The Cy Crumley Scrapbook
ET&WNC Railroad

Tour 6: Andy Kern

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.

Andy Kern
Date: 1935

Above is a photo of Andy Kern sitting atop the headlight on Engine 11. I think the other man is Hugh Saylor. In my opinion, Andy Kern was the most unsung and under-mentioned man the ET&WNC ever had.  Andy was working at the shop when Mr. Crumley went to work in 1906 and was still working until right before the steam engines left in 1967.  Andy told me that he just came over to the shop and went to work when he was young, and eventually Mr. Hardin, the General Manager, started paying him.

I have done a lot of work on steam locomotives myself in the last thirty years or so, and I must say that Andy Kern had more steam locomotive knowledge than anybody I have ever known, and I have known a bunch of them.  He would have made a great engineer except that during his time there were no black engineers anywhere.

Below is a photo of Andy outside the ET&WNC Depot in Johnson City.
Andy Kern
Date: 1930's



No. 12 at Hanging Rock
Date: 1930s

Here's the 12 with an excursion stopped eastbound under the hanging rock where the Doe River Gorge excursions still stop today.



Two Engines
Date: 1930s

Here are two Tweetsie engines - Number 828 and 7 posed with members of their crews. Mrs. Corrie Ford took this photo of Charlie Carver, Grover Miller, Brownie Allison, Chester Ford, Monk Bayless, Cy Crumley, and Chick Ferrell.  In the cab of the 7 are Big John Lewis and Dana Moody. 




Morning Duties
Date: 1966

The first thing the crew did every morning was back out to the mainline and head to the Southern to get what had been set out the night before. Above is what it looked like. In the photo below the ET heads west for the morning pickup. The coal for the Bemberg- Glanzstoff plants in Elizabethton usually came in from the Clinchfield, but a lot of the other Elizabethton freight came in from the Southern. This was set out from the Southern mainline up by the old ET&WNC Depot, now Free Service Tire Store in Johnson City.



Heading to Southern
Date: 1966



Sparkless 10
Date: 1940

Above is Engine 10 with a sparkless stack, as well as footboards, doing duty as a switch engine in the Johnson City yard, in another missing Crumley Collection photo. One particularly dry summer in the mountains in the 1930’s, the engines lost the capped stack in favor of the patented “sparkless” stack.  It supposedly would set less fires from hot cinders.  Sure doesn’t look as good as the other one!


Inside the Shop
Date: 1940

A really rare shot inside the Legion Street shop.  Number 10 is in for new boiler tubes.  She was in such good shape she later got taken by the U.S. Army for the White Pass!  This was about 1940 I think -- Johnny Graybeal knows for sure and I think it is in his Volume 2 of the Along the ET&WNC series.

Below is a good picture of Andy and Clyde Holley at work in the shop.  Engine 207 is over the drop pit, where the wheels are dropped out from under the locomotive.  She is getting new tires in this picture from the early 1960s. In the third photo in this series, Brownie Allison oils the 207 in January 1963.



Drop Pit
Date: 1960s

Oiling the 207
Date: 1963


Shutting Down the Steam
Date: 1930s

This is a great shot. This is the second engine Number 8, that came from a narrow gauge railroad up in Virginia.  The first number 8 had been sold because it was too little and light to pull the new heavier passenger train. This 8 was identical to engine 9, but it had a wooden cab and the 9’s cab was steel.

That guy walking away from the engine is my old friend Andy Kern, a black guy who lived out on Fairview Avenue in Johnson City.  He worked in the shop just about forever.  Here he has shut down the 8 for the night.  You can see that smudge of smoke at the stack showing he has banked his fire, so it will still be alive in the morning when it is time to fire her up again.  He has also chocked the driving wheels so she won't roll away since he has shut down the air pump that keeps the compressed air up for the brakes.  He has his special long handled scoop in his hand heading back into the Legion street shop. 

Andy was a wonderful man and a genius on steam locomotives. Andy detailed the ET&WNC locomotives, helped create the custom paint style, and his intense knowledge of all aspects of the operation were crucial to the safety record and success of this small railroad. Much more detail is available about Andy Kern and the ET&WNC operation in the Illustrated History of the ET&WNC - the Blue Ridge Stemwinder by John Waite.



Engine 7
Date: 1930s
Here is Andy Kern with the 7 in the late 1930's, after she was painted green.  This is a very unusual picture, as the engine and tender are separated, yet the old 7 still has enough steam on her to be leaking at the piston packing.

Every 90 days the engine and tender had to be separated to check the integrity of the bar that holds them together.  I expect that is what is up today.  Every 30 days the boiler had to be washed out and the integrity of the firebox checked over.  It was along about this time they found the boiler in unsuitable condition and old 7 was retired and scrapped and the standard gauge locomotives took over the yard jobs forever. 

Below from the Mike Hardin Collection, Andy is checking out the 207. If you look at the second picture, you can see where water is dripping down the side of the firebox. The button-looking things you can see on the outside of the firebox are flexible staybolt caps. Staybolts are wrought-iron bolts that hold the inside and the outside of the firebox together, leaving a "water leg" where water can circulate around the firebox to generate steam. On larger engines, like the 207 and 208, the firebox was so big that rigid staybolts tended to break off due to the expansion and contraction of the fire in the firebox. The flexible staybolts actually had room to expand and contract on the outside wrapper of the firebox, while the inside was threaded into the firebox sheets just like the old-time rigid bolts. These flexible staybolt sleeves had these button caps on them that were forever trying to leak. They have copper gaskets that you put inside the cap, lay the graphite to it, then thread it on and tighten it up with a big long wrench with a hex head on it. I have Andy's staybolt cap wrenches hanging on the wall over here. In the photo, Andy has got the sheet metal boiler jacket loose and is looking for the leaky caps. I will bet you he has a pocket full of new copper gaskets and the big wrench looks to be sticking out of that metal bucket on the ground in the top picture. That bucket probably has the tools he needed for the job - wrenches and pliers to jet the jacket loose, a few new staybolt caps, and a can of graphite. Flexible staybolt caps are just one of the many maintenance headaches on a steam engine. For a website explaining about staybolts - try the following link:

Andy at Work
Date: 1960s

Andy at Work
Date: 1960s




Andy with 208
Date: 1966

Jim Hobbs is Clarence Hobbs’ son and a fine railroad man himself.  He retired as the boss of the Richmond, Fredericksburg, and Potomac Railroad.  He made this great shot of the 208 with Andy coming back across the coal collar into the cab.  If you look in the shop door, you can see the 207 cold on track 2. Below is another good photo of a long-time shop guy.  His name was Donnie Palmer, and he came in early every morning and got the banks torn down and the steam up on the engines.  One of his duties was greasing the rods and valve gear.  Here he is with the old Alemite grease gun, shooting the wrist pin on the 208.  He was a very gentle, kind man who spoke with a very high, thin voice.  Donnie was a really great guy.


Donnie Palmer
Date: 1966




Andy Kern
Date: 1976

Andy Kern, Steam Locomotive Genius, in 1976.

Here is a picture I made of my old friend Andy Kern in 1976.

When the 208 ruptured the firebox throat sheet in Elizabethton that day in 1967 that ended the steam days on the railroad, they sent for the just-retired Andy and took him to Elizabethton before they would ever move the crippled 208.  He climbed in her, and said that she was done without major surgery, and he wasn't going to operate.  The next day diesels showed up.

Andy had another skill as well, tomato farming.  I don't know what kind of mojo he used to grow those big red tomatoes, but to this day I have never had a tomato as good as the ones Andy would give me in the summertime when he was alive. I don't know if Andy has any people still around the Johnson City area, but if he does I would sure like to talk to them.  He was a great guy and one of my favorites!

A U.S. Army veteran, Andy was born in 1892 and died in 1978, with burial in the Mountain Home National Cemetery in Johnson City.

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Johnson City, Tennessee
November 2005