The Cy Crumley Scrapbook
ET&WNC Railroad

Tour 2A: George W. Hardin


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.

George Hardin
Date: 1901

Above is George W. Hardin, Superintendent of the ET&WNC on his railroad bicycle at Pardee Point in 1901.  There had been a big flood that washed away a lot of the railroad and he supervised the reconstruction.  You can see the bridge behind him that was filled in and retaining walls built. He must have known what he was doing, because it is still right there today even after numerous other big floods. An 1882 graduate of Milligan College, George Hardin began working for the railroad in 1886 and was promoted step by step to being General Manager over the whole operation at the time of his death in 1922. Hardin was a major benefactor of Milligan College and a Johnson City civic leader. He is buried in Oak Hill Cemetery in Johnson City. Read the obituary for George W. Hardin. Photo and obituary courtesy of Mike Hardin.

George Hardin hired Cy Crumley in 1906. Hardin appeared to be the exact opposite of the jovial, fun-loving Mr. Crumley. I am quite sure Hardin gave Cy a bad time once in a while because of stories I heard from some of the boys who were there. Cy must have had a lot of respect for Mr. Hardin, either that or gratitude for a lifetime position/career. He kept a portrait of Mr. Hardin hanging on the wall of his Johnson City home at 1003 Buffalo Street as long as he lived. Ruth hated the picture and seeing George's face frowning at her every time she went into Mr. Crumley's room and after Mr. Crumley was gone she gave Mr. Hardin's photo to the Tweetsie Railroad.

I can recount one intriguing story related to these two men. Evidently by 1922, Mr. Hardin had had enough of "Mr. Crumley being Mr. Crumley" on George Hardin's railroad. Cy was on the passenger train from Johnson City to and from Boone since 1919 and he lived in Boone through the week. Admittedly, Mr. Crumley was an independent operator, a very good hearted soul, but a man who occasionally bent rules as he saw fit. As Hardin was going on vacation to Hot Springs, Arkansas, he told Cap Allison (who told his son Brownie, who told me) that as soon as he got back from Hot Springs he was going to fire Cy Crumley. Well Mr. Hardin came back from Hot Springs all right but he came back in a box at room temperature. George Hardin died while on vacation in Arkansas. Cy Crumley worked until 1960 and lived to be 91 years old, smiling all the time. I think the moral of the story might be that having a little fun and not taking yourself too seriously might be more healthy for you than frowning all the time. A cigar every now and then probably doesn't hurt either.

Actually to be fair to George Hardin, I never heard anyone say anything but that he was hardnosed, an honorable man to deal with, and a really good manager for the little ET&WNC railroad. Part of his stress likely was having to compete for employees with 2 large mainline railways in Johnson City - the Clinchfield and Southern and supervising the rambunctious collection of individuals working on the ET&WNC. My good friends from the railroad may not have considered Mr. Hardin as "fun" but without question he managed a top quality railroad operation for its era and had the respect of employees as a "railroad man" who knew the business inside out. George Hardin had every opportunity to know the railroad. His father, Jordan C. Hardin, was a former owner of the Cranberry Mines, and founder of the ET&WNC Railroad. Jordan managed operations around Johnson City including the Depot until his death in 1898.

Shown below is a postcard view of Milligan College. The Milligan campus is located 4 miles east of Johnson City and was the first eastbound stop for the ET&WNC Railroad. Milligan College might not exist today without the benevolence of ET&WNC Vice-President and alumnus George W. Hardin.

Date: Early 1900s



George with Number 2
Date: 1906
George W. Hardin
Here is a new find from the Mary Hardin McCown Collection at the Archives of Appalachia. This is a really rare shot of her dad, George Hardin, in the first years of the century posed beside Engine 2, probably in Johnson City. It is possible that he is even smiling. It looks like they have changed the headlight since she flipped over on what is now State of Franklin Road in the train wreck picture!
1903 Voucher from ET&WNC to
W.M. Ritter Lumber Company
Mike Hardin Collection



George with Rev. Crouch
Date: 1908
Here is George Hardin and Johnson City Christian Church Minister J.E. Crouch, posing with the brand new Engine 8, in this recently discoverd photo found at the Archives of Appalachia's Mary Hardin McCown Collection. I think George is smiling again and leaving the sour face up to the preacher.


Early Excursion
Date: 1905

This shot said "Excursion, Cranberry, NC". Certainly it is early in the century.


New No. 6
Date: 1906

Engine 6 when she was delivered to the ET&WNC.  I think this is from 1906.  Check Johnny Graybeal's first book "Along the ET&WNC" for sure. That is Big John Lewis with the scoop making all that smoke.



Doe River
Date: 1911
Above is a classic postcard featuring an ET&WNC Doe River view published by J. E. Crouch of Johnson City. The card below shows a tunnel in the Doe River Gorge. The ET&WNC is well represented by vintage cards.

Through the Gorge
Date: 1912



Crew on the Ground
Date: Around 1915

I'll let Mr. Crumley tell you who these boys are - click on the photo for his notes. The story was there was a derailment that tied up the passenger train and the crew got to kill a little time while the section men got the track back in shape.


Extract Wood
Date: 1918
One of the little 2-8-0's tied to a cut of extract wood probably at Cranberry before 1920.  When you blow this one up you have Chester Ford (it's Mrs Ford's picture) leaning on the weed car and it sure looks like George Hardin on the pilot beam of the engine.  Looks like Booger Livingston back in the cab window, but I can't tell who anyone else is.



Hill and Beasley
Date: 1920s
Here is Dave Hill and Charlie Beasley on the back of the Azalea in the twenties.  Mr. Beasley was the ET&WNC superintendent for a short time and had some sort of relationship to Mr. Crumley.  Cy and his kids referred to Beasley as "Cousin Charlie".  He was quite a character even before he got out of his mind in his old age.  He carried a spike in his pocket for the sole purpose of killing ET Vice-President Mr. Vance, who was not very well liked by most of the men, especially Cousin Charlie (I reckon he never got around to killing him).  He carried that spike until it was shiny and I have it still today. Mr. and Mrs. Crumley were caregivers for Beasley in his old age, when he was prone to dementia and walking around Johnson City in his long nightshirt or (on more than one occasion) considerably less than that.
Dave Hill, the other guy on the rear of the parlor car, was the Boone hostler (got the engine ready to go in the morning before the crew came to work and banked it down every evening).  There was an old conductor named Bill Sisk who worked the Boone end quite a bit in the first years of the Linville River Railway. The railroad was only in Boone a relatively short time, from 1919 to 1940, before being wiped out by a massive flood.  Anyway, Bill Sisk was a tough customer and could have a few drinks and get rowdy and want to fight.  He picked on the wrong man with Dave Hill one evening down at the train stop.  He tried to start something with Dave Hill and Hill laid him out with a lick up side the head with the broad side of a pole axe.  Bill Sisk was put into a coma and I am not sure he ever worked again after that.


Mixed Train
Date: 1920s
Mr. Crumley on the back of the Azalea, which is in a strange place in this photo.  She is tied on the rear of a freight train with the combine and a coach.  The combine and even a coach would not be unusual for a mixed train, but that parlor car was first-class only.  Good picture anyway.





Coach 4
Date: 1922
Way back in time, Linville River coach number 4. This old coach was used for a caboose by conductor John Gourley for a time.





Date: 1926

Linville Gap
Date: 1926

On October 1, 1926, the Shriners had a convention special train from Johnson City to Linville Gap. Mr. Crumley and many of the other ET men were members of the Shrine Temple, and donated their time to run this special train. Here are two shots from Linville Gap that day.  




Date: 1930s
Crossing the Rittertown Covered Bridge. What a view. Below is a link to a model of the Rittertown Bridge. The ET&WNC with its unique narrow gauge structures and design features is a favorite of model railroaders.

Howe Thru-Truss Covered Bridge

Hampton Covered Bridge 1882
Wooden Bridge
Out of the Tunnel
The Mighty Midget

Tweetsie Views
Date: 1940s

Views of famed narrow gauge Tweetsie bridge structures and the "Mighty Midget."


Date: 1915
Mr. and Mrs. George W. Hardin are on vacation in Hot Springs, Arkansas.   What a fun-looking couple.   George Hardin was the General Manager of the ET&WNC and Linville River Railway from around the turn of the century until he died in the early 1922. His great grandson, Mike Hardin, is going to fill you in on him.   What I can tell you is that he was in charge of the railroad during its most profitable period, and personally hired all the boys you will see in these pictures. Sherman Pippin said he was a "Hardin in name and nature".  

His daughter, Mary Hardin McCown, was one of the most esteemed historians Johnson City ever had. She was at one of the Tweetsie Railroad reunions in the early 1970's and made a talk about her daddy.   She went on and on and on about what a great man he was and all the old Boys were sitting there trying to be polite and listen to what she was going on about. They really would have much rather been visiting with each other.   Finally, Fred "Casey" Jones had enough and hollered out "Hell, yeah, he was a great man--he'd a-starved us to death!! Paid us seventy-five cents for a 14 hour day!! Great man I reckon!!" It didn't take Ms. McCown too much longer to wrap it up, but she took it in a good humor. She came to the Tweetsie Old timer's Days as long as she could make it and she was always very interesting to talk to. I want Mike to fill you in on both Mary McCown and George Hardin when he gets time on this page. George Hardin was a giant figure in the development of the ET&WNC and Linville River Railways.

Mary Hardin McCown
Date: 1980
Well, here she is. The Grande Dame of Johnson City and for many years ET&WNC history, Mary Hardin McCown. I love this picture of her. It was made by Frank Clodfelter, a famous Southern Railway engineer from Asheville and quite the railroad historian himself. She is standing in her apartment at the Appalachian Christian Village holding what she explained to him to be a miner's torch from the Cranberry mines.

She was a real dear old girl, and was honestly the standard bearer of a lot of the history of the area for many years, when history was not so cool. She adored her dad, George Hardin, but had a quick smile and had a charming persona, especially when she was talking about Cranberry, the railroad, or especially her daddy. I wish all of you could have known her. The Mary Hardin McCown Collection in the Archives of Appalachia at ETSU holds many items researched by Mary and some great Tweetsie photos.


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Feel free to copy and use these photos.


Kenneth Riddle
Johnson City, Tennessee
November 2005