The Cy Crumley Scrapbook
ET&WNC Railroad

Tour 1a: The Youthful Conductor


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.

Newland Depot
Date: 1914

The youthful Charles Grover (Cy) Crumley at the Newland, North Carolina Depot. Click on this photo to verify the date.  For the next 30 seconds think about the time period from 1906 through 1960 - the time Cy was employed by the ET&WNC. Cy was about 20 years old when he started with Tweetsie and 74 when he retired (early in his opinion) to look after Edith. Several other guys had 50-year work careers on the ET&WNC. Note that Cy early on was dressed in a style befitting his position as he seemed to be defining it. Below is a list of phone numbers carried in Cy's wallet for ET&WNC employees in the latter part of his career.


Cy's Phone List
Date: 1950s




"Governor" Crumley
Date: 1915
"Snapp" Shot of Gov. Crumley shaking hands with ex-Gov. Brown at Newland, N.C. May 13, 1915. This is a photo that I do not know exactly what to make of it. The state library of North Carolina does not list a Governor Brown assuming that the gentleman in the photo was a former N.C. Governor. South Carolina does not list anyone named Brown as governor either. Cy is not around to get clarification on the issue and was this a "prank" photo or was Brown a lieutenant governor, involved in a masonic order, or at this point should we stand down from wondering about it and just let Cy's inscription be the final word? It looks like some guy is either taking another photo or gesturing in the doorway so who knows what was really going on regarding Cy, his buddies, and this picture commemorating that moment? I said I would quit wondering but I guess I can't.




Number 4
Date: 1911

This picture was made in 1911 on the Cranberry, NC scale track.  In the cab window is Bill Lewis, and I am not sure who is in the gangway but it may be "Booger" Livingston.  On the ground was Kenneth Jobe, Mr. Crumley, and Bill Sisk. Number 4 was a favorite engine of Mr. Crumley, and pulled the first train he worked on in 1906. This is simply an incredible photo.

The ET&WNC locomotives were identified by "number plates" which were cast iron or bronze markers showing the number and manufacturer - see example for Engine 12 on the left.




John Meredith
Date: 1909

Here is the big yard engine 7 in Johnson City in 1909.  Mr. Crumley had this shot captioned "Conductor Crumley, Engineer John Meredith, Brakemen F. S. Salyer, Carson Salyer." John Meredith was a notable character on the narrow gauge.  He was hot-tempered and fearless to the point of doing crazy things.  He signaled with his whistle for the brakemen to apply the handbrakes coming down the steep hill in Doe River Gorge once.  He looked back to see Brakeman Mack Winters thumb his nose at him from the top of a boxcar and flew into a rage.  He put the air brake valve in full release after seeing Winters do that, and the train went into a free fall down the steep hill, finally stopping on the Hampton Bridge.  He could have wrecked the whole train by doing that, but he was just crazy.  He carried a pistol in his toolbox every day.  He hanged himself in a garage on Maple Street in Johnson City sometime in the late 1930's.

From the Mike Hardin Collection, below is John Meridith's paycheck from 1924.  Mr. Crumley had probably thirty of these checks in the old scrapbooks and they all got gone.  We are sure lucky to have Mike to share this one with us.  Not bad pay for a wild man!


Date: 1924




Date: 1916
Mr Crumley throws a highball (gives the "come ahead") for Engine 4 at Newland in 1916 in this unretouched photograph from his scrapbook. Cy seems to have acquired an official uniform about this time and his new cap.




Passing Through Newland
Date: 1916
"Captain" Crumley and Walter Holtsclaw "passing through Newland" in April 1916.




Cy with No. 4
Date: 1916
Here is Mr. Crumley with Engine 4 at Shulls Mills. This is a great shot of number 4.



Montezuma, N.C.
Date: 1918
This picture was made at Montezuma (Bull Scrape), N.C. about the time of the great war with the Kaiser.  That is the Montezuma railway depot in the background on the left. Mr. Crumley told everybody that this was a picture of him checking his shopping list for stuff to bring back to the folks up in the mountains from Johnson City.  I don't know if that is what it is or not, but I do know that he sometimes did do shopping for people and one time even brought a Buckeye Cookstove to an old lady over in the Linville Woods.  He and some of the crew even set it up while the train waited.  He bought thread, medicine, and even a corset on the train in his years on the railroad.  He recounted some of this on the "We the People" radio show and for the "Extra South" book.  He did a lot of his shopping at the Bee Hive in Johnson City and at a little fruit and grocery stand that is on the corner across from the ET&WNC depot (now Free Service Tire Store) on the same side as the old Rothner's Jewelry (I hope they don't tear it down) and Pug's Subs.

This photo bears strong testimony to road/street conditions of the times and that the Tweetsie was indeed the only access to the outside world from many mountain communities.

There are numerous future novels, plays, or movie scripts possible from the Tweetsie railroad history and Cy Crumley and his friends provided a wealth of material and story lines from which to build images of a long vanished era. I know many more stories than I am telling here but this is a "pg-rated website" and some stories will have to remain untold (for now). If a producer out there is interested - there are some stories that can spice up a movie. There was overlap between Johnson City's railroad heyday and "Little Chicago". John Waite's volume The Blue Ridge Stemwinder recounts many classic stories and is essential for a serious study of the ET&WNC.




Waiting for the Train
Date: 1920s
Members of the Hugh White family wait for a train in Johnson City.  The Hugh White Lumber Company operated in Butler (TN), Elk Park, and Linville, North Carolina.  The family would be arriving in Johnson City via the ET&WNC and then transferring to the Southern or Clinchfield Railroads to continue their trip. It is likely the first leg of their travel assisted by Cy Crumley or the other Tweetsie personnel was the most hospitable and entertaining of their journey. Courtesy of Archives of Appalachia; Hugh White Collection.


The Azalea
Date: 1926
Mr. Crumley on the back of the parlor car "Azalea".  Notice he had on the front "1920".  When I turned it over it had the date "April 28, 1926" written on it.  I am going with the 1926 date. The parlor car was only used on the first class train in the pretty months of the year.  The money people that came to Linville to spend the summer rode on it.  It may or may not have had a piano in it.



Out of the Tunnel
Date: 1949
Here's a very unusual shot by ET&WNC Treasurer D. B. Marion looking out of the covered bridge back toward the Doe River Gorge.  Notice that there is no Highway U.S.19-E in 1949.  The highway ran thru Hampton and out toward Rittertown at that time.




The "Birth Place"
Date: 1886
Birth place of Conductor Crumley in Elizabethton, Tennessee (1886). Exactly where this home was located I am not sure. I think it may have been in the vicinity of where the Happy Valley Memorial Cemetery is today. This cemetery is where Cy, Tighteye Simerly, and numerous other ET&WNC workers are buried and overlooks the now abandoned old railway line. If this is indeed the area where Cy was born (which might also have been said for much of Elizabethton and Happy Valley at that time) - as a boy it may have been his dream to work on that narrow gauge railroad that ran close to his home. Cy Crumley was born only 4 years after the railway opened so he was an eye-witness basically to the entire life span of the narrow gauge Tweetsie.


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Feel free to copy and use these photos.


Kenneth Riddle
Johnson City, Tennessee
November 2005