The Cy Crumley Scrapbook
ET&WNC Railroad

Tour 13: Tweetsie Returns


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.

Tweetsie Returns
Date: 1957

Two young ladies celebrate the return of Tweetsie as Engine 12 passes through Lenoir, North Carolina in route from Hickory on the way to the new Tweetsie Railroad Theme Park in Blowing Rock.

Shown below is an early admission and ticket booklet. (Bart Davis Collection)


Ticket Book
Date: 1957



No. 12 Loaded for Virginia
Date: 1952

After being idle after the ET&WNC ceased narrow gauge operations in 1950, Engine 12 was sold to become part of a tourist railroad in Virginia, the Shenandoah Central. In this photo the 12 is loaded up and heading out of Elizabethton bound for Virginia.  She was repainted by Steve Staten and Sirgus Cole.  Below is a photo of Mr. Crumley with ET&WNC CEO, Alfred Steele in 1950. Mr. Steele saved number 12 from being scrapped. Also shown is a great color photo of the Steele family with Number 11 taken by D. B. Marion.


Alfred Steele
Date: 1950

The Steele Family
Date: 1950




Heading North
Date: 1952

Second view of ET&WNC Engine 12 being loaded for transport to the Shenandoah Central.



Date: 1953

Here's Engine 12, combine car 15, and the excursion car up in Penn Laird, Virginia on the Shenandoah Central Railroad.  Those three guys in the photo bought her from the ET&WNC after Mr. Steele, the company CEO, cut the price by two-thirds.  The other coach came from the East Broad Top Railroad up in Pennsylvania.

They ran her for a couple of years but didn't make a go of it.  Hurricane Hazel washed away most of the Shenandoah Central tracks in 1953 forcing the railroad to close. The cowboy Gene Autry picked up an option to buy the equipment and move it to the "Melody Ranch" in California but changed his mind and bought a narrow gauge locomotive from Colorado. Autry then sold his option for $1 to Grover Robbins, from North Carolina.

Mr. Robbins, bought the equipment and was going to make it a display at the Blowing Rock, which his family owned.  She was just going to be a display, not operate.  Grover had a 15" gauge steam train called "Tweetsie Junior" that ran around the lake in the town of Blowing Rock, and Frank Coffey, General Foreman for the Southern Railway's Hickory shops, took care of the mechanicals on it.  The Southern was going to transfer Frank to Atlanta and he didn't want to go.  Grover and Frank decided to find a place to operate the train and the rest is history.

But none of that would have happened if it had not been for Alfred Steele and the three fellows that wanted to own a railroad named the Shenandoah Central.



Tweetsie Junior
Date: 1953

Now here's a rare shot! Back in the early 1950's, Grover Robbins and Frank Coffey were partners on a little railroad called "Tweetsie Junior" that ran around the lake in downtown Blowing Rock.  This was the genesis for the idea for Tweetsie Railroad.

Here is legendary ET&WNC Engineer Sherman Pippin keeping his chops up on the little engine, which was built by the McGarigle Machine Company of Niagara Falls, NY as a group of 24 to run the transportation system at the 1904 St Louis Worlds Fair.  Grover bought it in Miami, Florida.



Tweetsie Homecoming Day
Date: 1956

Governor Luther H. Hodges signs a proclamation making May 20, 1956 Tweetsie Homecoming Day. On the right of the Governor, legendary Engineer Sherman Pippin, and Grover C. Robbins. Jr. (principal owner of the new Tweetsie Railroad) observe the signing. From the 1957 brochure "The Tweetsie Story." Courtesy of Bart Davis.



Overhauled in Hickory
Date: 1956

Frank Coffey
YouTube Video
of Frank
Frank Coffey laid a third rail (narrow gauge) in the Hickory yard of the Southern Railway and overhauled Engine 12 there before she went to Blowing Rock.  He told me one time "The damned old thing run pretty good forward but she was runnin' on one side backing up".  Frank was a top-notch steam man and a very good friend of Clarence Hobbs.  He was a pallbearer at Mr. Hobbs' funeral in 1967. Read news article of Number 12 in Hickory.




Heading Home
Date: 1957

Moss Trucking Company moves the refurbished Engine 12 on a flatbed truck up the mountain from Hickory to Blowing Rock in May 1957.

Below, the entourage heads home witnessed by a huge crowd. From the 1957 brochure "The Tweetsie Story." Courtesy of Bart Davis. Moss Billboard photo by Bart Davis.


The Motorcade
Date: 1957

The Motorcade
Date: 1957

Billboard Charlotte, NC
Date: 2006




No. 12 Early Tweetsie Railroad Photo
Date: 1960

ET&WNC treasurer D. B. Marion made this great early shot of the 12 at Tweetsie Railroad.

In the photo below, Mr. Marion cought old number 12 pulling out of the staion at Tweetsie Railroad in 1958.  The front car and the last car are the cars you have seen in all these color pictures of the official train in 1949 and 1950.  Mr. Steele pretty much gave them to the guys from Virginia when he sold Engine 12 to the Shenandoah Central.


Back in Action
Date: 1958



Engine 190
Date: 2005
Bart Davis Fires 190

Here is a good shot of Engine 190 in the steam locomotive repair shop at Tweetsie Railroad. This narrow-gauge locomotive, the Baldwin-built “Yukon Queen” was acquired from Alaska in 1960, and brought to Tweetsie to be rebuilt and placed in operation. It was refurbished completely in 2000.



"Yukon Queen"
Date: 1969
Here's a great shot of the Yukon Queen in 1969.  Frank and the crew made many changes after she came in from Alaska.  He raised the cab roof and the domes nine inches, put that stack (which I always thought looked silly) on her, and changed her from oil burner to coal burner.  She was completely frostproofed when he bought her as well, with steam heat lines wrapping anything that might freeze.
I want to talk about this engine a little bit to you.  First, she was built in 1943 for the Army Transportation Corps.  In this picture she was only twenty-six years old.  That is like a locomotive today being built in 1980.  Feel old yet??  I do.
She was built during World War II by Baldwin, the same folks who built Tweetsie Number 12 in 1917.  The "wheel arrangement", or the standard designation of a steam locomotive is 2-8-2.  Two little wheels in the front (engine truck), eight drivers, and two little wheels under the cab (trailing truck).  All these wheel arrangements have names as well as numbers.  The 12 is a "ten-wheeler", or 4-6-0 (four little wheels on the engine truck, six drivers, and no trailing truck).  The 8's (both of them),9, 10, 11, 12, and 14 were all ten-wheelers.  The 3, 4, 5, and 6, 204, 207, and 208 were "consolidation" engines.  They were 2-8-0 wheel arrangements.  Go look at the pictures and figure them out.

Anyway, I got carried away there, but for a reason.  The first 2-8-2 engines were built for the Japanese Railroads and their designation was "Mikado".  With the current events in 1943, "mikado" would not have been very politically correct.  These "War Department" engines were all known as "MacArthur" engines, named for the pipe-smoking Army General.
The old Yukon Queen is a pure-bred Baldwin MacArthur, and in the words of her sugar daddy and my old boss Frank Coffey, "about the finest damned little engine a man could want on a narrow-gauge railroad."  I think she is a treasure just like the 12, and she is so lucky to be in the hands of Tweetsie Railroad.  For comparison, the 195 is still in Alaska and not looking so good.

The 192 down at Dollywood is a sister from the same batch of ten Baldwin MacArthur engines that went to the White Pass with the U.S. Army Railway Operation Battalion.  There are several more MacArthurs around the world still in existence, and a few of them in operation.



Tweetsie Entrance
Date: 2005
Entrance to Tweetsie Railroad Theme Park. View map of theme park.

Folks Still Love Tweetsie
Date: 2005



12 in Action
Date: 2005

A great photo of Number 12 at Tweetsie Railroad in Blowing Rock, North Carolina. The famous locomotive is now on the National Register of Historic Places. Photo courtesy of Tweetsie Railroad.   Below in a photo by Bart Davis, Engines 12 and 190 both provide the steam power to transport a full load of passengers at Tweetsie Railroad.


12 with 190
Date: 2005




Rail Fans Day
Date: 2005
Number 12 brings traffic to a halt at Tweetsie Rail Fans Day 2005. Photo by Bart Davis.



90 Years Old and Going Strong
Date: 2000
Number 12 at Tweetsie in June 2000. She has never looked better and at age 90 is sharing the steam railroad experience for new generations of Tweetsie Country residents and visitors. (Photo by Ken Riddle).
Below Number 12 is commemorated in a mural at Tweetsie Railroad.

Date: 2006


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Feel free to copy and use these photos.


Kenneth Riddle
Johnson City, Tennessee
November 2005