The Cy Crumley Scrapbook
ET&WNC Railroad

Tour 1: Tribute to Cy and Ruth


Your host and narrator for this tour is Ken Riddle, close personal friend of Cy Crumley, legendary conductor of this great railroad. From 1906 until 1960, Cy worked on the ET&WNC as Brakeman and Conductor.
This is his scrapbook of those years and his story.


Click on each photo to see a larger view.

Taking Tickets
Date: 1938

Here is my favorite picture of Mr Crumley.  It was posed for the press in 1938, the year that Universal Studios made the "Tennessee Tweetsie" movie.  The movie is available to be seen at the Archives of Appalachia at East Tennessee State University.

Note: ET&WNC tickets were validated with a heart-shaped punch designed by Cy Crumley that signified the spirit and service provided by the railway to generations of Appalachian residents.
Dubbed the "Railway with a Heart" - Cy and other railroad personnel were known to do shopping for mountain residents of Roan Mountain or Elk Park while in Johnson City and often to carry passengers for free during the Great Depression - "We are going that way anyway, come along and ride...." In 1938, recognizing the uniqueness of the ET&WNC and its service level to mountain residents, Universal Studios produced the film titled "Tennessee Tweetsie." View a map of the Tweetsie Railroad line from Johnson City, Tennessee to Boone, North Carolina.



Cy in
Johnson City
Date: 1939

Here is Mr. Crumley, his daughter, Ruth Tupper, and Ruth's daughter Jenny Lou Miller at the Johnson City Depot in 1939.  The passenger train originated in Boone every morning and got to Johnson City around lunchtime, in time to meet the Southern and Clinchfield passenger trains.  The narrow gauge ET&WNC departed back to Boone after lunch.  This picture was made at lunchtime Ruth said.  She brought her dad clean clothes and a home cooked lunch that day. In the video clip above, Ruth kisses her Dad twice in the "Tennessee Tweetsie" newsreel movie.  Mr. Crumley was afraid his wife would get mad at him if some movie girl kissed him, so Ruth got the job.  You can see "Tennessee Tweetsie" at the ETSU Archives of Appalachia.



Cy with the Girls
Date: 1938

Mr. Crumley had this shot titled "Conductor Crumley Entertains Some of His Passengers".  Engineer Sherman Pippin looks out of Number 11 at Pardee Point in Doe River Gorge.  This is from 1938 on the press run. 

Mr. Crumley is standing on the rail to make himself taller than the girls.  This was about the time Universal Pictures made "Tennessee Tweetsie."  His daughter Ruth and some of her friends were in the movie with him.  They re-enacted the train stopping along the line for Mr. Crumley to deliver a package of something from Johnson City to two mountain girls up at White Rock, and Ruth and one of her friends played the girls. 



Number 10 at
Legion Street
Date: 1930s

Engineer Walter Allison and his nephew, Fireman Clarence Clifton (Brownie) Allison pose Number 10 beside the Legion Street shop as they head out of Johnson City on a late 1930s Sunday excursion.

Walt wrote a narrative guide for these excursions that was given out to the passengers.  Former ET&WNC President K.E. Wilhoit saved a copy of it in his personal collection.  He donated it to the Archives of Appalachia at ETSU in 2005 and a copy is here on the Johnson's Depot site.  I am pretty sure that Walt's son George F. Allison actually made this picture. Walt's narrative is a real Tweetsie treasure.


Number 12 in the Gorge
Date: 1930s

Here's Number 12 up at Clark's Commissary in Doe River Gorge. The 12 is the engine now at Tweetsie Railroad Theme Park over in Blowing Rock. This is a Sunday excursion in the late 1930's. The excursion trains would stop in the gorge and let people get off to fish in the river and pick them up that afternoon on the way back to Johnson City. It is an easy walk down to the “blue hole” in the river from here and I guess that is what is going on. Clark's Commissary was never on the timetable but that is what all the railroad men called this long curve. I guess that at one time there was some kind of store here. Keep in mind that years ago there was no Highway 19-E and the railroad was about the only way to get up through here!


Number 12 at
State Line Road
Date: 1930s

Fred Helton and Brownie Allison pose with Number 12 along State Line Road in Elizabethton.  Looks like the engine is just out of the paint shop, with the flashy green paint job Supt. Clarence Hobbs started putting on the engines in the 1930s. Engineer Helton was respected all along the line for being "the best whistle-blower on the railroad."  The old men said he could play a tune on the train's whistle. 

Speaking of tunes, Fred raised his nephew Gene Young, who many Johnson City folks knew as a well-known area musician who played in such jazz ensembles as the Tommy Dorsey Band and Tony Spivack Orchestra.  Gene also had a role as Loretta Lynn's drummer in the "Coal Miner's Daughter" movie. The photo below is of Gene playing at the John Sevier Hotel with the Marion Mercer Orchestra. Gene loved the railroads and told many stories of the adventures of a young boy growing up during the railroad glory days of Johnson City and the excitement of being around the three city train depots just to see who was arriving into town.

Fred died in 1956, but his younger brother "Buss" Helton was a regular attendee at the Tweetsie Railroad "Old Timers Day" reunions in the 1970s.  Buss could sure blow the whistle, too, and always made a couple of trips in the cab of Number 12 up at Tweetsie during the reunions. 


Marion Mercer Orchestra
Gene Young on Drums
Date: 1940s
Live at the
John Sevier Hotel

Gene Young
Date: 1940



All Aboard
Date: 1916

Passengers jam onto a full capacity (and then some) Tweetsie excursion car from 1916. This was a little tiny print in Cy's scrapbook.  The fancy dude is riding in a mighty unsafe place looks to me like! Note the folks hanging out of the rail cars in many of the excursion photos you will see on this website.

Cy Crumley loved working for the ET&WNC and the man was an entertainer at heart. As was true for the other railroad men you will meet on this tour (largely born between 1880 and 1900) - times were tough and without the railroad - they may have been following behind a mule with a plow handle in each hand.





Home in Boone
Date: 1930s

Mr. Crumley in front of his "apartment" in Boone.  This is an old caboose the railroad men called "Black Mariah."  It was set off its wheels in the yard at Boone and Mr. Crumley would stay in it from Monday night until Thursday or Friday night when he would return home to Buffalo Street in Johnson City.  He would go back to work at lunch on Monday when the Boone train came into town.



Cy Gives Advice
Date: 1938
Another publicity shot for the "Tennessee Tweetsie" movie.  Cy is posed with an elderly mountain man and appears to be enlightening the gentleman on an unknown topic. The reflection in the railcar window is a gem.

No the photo below is not "Cy Crumley in drag." In a publicity stunt for the movie, this older lady and the old man shown above would get on at Boone and say they had never been on a train before and would refuse to get off at Hodges Gap because they liked the train so much.  Not exactly an Indian attack, but a good show I bet!

Date: 1938



Clearing the Tracks
Date: 1938
A shot posed for the "Tennessee Tweetsie" movie.  Sherman Pippin, Mr. Crumley, Frank Angel, and Jim Miller remove old Elsie from the track between Blevins Station and White Rock.

Below is another publicity photo, made on what is now Railroad Grade Road in Carter County.  Mr. Crumley "personally" is delivering kids to a house from the train. Obviously the Tennessee Tweetsie film helped create many of the folksy legends that now surround the ET&WNC Railroad. In this 1940 Asheville newspaper article, it is apparent that Cy Crumley was weaving the Tweetsie myth with epic storytelling abilities.

Cy Delivers the Kids
Date: 1938



"We the People"
Date: 1938
Mr. Crumley was invited to be on the national radio show "We The People" on November 1, 1938. Cy served as quite a promoter and spokesman for the narrow gauge railroad and the broadcast media was delighted to let Mr. Crumley bring his brand of original humor to the national stage.  This is a photograph I made of the original telegram in his scrapbook BEFORE IT WAS BORROWED FOR USE IN A BOOK BY A NATIONALLY REKNOWNED AUTHOR AND RAILROAD HISTORIAN AND NEVER RETURNED ALONG WITH THE LAST TRAIN ORDER. BRING IT BACK IT DESERVES TO BE IN CY'S COLLECTION AT THE ARCHIVES OF APPALACHIA. Note: this historian does not have books referenced or recommended on this website.......

My dear friend Mike Hardin's aunt, the late, well-known Johnson City historian Mary Hardin McCown, had enough foresight to transcribe the fifteen minute show and keep it in her files.  Here is the transcription of the program.  Ruth made the trip with her Poppa, even being four months pregnant! (Article courtesy of Mike Hardin).



The Conductor
Date: 1939
Here is a dapper Mr. Crumley in 1939 in Pineola, North Carolina. Cy Crumley was the promoter and possibly self-appointed public relations man for the ET&WNC Railroad and his personality made him a well-known popular figure along the entire 66-mile line from Johnson City to Boone. On the right is Mr. Crumley's watch chain and fob which are also shown in the photo on the left. Note: this custom made watch fob commissioned by Cy in 1915 signified the Order of Railway Conductors with the Shriners emblem on the back. Ms. Crumley was none too happy with this extravagant purchase at that time but the Conductor of the ET&WNC had a style to uphold. Cy carried this with him the rest of his life.




Cy with Jim
Date: 1950
Mr. Crumley with his son Jim. Jim was a Railway Express man, and lived with his dad after Mrs. Crumley died in 1960.  He took a day off on October 16, 1950 to make the last trip on the narrow gauge with the crew.



"Extra South"
Date: 1964
Here is a photograph that I think ran in the Johnson City newspaper in 1964.  Mr.  Crumley's friend, H. Reid, wrote a book about short line railroads down south that featured Mr. Crumley in the main chapter.  Cy was delighted with it and always had a copy nearby his big chair at his home at 1003 Buffalo Street.  Carstens Publications still has it in print and it is a real treat.

I have to report to you a humorous story related to this book...
I took "Extra South" to my Uncle Willie Lewis' house and was sitting on the porch with him, Aunt Evy, and Uncle (Big) John Lewis.  They were brothers, both locomotive engineers, and lived next door to one another on Maple Street, over in the third ward. This is near Harris Manufacturing and the ET&WNC Legion Street shop which was home for a lot of railroad families at that time.  I loved to stay there when mom wanted to shop in downtown Johnson City and my uncles and aunts seemed to enjoy having me around.

Uncle John had issues with Mr. Crumley that stemmed from a runaway train incident years before. A train on which they were both on the crew lost control heading westbound down the long, steep State Line Hill between the Tennessee - North Carolina state line and Shell Creek.
The story was that the train ran away with no air brakes and when Uncle John blew the whistle signal for the crew to get out on the cartops and set up the handbrakes, Mr. Crumley cut caboose 505 off the rear of the runaway and stopped it himself and let the train run away without the cab.  Uncle John was furious, and rightfully so.  I am sure he could have used the brakes on the eight wheels on the caboose to help stop the train, which finally did stop from the handbrakes in downtown Roan Mountain.
We were all sitting there together on the porch ... When suddenly my Uncle John finished reading the "Extra South" chapter on Mr. Crumley.  He took that great big hand and popped the book covers closed and said one thing (he never did say much) ... "That Cy Crumley knows better'n that!"  He then grunted and went home. I guess the moral of this story is that a death-defying runaway train incident along the ET&WNC would cause a man to have long unforgiving memories!!

Deputy ET&WNC Engineer &
Your Host
Ken Riddle
Date: 1964

Cy, Ruth and Edith
Dates: 1976, 2001, 1940

On the left is a photo that I made in 1976 of Cy Crumley at his home at 1003 Buffalo Street in Johnson City.  He is in all his glory, holding court for me with his good clothes on, his teeth in, and that cigar fired up.  That is his original ET&WNC conductor's cap.  For America's Bi-Centennial in 1976, the Johnson City Press published a feature story on Cy Crumley just prior to his 90th birthday.

Years after he passed on, his daughter Ruth wore that cap frequently on her trips to Doe River Gorge. In the center photo is Mr. Crumley's daughter Ruth in 2001 up at Doe River Gorge, wearing her Poppa's hat and carrying his walking cane. These pictures would have disappeared had it not been for her. Ruth Tupper passed away in 2003. She was such a delight and I loved her and we miss her a lot.

Now the third photo is a rare shot!!  That great looking gal in the two piece is Ruth and the other lady is her mom, Edith Pauline Tilson Crumley--Mr, Crumley's wife. Mrs. Crumley just about refused to have her picture taken. To have her here in a bathing suit is just about unthinkable.  She took sick in the late 50's and Mr. Crumley retired in 1960 to look after her.  She died about two months after he retired.
The beach photo was in 1940 at Jacksonville Beach, Florida.  Ruth lived there a couple of times in her life.

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Feel free to copy and use these photos.


Kenneth Riddle
Johnson City, Tennessee
November 2005