on the track and the current location of all of the trains were noted on the CTC board by a light. Now the dispatcher could not only see where his trains were by glancing at the board, but he could also set the switches electro-pneumatically and set the signals as well. By the end of the 1950’s all of the signal towers were removed.

In the 1960’s the Southern began using computers for specific areas of its operations. By the middle of the 1970’s the computers replaced all of the basic paperwork required by the railway agents. Cars were tracked real-time. During this time the passenger train was phased out of the Scott County area. The economics indicated that the passenger ticket no longer paid for the service provided. The problem became difficult when the post office contracts were given to the airlines. Prior to the ZIP code, the post office operated one or more post office cars on a passenger train. When the train stopped at a station and the passengers and luggage was put off and put on, bags of mail from Oneida’s post office would be delivered onto the post office car. The bags were opened and the mail was sorted for the stations down the line. This service was paid for by the post office and largely subsidized the passenger service. When the post office cars were removed the passenger service suffered and passengers moved to cars or planes. The last passenger train in Scott County left Oneida in 1965 and during the summer of 1974 the Oneida offices were moved to the Tennessee Railroad depot and the Southern passenger station was torn down. The Southern had just purchased the Tennessee at that time. During this time the caboose disappeared from the rear of the trains. The airbrake systems of today were so much more reliable that the hand brakeman was reduced to two or three, mostly for the locals. There was no longer a need for a special car for them and the conductor. The crew stayed in the empty cabs of the diesel locomotives on the trains.

In the early 1960’s the Southern began to make another improvement to the railroad. Working with the city of Cincinnati, the railroad began to route past, or open up the tunnels of the Rathole. This operation also included rerouting around the New River Bridge and the Robbins Tunnel. A new route was cut from Helenwood to Robbins by way of Mountain View. This new route also included the spectacular 330 foot tall New River Bridge about a mile north of the original bridge. The tracks from Helenwood to New River were kept to allow access by the Brimstone Railroad. The tracks over the New River Bridge and through the Robbins Tunnel were removed.

Southern always preferred to run its "hood" diesels long hood forward, or "backwards" from the rest of the country. This was because the long hood provided better protection for the crew when an automobile ran a crossing gate. The Southern also always ordered the short hood to be "high," that is, to be as tall as long hood is. The later locomotives were being built with a short front hood which carried the bathroom facilities. This gave the cab a wide open view all of the way across the nose of the locomotive. The Southern finally ordered these type of locomotives in the 1980’s as the Norfolk Southern. The newer cabs were used for a few years and when the newest diesel locomotives with the "American Standard" cab was presented by the manufacturer the NS ordered them unmodified. The new cabs on the locomotives contain the control stand for the engineer, an office for the conductor and places for the brakemen to rest,

During the 1980’s the Southern was contacted by the Norfolk and Western Railway with the desire to merge. The two railroads were like twins, the tracks were kept to the same high standard, they both operated in the South and the both even ran their diesel locomotives backwards. The only difference was where the Southern was the first railroad to dieselize, the N&W was the last. After close examination the two railroads agreed to merge and they both came under the control of the Norfolk Southern Corporation. The merger was quite successful and in the 1990’s the railroad became one of the four big railroads in America, after acquiring half of Conrail.

During the 1960’s and 1970’s the Southern ran Steam Specials for rail fans and employees to see the sights of an operating steam locomotive pull a passenger train. These specials delighted all who rode or watched them, but they were discontinued when the insurance for operating them became too high.

Glenmary Coal and Coke

The Glenmary Coal and Coke Company were developed to support the coal mining operations at Glenmary and Coal Hill. The operation shipped coal out by coal cars and gondola cars via the interchange at Glenmary. Coke, for use in the steel furnaces at Rockwood, was made in the coke ovens in Glenmary. The 1 ½ mile railroad used a single Porter Low Profile Mining Steam Locomotive called "Betsy" The operations started in 1881 and ended at the beginning of World War II. Glenmary was the largest town in Scott County during these thirty years.

Helenwood Operations

Coal mine operations about a mile to the east of Helenwood was started no long after the operations in Glenmary. This operation used a small industrial rod steam locomotive built by the Porter Company. Porter locomotives have been known as "dinky" engines because of their relatively small size. The Porter could be found in most industrial plants and were very reliable locomotives.

The Helenwood operations interchanged with the Cincinnati Southern with a wye track. This allowed locomotives from either direction on the CS to enter the branch line in Helenwood and pick up loaded coal cars and drop off empties.

Figure 10. The old and the new, Tennessee Steam locomotive #41 and Tennessee Diesel locomotive #6. (Tom Gentry)

The Knoxville and New River Railroad

As noted above, the surveyors for the Cincinnati Southern reported their findings of Scott County resources to the outside world. Eighteen months after beginning operations, the Cincinnati Southern was petitioned for service access in Robbins by the Knoxville and New River Railroad. The K&NR was chartered in the state of Tennessee on May 14, 1883 by ABNER S. CORIELL, JONATHAN ROBBINS, JOHN HUGHETT, ANDREW S. PATTERSON, M. B. VAN KUREN, WILLIAM KIRKLAND, JACOB S. ALLEN, JAMES S. NEGLEY, and JAMES S. NEGLEY, Jr. The railroad was chartered to reach the divide of Brimstone Creek and New River. It was primarily a timber railroad, 13 miles long and with a 3-foot, narrow gauge. It was a plan for the railroad to be extended beyond the Windrock mountains and into Anderson county, where they would have connected with the Knoxville and Ohio for a direct line to Knoxville. The railroad was built to take timber out of land owned by WILLIAM L. LEAKE, who obtained the rights of way to the timberlands.

The railroad was operational by 1885 with a single Porter steam locomotive (0-4-2) construction number 648. The railroad interchanged at the Robbins area in the Brickyard Hollow across the tracks from Love’s Chapel. Topographical maps indicate an earthworks in the area that would have supported a railroad "wye," a Y shaped section of track that would allow the locomotive and train to be turned around. Because the K&NE was a 3 foot gauge and the CS was a 5 foot gauge railroad they could not simply trade rail cars. The flat cars loads of lumber had to be moved by hand or simple machine from the K&NE cars to the CS flat cars.

The railroad went up and over Brickyard Hollow and down alongside Butchers Creek, where earthworks again are indicated on topographical maps, indicating the railroad turning east into Sawdust Hollow where it terminated at Leake’s Mills on Black Wolf Creek. The railroad was later extended on to Indian Fork Creek, into Mill Creek at Slick Rock and then to Haworth and finally to Cortland. This route was built of light weight rail with little or no ballast or road preparation with the exception of the earthworks. This was a common practice for timber railroads and indicated that the lofty plans for reaching the K&O were abandoned or planned for the far future. The Porter was probably kept at the mill, since both needed mechanics to keep the equipment in repair. The locomotive more than likely carried its empty flat cars out to the timberland where the trees were cut, dressed and sized. They were then loaded onto the cars using chains and overhead cables tied to tall trees stripped like poles. If the locomotive did not have a gypsy winch then the loading was done by mule power or by a "donkey engine," a steam engine mounted on a sledge equipped with a gypsy winch. The Porter backed the train to the mill where the timber was taken off and cut into lumber. The train probably waited until the load was completed cut, a process which could take days, and then the flat cars were loaded with the lumber where the timber once was. The train then backed into Robbins where the flat cars would be set beside the CS flat cars. A crew would off load the K&NE flat cars and the train would return to the mill. The railroad continued for about seven years until it was discontinued on March 3, 1893 during the same financial panic that took down the Richmond Terminal Railroad and brought on the founding of the Southern.

The tracks were taken up with little trace and no photographs were evidently taken. Only distant legal records and the research of Mr. MIKE O’NEAL have preserved this bit of Scott County history.

Tennessee Railroad/Railway

The Tennessee Railroad company is the longest running railroad in Scott County, second only to the Southern/Norfolk Southern itself. The railroad got its start in the initial Cincinnati Southern surveys by WILLIAM GUNN. The route was re-inspected by a Dr GRUNO, a Union physician during the Civil War; Dr GRUNO was now attached to the construction gang heading south to New River. Dr GRUNO found large deposits of coal on the headwaters of Paint Rock Creek. He and W. M. APPLEBY, Dr COOPER and ROBERT HIBBLER constructed the Paint Rock Coal and Coke Company Railroad, a short branch coal railroad from the switch named "Oneida," to Morning Glory between 1889 and 1890. They cut the tunnel in Tunnel Hill, a 402 feet long, timber-lined tunnel that, in the middle, started down a 1.93% grade. The route became steeper down hill for the 2.6 miles, shallowing at 1.65%, only to increase to an 800 feet long section of 3.56 percent to Paint Rock. The grade uphill required Shay locomotives, and even then the trains were limited to one or two cars per run.

In 1886 the New River Lumber Company was organized and was started by purchasing the mill in New River started by the Russell, Sheen and Company in 1884 In 1907 the mill in Norma was constructed. By 1909 the company was fully owned by the Globe-Wernicke Company with headquarters in Cincinnati. In 1905 the president and co-organizer of the Southern Railway, SAMUEL SPENSER purchased the Paint Rock Coal and Coke Company railroad as a private venture and reorganized it as the Tennessee Railroad. In 1906 he had extended the railroad to the mill at Norma. His son, H. B. SPENSER took over as president of the Tennessee when his father died in 1907. In 1910 he had extended the railroad south of the Bird lands to Newlands, 5 ½ miles south of Smoky Junction. The Tennessee served the main mill in Norma exclusively until 1910 and operated two shay locomotives, one owned by the New River Lumber Company, and the other owned by the SHEA Brothers and leased to the New River Lumber Company. During the next twenty years these two shays and a third one owned by the SHEAs were used by lumber and coal companies in branches down the Tennessee Railroad. The shays operated logging trains from the branches in the Bird lands and in the Newlands to the Norma mill. There the trains would drop off the logging train at the mill and move flat cars of freshly cut lumber to the drying yard. There crews unloaded the freshly cut lumber and stacked them for drying. They also loaded cured lumber onto flatcars outbound to their customers. The shays pulled these trains Tunnel Hill and into the interchange at Oneida. They also pulled some coal cars filled at the mines at Paint Rock. The railroad reached Smoky Junction at the branch of Smoky Creek in by 1912, having built a branch line past Hembree between Big Mountain and Smoky Mountain. There it began coal hauling operations and continued both tasks until the mill at Norma stopped operation. By this time the Tennessee had entered Campbell County to a branch at Shea, and then on into Fork Mountain in Anderson County in 1925, a total of 45 miles from Oneida. Two other branches were constructed, the Dean branch, which was 3 ½ miles long and Carbon Hill-Clinchmore, 4 ½ miles long.

Because of experience by Spencer, the railroad was built as a first class railroad. The first rails were heavy for the day – 60 to 80 pounds to the yard on hardwood ties. The logging portions of the line was not ballasted, but the final main line was completely ballasted and maintained. All of the bridges built on the route were at Class 1 standards. This was proven to be valuable when, on March 21, 1929, the New River flooded and washed out the line from mile post 26 southward. Most consultant engineers declared that the damaged line would take 6 months to repair, but it took the maintenance crews of the Tennessee only two weeks, thanks to the care in preparation of the road bed and bridges. The Tennessee bought its own locomotives, two American (4-4-0) rod locomotives in the early 1910’s. Since then the Tennessee owned 23 steam locomotives, 2 Ten Wheelers (4-6-0) and 16 Consolidations (2-8-0), 3 Mikados (2-8-2) with a couple of Santa Fe (2-10-2) in the later years. In 1955 the Tennessee bought its first diesel, an Alco RS-1. Number 6 was purchased in 1963, scrapping all of its remaining steam locomotives.

For most of its life the Tennessee operated in receivership. The railroad’s biggest problem was playing out of the mines and Tunnel Hill. In order to negotiate Tunnel Hill the big locomotives were coupled with helpers and stormed up the hill with as many cars as they could pull. A special Hill Run locomotive would be stationed at Paint Rock, now Stanley Junction, for the purpose of pulling, a few at a time, the remainder of the train up Tunnel Hill, into Oneida and back down. The Tennessee had complete steam locomotive maintenance facilities in Oneida and a scale track for measuring the weight of the cars for billing purposes.

The Tennessee interchanged at the yard in Oneida but it examined many ways to get around Tunnel Hill. The problem was that the hill alone doubled the operating expenses of the railroad with its 3 ½ percent grade and three sixteen degree curves back to back. The old standby locomotives, the Mikados, could pull 7 loaded cars up the hill at one time, unassisted. The large Santa Fe locomotives could pull only 9 at a time. The railroad tried to find another way out of the New River valley. The problem was that it ended at the highest point in the Cumberland Plateau. Just on the other sides were the cliffs of Walden Ridge and the Tennessee River Valley making the valley a railroad cul de sac. The civil engineers examined boring another tunnel to Caryville and to link with the Southern at the old Knoxville and Ohio line to Jellico. This approach was too expensive, as was the route over Fork Mountain to Petros, connecting with the Harriman and Northeastern. In the late 1960’s a route over old logging routes connecting to the Brimstone from Newtown was examined, but by then it was too late. By the early 1970’s the railroad was purchased by the Southern and operated by that railroad, and the Norfolk Southern, until this day. When purchased, the Southern welded the rail segments together to make a single, smooth rail. This process, called ribbon rail, improved operations and maintenance of the railway.

When purchased by the Southern the six RS-1 diesel locomotives were to find their way onto the Arkansas-Missouri Railroad, where number 4 is still operating as number 20. The Southern replaced the small Alco locomotives with diesels from its own fleet. These locomotives were used during the last heydays of the Tennessee, a period of time from 1973 to 1980 when two runs a day pulled 125 cars out of the New River Valley.

Figure 11. Map indicating the routes of the Tennessee, Brimstone and a portion of the Oneida and Western. (Tom Gentry)

Brimstone Railroad/New River Railroad

While possibly the most famous railroad in Scott County, not much is known about the Brimstone Railroad. The railroad was constructed by the W.M. Ritter Company after it bought the New River Lumber Company. The main line of the railroad followed the Brimstone Creek bottom land to Long Mountain. Its course from Slick Rock was paralleled by the earlier Knoxville and New River Railroad. The railroad served the mill as a logging railroad and it pulled coal cars out of Hughett and Lone Mountain. The Brimstone always operated shay locomotives. It had three during its lifetime. A small shay was first located there by the Ritter Company and two more were purchased later. These two shays are perhaps the most photogenic locomotives in Scott County. They appeared in railroading magazines for years and were always noted for their clean appearances. The Brimstone was sold to a local company when the W.M. Ritter Company merged with Georgia Pacific. The new company reorganized into the New River Railroad and operated the shays for a year. The New River mill was scrapped by Georgia Pacific and coal became scarce due to the fact that Scott County coal has high sulfur content. The Interstate Commerce Commission, which regulated railroads at the time, declared the Brimstone shays to be unsafe for operation due to "dead flanges," the flanges were worn down to the point of replacement. No new parts were available and the New River Railroad was sold to the Southern. The Southern ribbon railed the Brimstone and ran the operation for another ten years. The branch line still exists, but no trains run on it today.

The Brimstone shays were purchased by the Southern and stored at the Tennessee Valley Railroad Museum until they were sold. One is in private hands in California but the other, number 36, has been restored as Cass Railroad number 10. The Cass Railroad is a railroad museum in Cass, Virginia and preserves lumber railroading equipment.

Kentucky and Tennessee Railroad/Stearns Lumber Company Railroad

The Kentucky and Tennessee Railroad began when Justus S. Stearns of Ludington, Michigan founded the Stern Coal and Lumber Company in 1902, in Stearns, Kentucky. The land holdings, called the "Big Survey," covered 200 square miles in McCreary, Scott, Fentress and Pickett Counties. The Kentucky and Tennessee Railroad was incorporated on May 22, 1902. By May 1903 it had reached 3.5 miles from Stearns to Barthell. In 1906 the railroad was extended to Yamacraw, 7.5 miles from Stearns. There a concrete bridge was constructed across the Big South Fork of the Cumberland River in 1907 and by July 1909 the railroad extended beyond Rock Creek and Oz. By 1914 the tracks extended to a point 16 miles from Stearns, called Difficulty, but later changed to Exodus. At this time the Kentucky and Tennessee was operating as a coal railroad, years after the initial cutting of the Big Survey along the lines. The

Stearns mines were shaft mines with large sorting tipples. The best example is preserved in Blue Hereon by the US Park Service in the Big South Fork of the Cumberland National Wilderness Park.

By 1918 the K&T moved its terminus to Bell Farm. There the Stearns Coal and Lumber Company operated a logging railroad which connected with the K&T and extended itself down Rock Creek into Scott, Pickett and ending in Fentress County, just to the northeast of Jamestown.

The railroad operation came to its peak in the 1940’s, and in 1948 the logging railroad was abandoned. The railroad abandoned most of its trackage and by the late 1980’s only served one or two mines on the main line to Yamacraw. Today the railroad doubles as a tourist railroad taking people down to Blue Hereon.

The most famous locomotive in the area was Kentucky and Tennessee Number 12. This locomotive was the first Mikado purchased by the Southern and was sold as a used locomotive to the K&T. The Mikado worked as number 12 unit 1962, when she was put up for sell and bought by the Tennessee Valley Railroad Museum. There the locomotive was overhauled and painted in the Southern passenger train colors of Virginia Green and Gold. The locomotive was renumbered back to its original number: 4501. This locomotive became star of movies and steam excursions around the country.

Oneida and Western Railroad

The Oneida and Western Railroad was chartered by accident by the Stearns Coal and Lumber Company. The HAGEMEYER brothers were operating a mill called the Tennessee Stave and Lumber Company in Glenmary when the Big Survey was opened. The company sought to build a railroad from Glenmary or Elgin to Jamestown, to be called the Jamestown Railroad. The initial construction was started without benefit of legal charter. The Stearns Coal and Lumber Company took the company to court, misnaming the railroad the "Oneida and Western Railroad." The Supreme Court of Tennessee agreed with SC&LC, except that they made an interesting legal observation. The O&W had no charter and did not legally exist, but the lawsuit against an Oneida and Western Railroad, made it a corporate body and did, therefore exist. On August 5, 1913 the owners of the Jamestown Railroad amended their freshly granted charter to change the name of the railroad to the Oneida and Western. The original owners were O. H. ANDERSON, J. T. ANDERSON, HALL HAGEMEYER, BARTLETT HAGEMEYER and W. C. ANDERSON.

The actual construction was begun in November 1913 at Oneida and took two years to reach the Big South Fork of the Cumberland River, 10.2 miles away. Bridge Number 6 was constructed there. The route followed Pine Creek down to the Big South Fork. When it crossed the river it found and followed up White Oak Creek to East Jamestown. It took 8 years to build the 30 mile railroad over some of the roughest terrain that the Cumberland Plateau had to offer. The railroad was extended the final seven miles into Jamestown in 1930.

A branch line, called the Doss Spur, was extended from Stockton to the Tennessee Stave and Lumber Company logging operations in 1918. It remained in operation until the mid 1920’s. The Doss Spur terminated at an incline which lowered flat cars down into the Wolf River valley. The Tennessee Stave and Lumber Company operated an extensive network of logging railroads in this area, powered by Climax locomotives.

The logs from the Wolf River initially supplied the mill operations in Glenmary. The logs were carried up the incline, assembled into a train which was carried to Oneida and the Southern carried the train to Glenmary. The flat cars were special, short cars (to operate on the incline) and were returned empty to the O&W in Oneida by the Southern. When the Glenmary mill burnt down, the operation was switched to the new mill in Verdun.

Figure 12. Allen Marcum took these pictures of the Ritter Lumber Company incline at Smoky Creek on a fine Sunday picnic at the top of the hill. The date was December 7, 1941.

One of the lumber mills using the O&W was the Whitson Company, which operated a pole road from Slick Ford, in Wayne County, Kentucky to Stockton, Tennessee. The Whitson Pole road was built in 1915 and was used until 1926. The mill was located in a stream bottom so the wagons had to be lifted up and out of the creek bottom via an incline. The pole road was built on the ridgeline. The teamster road the wagon after it was hitched to the single file mule team, and operated the brake, but he used no reins, only voice commands, to control the mule. The run took two days. The Whitson Company built a halfway house for the mule team and teamsters rest. The wagon was given to the next mule team the next day and the empty wagon was taken back to the mill. The second crew made the way to Stockton by the end of the day.

The Oneida and Western carried a variety of merchandise: Freight, mail, passengers, logs, lumber coal, cattle, hogs, sheep and turkeys by carload. In 1938 the railroad began to operate at a loss and the railroad was bought by Crown-Healy Company with the hopes that the railroad would be the sole supplier of concrete to the Wolf Creek Dam. World War II interrupted the construction of the dam and Jewell Ridge lost the re-bid for the concrete contract. In 1946 the railroad was bought by the Jewell Ridge Coal Company of Virginia with interests in opening new mines, but the railroad remained running at a loss. The railroad did haul all of the concrete to the dam site, but it still did not make money. The railroad was abandoned and the tracks were removed in 1954. The company records were relocated to the Jewell Ridge headquarters where they were destroyed. Only the O&W office building remains in Oneida and the O&W depot remains in Jamestown.

The Oneida and Western owned and operated 12 locomotives, only one was built new for the railroad, Number 20. Number 20 was a Consolidation (2-8-0) built in June 1916. It weighed 127,700 pounds and was purchased by the O&W in 1916. The locomotive was operated without mishap until 1926 when it was sent back for repair. During the time the Baldwin Locomotive Works took the unusual step of upgrading the old slide piston valve with a new cylinder piston valve. The locomotive was sold via the Birmingham Rail and Locomotive Company when the O&W declared bankruptcy in 1937.

Number 20 was purchased by the Rahway Valley Railroad of New Jersey. The locomotive stayed in service with the Rahway Valley until 1951 when it was bought by a tourist railroad in Scranton, Pennsylvania. The tourist railroad was the seed of the largest railroad museum in the United States: Steamtown. Steamtown is now owned and operated by the U.S. Park Service. Number 20 was used in the movie "The Cardinal" in 1963 and has been completely refurbished and is in operating condition. The locomotive is on display as Rahway Valley Number 15.

The Railroads Today

Today there is only one railroad operating in Scott County. The Kentucky and Tennessee tracks only extend into Fentress County. The Oneida and Western tracks were taken up in 1957. When the Big South Fork of the Cumberland National Wilderness was formed the US Corps of Engineers was asked to determine if the railroad could be rebuilt on the existing roadbed. The answer was not good. The road bed exists, but the effort would have to start as if were new. The Knoxville and New River is long gone as is Glenmary, New River and much of Helenwood. The Norfolk Southern operates the CNO&TP through Scott County and it owns the Tennessee and the Brimstone. The current operating plans for the CNO&TP is for it to act as a major conduit of trains from Chicago, Detroit, to and from the South, much as in the original charter for the Cincinnati Southern. The Norfolk Southern also uses its Western Division line connecting St Louis to Danville which routes trains from the BNSF and Union Pacific through Scott County. These through trains use locomotive pools and it is no longer unusual to see western railroad locomotives running through the Cumberland Plateau. The railroad is no longer dispatched out of Somerset. There are no real reason to dispatch local trains out of anywhere but Oneida, so the railroad is now dispatched out of Atlanta.

The author determined that at the end of the Norfolk Southern period of steam railroad excursions the railroad examined the use of the Tennessee and possibly the Brimstone as permanent excursion routes, like the Smokey Mountain Railroad. The plan was to base the steam locomotives not owned by the Tennessee Valley Railroad Museum in Oneida with perhaps a shop facility. Unfortunately the main reason for discontinuing the Steam Excursions – insurance and the probability of injury-based lawsuit, discouraged the pursuit of this attempt to revive the railroads in Scott County.

The author has also determined that the Norfolk Southern is negotiating with the last customer on the Tennessee. The new contract will make it more economical to truck the coal from the mine to the tipple on the Jellico Branch to Knoxville. Then the Tennessee, like the Brimstone, will be abandoned in place. The tracks will probably remain for a while because the Southern replaces the bolted track with welded ribbon rail and this type is harder to take up. More than likely the yard and the engine facility at Oneida will be removed, and 120 years of history will be ended.

What is wrong with this story?

There is something very wrong with this story. The thing that is missing is the people. With the sole exception of people that the author knew personally, there are no one else mentioned. By my estimation, there were over 300 Scott County people working for the various railroads that operated in Scott County. Many of these people have passed away and with them their memories. I am proposing a project, much like the Scott County Historical Society’s New River Project, where the men and women who worked on these railroads, and their relations, have their stories and histories recorded and located in libraries through out the country. Photographs of railroads and trains of Scott County and persons associated with them can be collected.

I am expanding this article in to a book for the benefit of the Upper Cumberland Railroad Museum and Historical Society. I wish to include your photograph and/or story into this book. Proceeds from this book will go to the Upper Cumberland Railroad Museum and Historical Society and the donators will receive a free copy. What I need to complete this book is a copy of your old photographs of the railroads, trains, people and equipment that was used in Scott County. I ask that you please send the original item with the return address to my father:

Glenn Storey
2346 Terry Road
Oneida, Tennessee 27841

My father or I will use high quality scanners to copy the photographs, drawings, typed materials that you send and then we will return the original material back to you. We will put the copies into a computer and onto CD ROM disks. WE WILL RETURN YOUR MATERIAL BY INSURED MAIL. Please indicate if you wish a copy of the CD ROM of your material for your own use. For those of you with very large collections that you wish to have included in the book, we can arrange for the material to be scanned in sections, if you wish, and you will receive a copy of the CD ROM with your material on it when we return your material. In all cases when your photograph is used you will be given full credit. The credit will be marked with your name or the statement "From the Collection of …" your name. In all cases those whose photographs and materials are used will receive a free copy of the book.

I thank you for the opportunity to record your history into this book.

Upper Cumberland Railroad Museum and Historical Society

The Upper Cumberland Railroad Museum and Historical Society is a collection of good, railroad people from Scott County and the surrounding area. They are located in the Oneida Library building on Main Street in Oneida (in the old Ben Franklin building). They hold meetings on the third Monday of each month at 1:00 PM. They are good people with good stories and can use your help. They are starting the museum in the front part of the Scott County Library and, to date, they maintain a good collection of railroad material for teaching others of the importance of railroads to Scott County, and of the importance of the lives of those who worked the railroads of Scott County.


I would like to thank the following people for the help that they gave me in writing this article: Mr. TOM GENTRY, Mr. MIKE O’NEAL, the Southern Railway Local Crews from Oneida and Georgetown, Kentucky, the Tennessee Railroad Agents, Maintenance and Train Crews, my father and my uncles who worked for the Southern.


I would like to dedicate this article to my father, Glenn Storey and to the others in our family that worked on the railroad. It is also dedicated to the all of the men and women who worked on these railroads. I hope that their stories can be collected and printed before much more time has passed.

FNB Chronicle, Vol. 14, No. 4 – Summer 2003
First National Bank
P.O. Box 4699
Oneida, TN 37841

Scott Co, TN Homepage

This page was created by Timothy N. West and is copyrighted by him. All rights reserved.