The Cy Crumley Scrapbook
ET&WNC Railroad

Tour 3: Chet and Corrie Ford


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.

Chet Ford: Fireman
Date: 1911

Fireman Chester Ford poses for his fiancée Corrie at Cranberry, North Carolina in 1911. On the left is Chester at the Cranberry Hotel. Probably this is Engine 4 that Chet is posed with on the right.  This is from Mr. and Mrs. Ford's collection.



Chet and Corrie - Wedding Photo
Date: 1911
Chester and Corrie Ford on their wedding day in January 1911.  They did finally make it to Johnson City after the passenger train went on the ground in Cranberry that morning. This picture was made in a studio in Johnson City and is not part of Mr. Crumley's collection, it was Mr. and Mrs. Ford's.  My mother would take me to their home on Spring and Maple and we would get delicious cherries from him every spring. They had one child and named him Henry Romulus Ford.  He died in the Spanish/Swine flu epidemic of 1918 as a baby. 



Wedding Adventure
Date: 1911

We know just exactly when this picture was made and who made it.  It was in January of 1911 on the Cranberry NC wye.  That engine is the first number 8, that was later sold because she was too light.  They derailed that cold morning with ET&WNC newly-hired fireman Chester Ford and his fiancee Corrie on the train.  They were headed to Johnson City that morning to get married.  Corrie was only 14, but she had a Kodak camera.  As the crew brought engine 4 around the wye to try to help re-rail the passenger train, she and Chester Ford walked over and she popped off this shot.

They made it to Johnson City that day and were married.  They lived together for the next sixty-seven years, most of it in a brick house at the corner of Spring and Maple Streets in Johnson City.


Black Satchel Engine
Date: 1911
On the left, newlywed Corrie Ford poses for her husband Chester with the W. M. Ritter "Black Satchel" engine in Cranberry in the spring of 1911.  On the right, Chet poses for Corrie. This engine was a special type of locomotive built for the rough track of logging railroads by the Climax Manufacturing Company of Corry, Pa.  It was gear-driven, and could be kicked out of gear to free- wheel down a hill.  These are also from the Ford collection.



Chet with No. 11
Date: Unknown
Another Mrs. Ford shot.  Chester Ford and the 11.  This one shows his big long watch chain stretched ftom one side of his pants to the watch pocket on the other side.



Cranberry Mines Historical Marker
Date: 1914
Newland Depot

On the right, two unidentified business men take a smoke break outside the Newland, North Carolina Depot about 1914. Historian Johnny Graybeal has noted the striking resemblance of the gentleman on the right to Henry Ford, who visited the area.

The Cranberry Iron Mines as well as access to the timber resources of the Blue Ridge Mountains, were the core reasons the ET&WNC, and its companion line, the Linville River Railroad (the name for the line from Cranberry over to Boone) were constructed.

During the 1870s and 1880s, the potential of the Cranberry mines drew major capitalists and industrialists to the region including former Union Civil War General John T. Wilder. General Wilder entertained guests such as the British Duke of Marlborough in Johnson City and Roan Mountain. While accompanying the Duke on a tour of the Cranberry Mines in 1882, the Duke asked, "General how far downward does this vein of ore extend?" Wilder replied, "Your Grace, it is my opinion that the Devil is now making iron from the bottom of it." Here is a brief biography of John T. Wilder.

Wilder built the famous Cloudland Hotel in Roan Mountain and the Carnegie Hotel in Johnson City. The Cloudland Hotel straddled the Tennessee-North Carolina State Line on top of Roan Mountain and coincidentally alcohol could be served only on the Tennessee side of the hotel and the state line was said to bisect the ballroom/dining hall.

View 1880 ad for Wilder's original Cloudland Hotel. Note: the ET&WNC had not yet been constructed in 1880 and Wilder constructed a second larger hotel in 1885 following completion of the ET&WNC to serve Roan Mountain.

The photo on the right below is Wilder at Roan Mountain around 1884. Wilder had residences in Johnson City and Roan Mountain that were virtually identical. The Roan Mountain residence more closely reflects the original 1880s look of the two homes with the white frame siding.

General John Thomas Wilder
John T. Wilder in 1862
John T. Wilder in 1884


Linville River Climax
Date: 1915

Here's Chester Ford posing with the Linville River Climax. This isn't the Black Satchel but a larger, more powerful logging locomotive. This is probably about 1915, between Cranberry and Linville Gap. Once again, Mrs. Ford took the picture.


Washout & Spanish Flu Epidemic
Date: 1918

This picture made the Ripley's "Believe it or Not" column in the newspaper.  It occurred on the hill between Shulls Mills and Foscoe, North Carolina during the Spanish/Swine flu epidemic in 1918.  Mr Crumley was the conductor and Sherman Pippin the engineer.  The river literally washed the railroad bed out from under the passenger train.  Sherman was able to get it stopped without any derailments.  Brownie Allison was sick enough to die over at the Blue Goose Hotel in Shulls Mills with the flu.  He often said if it had not been for Mrs. Shull he would have died.  I took him by to see Mrs. Shull one time.  She lived to be way over 100.  They were delighted to see each other and Brownie went on and on about her peach pie, his favorite food.

On that train was a young man named Loy Herrell.  He was sent west to flag the train coming down Grandfather Mountain and must have done a good job.  The railroad gave him a job and he wound up as trainmaster and worked until the 1970's. By the way, that is Engine 9 and that combine car still exists over at the North Carolina Transportation Museum in Spencer.  I bet it misses the mountains.



Iced-Up and Stranded
Date: 1920s

Engine 10 hit an iced-up switch and walked out on the ground above Newland one cold day.  Here she is after being retrieved from the snowbank. This railroad work in the Tennessee and North Carolina mountains was an all-weather experience.



Mystery Photo
Date: 1922
Henry, I have a scan of an old picture that came from my aunt Ruth who lives in Boone who was born in 1918. Her husband Grant Ayers was born that same year. The picture in question is allegedly of my Uncle Grant and his uncle Harvey Teams. Have you seen this picture or have you seen the engine related to one of the railroads in the Boone area? I was told it was one of the original Tweetsie engines but I think its a Climax. Let me know if you can identify it - I'd appreciate it. Thanks! Brian L.
Man what a great picture Brian!! I think you have either the Climax that Mr. Ford is standing in front of shown 3 pictures above or possibly the Boone Fork Lumber Company engine (they may have been the same engine except they have changed the headlight from kerosene to electric--I think it is the same engine). The one in the back is certainly the Black Satchel. THis probably was made in Shulls Mills, right where Hebron is today. Ken Riddle



Cranberry Local Crew
Date: 1926
The crew of the Cranberry Local in 1926.  Engine 12.  From left is Fireman Chester Ford, Engineer Big John Lewis, Brakeman Herman Fletcher, Brakeman W.B. Blevins, and Conductor Wilmer Blevins.  Uncle Wilmer Blevins was married to Big John's sister Minnie.


The Girl Loved Trains
Date: 1937
Engine 14 and Mrs. Corrie Ford are both looking sharp in 1937.  Chester Ford took this picture, and it is from their collection. She loved trains as much or more as any girl I ever saw.


Engine 10 Excursion
Date: 1939

It's still foggy over in the mountains this morning in 1939.  This is engine 10 with a Sunday excursion at the Cranberry wye track, the same place that Chester and Corrie Ford were delayed on the way to their wedding 28 years before.


Tail = Tale
Date: 1940s
Chester Ford and Walter Allison were the crew on the 12 the day Lucius Beebe and Charles Clegg came to Johnson City to see the narrow gauge for their book, Mixed Train Daily.  That morning there was a possum under the Doughtery water tank up near Crabtree.  Mr. Ford caught it when he went back to fill the tank and kept it in the toolbox on the engine.  Mr. Clegg made a picture of him holding it out the cab window with Walt having a big laugh about it all.  Mr. Ford took it back, fed it shelled corn for a week to get "the wild taste out of him," and Mrs. Ford fixed it for supper with sweet 'taters.  All reports said he was delicious. 


Chet at Cranberry
Date: 1949

Here is an interesting shot that Mrs. Ford made of Chester.  It is at Cranberry and it looks to be after World War II.  Mr. Ford retired with bad health in 1947 and he has his street clothes on in the photo.  As mentioned, their son, Henry Romulus Ford, was originally buried at the Cranberry cemetery and later moved to Monte Vista in Johnson City.  I am curious as to what brought them to Cranberry this day if Chet had indeed already retired.

Another photo recently found may explain what Chester Ford was doing in Cranberry in his street clothes.  In another shot from Mrs. Ford's Kodak Brownie camera, here is Chester in the same clothes flanked by Earl Vest and Brownie Allison.  This is up at the Doughtery water tank near where the prison is today at Crabtree.  It certainly looks like Mr. and Mrs. Ford took a train ride for old times one day in the late 1940s.

Mystery Solved
Date: 1949



Chet and Corrie
Date: 1976

Here are Chester and Corrie Ford in their home in 1976.  They were really dear people.  Mr. Ford's health had failed and Mrs. Ford just doted on him all the time.  She called him "Chet". I was working for Tweetsie Railroad at the time and every time she saw me coming to the house she would holler at Mr. Ford "Here Comes Tweetsie!" 

Look at the detail photo and check out what magazine is on top of the stack in the lower level of the table next to the Fords. It is the latest copy of "Locomotive Engineer" that Chet has next to his chair to read.

Mrs. Ford had taken a bunch of photographs down through the years on her old Kodak camera.  She made it to Tweetsie Railroad a few times every summer, and sure as the day she would always pop off a few shots with the old Brownie camera.

Mr. and Mrs. Ford were married 67 years when he "caught the westbound" in 1978.  If they have any family or friends still around, I would like to hear from them. They are buried together at Monte Vista Cemetery in Johnson City with their son, Henry Romulus Ford, who was moved there from the Cranberry Cemetery.

What great people they were.  I always think about them when I pass their Johnson City home on Spring and Maple Streets.

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Feel free to copy and use these photos.


Kenneth Riddle
Johnson City, Tennessee
November 2005