The Cy Crumley Scrapbook
ET&WNC Railroad

Tour 9: Brownie Allison


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.

Brownie Allison
Date: 1967

Brownie poses beside the standard gauge 207 in 1967.  He was a snappy dresser for a locomotive engineer!  This is the way he looked when I would get to ride around on the steam engines with him, Mr. Vest, and Mr. Dowdy. Brownie started work with the narrow gauge railroad in 1916.


Brownie's Pass
Date: 1920


The Allisons
Dates: 1920, 1930
In the left photo, are Mr. and Mrs. Francis M. "Cap" Allison, Brownie and Floyd's mom and dad.  This picture was made in Cranberry by Mrs .Corrie Ford.  In the photo on the right, Brownie and his dad, Francis M. "Cap" Allison (General Manager of the ET&WNC and brother of Engineer Walter Allison), take it easy on the running board of the Model A Ford.  The Allisons were a legendary railroad family.


Walt Retires
Date: 1956

Here is the day Walt Allison retired in 1956. Compare it to the shot of him and his crew on Engine 7 on the Tour 2 page called "Crew Ready to Work". From the left we have trainmaster Loy Herrell,Walt, ET&WNC General Manager W.W.Whisman, Brakemen Jim Salyers and Dee Whitson, Conductor Cy Crumley, and Fireman Fred Helton. Fred was his fireman on Engine 7 fifty years earlier.   After Walt retired Fred took over the engineer's seat and Brownie got the regular fireman's job. Sadly, Fred only worked two more months until he died of a heart attack. Brownie then took the engineer's job, and Earl Vest fired for Brownie until the diesels came in 1967.


Fall Colors
Date: 1950

Brownie on the front end and Walt Allison in the cab at the top of Mud Cut hill.  This is right at the prison on old Railroad Grade Road near Crabtree.  Notice the brakemen on the top of the boxcars on this beautiful fall day in 1950.



Brownie Switches Out
Date: 1950
Brownie Allison shoves (pushes) a cut (group of railroad cars to be picked up or left behind by a train) of cars into the team track (track where cars can be loaded or unloaded by a truck or wagon) at Roan Mountain in 1950.

Below Mack Luttrell bends the iron (throws a switch) to the siding at Shell Creek.  The targets on the switch used to be painted red, and the arrow pointing into the siding.  When the switch was lined to the main (line), it showed a round white target.  Tighteye Simerly (maybe had something to do with his nickname) stopped the engine one time at a switch showing a white target only to find the switch unlatched and the points away from both rails.  This would have caused a train wreck, but his eyes were so good he could see the points out of place from the engine cab.


Shell Creek
Date: 1950




3 Conductors
Date: 1950
Here are George Q. Williams, Mr. Crumley, and Kenneth Jobe on October 16, 1950.  They were all three ET&WNC conductors, but Williams and Jobe were retired by then.  George Q. was Mr. Crumley's nephew.  His sons were long-time Southern Railway employees Frank T. Williams and Jack Q. Williams.  Jack was a great piano player as well as a great friend of mine. The Johnson City-based Jack Williams Band included a young "undiscovered" guitar player from North Carolina by the name of Doc Watson. Doc plays Johnson City still today and does an annual December concert at Down Home.

Conductors in Color
Date: 1950





4 Conductors
Date: 1950

Raymond McCoury, George Q. Williams, Kenneth Jobe and Mr. Crumley on the platform of the Elk Park depot, October 16, 1950. During the last years the narrow gauge ran after World War II, the crews usually ate their lunch here at the depot.  The depot stood right in what is now highway 19-E in Elk Park, more or less across from that old concrete wall that still stands today on the south side of the highway.

Another photo is shown below from the last run which has stopped for lunch at Elk Park.  Raymond McCoury was a retired conductor, but lived in Elk Park and came down to meet the train, George Q. Williams was a retired conductor and rode the train from Elizabethton with his son, Frank Williams, a conductor on the Southern Railway, who brought his son Frank Junior.  Kenneth Jobe was a retired conductor who rode the whole trip, and the conductor on the run that day was Mr. Cy Crumley. These gentlemen knew how historic the final run of the narrow gauge ET&WNC was and we tip our caps in gratitude for commemorating events of that day.



Elk Park
Date: 1950



North to Alaska
Date: 1942
Photo by Jim Dowdy

Engine 10 loaded on a standard gauge flatcar in Johnson City headed for Alaska in 1942. During the early days of World War II the Japanese army was coming up the Aleutian Islands heading towards Alaska.  There was a narrow gauge railroad that ran from the coast of Alaska to the interior, the "White Pass & Yukon".  The US Army took it over during the war and took equipment from several US narrow gauge railroads to use during the war.  The ET&WNC sent two locomotives, the 10 and 14, and some of the gasoline tank cars they had used to carry gasoline to the distributor in Boone.  Both the 10 and 14 were burned up in an engine-house fire near the end of the war and were later scrapped in Washington State.  Johnny Graybeal's Book 2 in the "Along the ET&WNC" series tells the whole story with lots of good pictures. Here is a link that shows the engines at work in Alaska and also pictures of the engine-house fire.

The White Pass & Yukon sold several of their locomotives back to the southern mountains.  Engine 190 at Tweetsie Railroad and Engines 192, 70, and 71 at Dollywood all came from the White Pass.


End of the Line
Date: Late 1940's

Number 9 on the dead line in Elizabethton after World War II.  She never ran again after the labor trains were discontinued. The narrow gauge rail was pulled up from Johnson City to Bemberg during the last days of World War II, and then on out to O'Brien's Crossing on State Line Road in Elizabethton after the war.  The railroad built a small enginehouse there to keep the narrow gauge engines in.



Labor Train Coaches
Date: 1940's
After the war, the labor train coaches were all sold. Unfortunately, none survive today. One went to the "Times Square Diner" in Elk Park, one went to the "Tweetsie Diner" in Newland, one went to a private home beside the highway between Newland and Elk Park, and one was in the pasture at Doe River Gorge. The photo above is the one between Newland and Elk Park, I think.


No. 4 R.I.P.
Date: 1935
Old Number 4 has seen her last trip in this shot from about 1935.  There were several of the old engines scrapped from 1935 up until the war.  Engines 4, 5, 6, 828, 28, and even old faithful yard engine 7 all went to scrap.  If you are at all interested in the details about the engines, you have got to get Johnny Graybeal’s first two books.  He has dug up the details of the details as far as these little engines are concerned.

Below is a photo of Engine 5 just prior to being scrapped in the 1930s.

No. 5 R.I.P.
Date: 1936


No. 11 at O'Brien
Date: After 1945

The 11 sitting cold at O'Brien in Elizabethton sometime after World War II.


Boxcar No. 9
Date: After 1945

Two of the last narrow gauge boxcars sometime after the War in Elizabethton.


Number 9
Date: 1946
Here is Engine 9 and the old baggage car from the fancy Linville River passenger train days sitting behind the 11 or 12 about 1946.  I think it is a sad sight, as that baggage car was from old George Hardin's pride and joy passenger train.  That baggage car was on the front and the Azaela was on the rear and for several years, that little 9 was pulling it from Boone to Johnson City and back every day.  The 9 was never fired up again after World War II and scrapped right there where she was sitting in 1952.

Mr. Hobbs pulled the third rail from Johnson City to Bemberg when new, heavier rail was installed during the latter days of World War II, and, right after the war, pulled it all the way over to O'Brien's crossing on State Line Road.  The remaining narrow gauge equipment was taken either to Cranberry or O'Brien to wait out the last years.  I have heard that there was an editorial in the Elizabethton paper that blasted the company for leaving the little engines out in the weather and, whether they did or not, a narrow-gauge enginehouse was built at O'Brien in the late 1940's and at least the 11 and 12 were kept inside.  I don't know about the editorial, but if you read Volume 2 of Johnny Graybeal's book series it will tell you all about the last days of the ten-wheelers.



Frank and Brownie
Date: 1950
Frank Williams was always proud of this picture from the last run.  Frank went along with his retired Dad and his little son Frank Junior.  That is him down on the step coming out of the covered bridge with Brownie in the window.
This often-published picture (this one complete with Mr. Crumley's note) was taken by a yankee named Johnny Krause, who I think made some of the very best pictures ever taken of the ET&WNC.  He was around for the last trip.  He did a book called "Rails thru Dixie" with Mr. Crumley's friend H. Reid.




Brownie Fires
Date: 1950
Walter Allison backs her down the hill while Brownie puts in a fire on the narrow gauge last run (October 16, 1950).  When the fireman wants to put in a scoop of coal, he steps on the treadle (a lever device pressed by the foot to drive a machine) and air pressure opens the "butterfly" fire doors.  After letting up on the treadle, the doors close.  Look at Brownie's foot in the photo.



Date: 1940s
Brownie kept this picture of himself beside his bed until he died.  His favorite engine was the 11.  This picture shows the "three-way" coupler pretty well.  It was set up to allow the narrow gauge engines to couple on to a standard gauge car by swinging the coupler from one side to the other.  Narrow gauge tracks are 36" wide, and standard gauge is 57" wide, so the center had to move for one to couple to the other.  I had heard that Mr. Hardin invented and patented this, but Johnny Graybeal has dug into it and cannot find any documentation of it.

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Feel free to copy and use these photos.


Kenneth Riddle
Johnson City, Tennessee
November 2005