While not working "officially" as a local railroad employee, Ted Laws was fascinated by the steam engines. He was known to help the ET&WNC railroad workers by shoveling coal in exchange for a ride over to Boone and back over the fabled "Tweetsie" railroad line. This story is consistent with others in Tweetsie folklore in which young volunteers worked side by side with paid employees. The financial fortunes of the small regional railway varied from year to year but the thrill of the steam locomotives drew a steady group of informal "helpers" to the Johnson City railway yards. Of course, the railway guys had to enjoy your company to be accorded this honor of admission into the inner circle. Ted also hoboed around; hopping trains and experienced the full extent of railroading in the 1920s and Depression era. Read more about the ET&WNC Railway employees Ted Laws associated with in the Cy Crumley Collection.
Leo remembers, "As an incentive to study harder and get better grades in school, in the 1950s dad would take me over to the ET&WNC engine house in Johnson City and the engineers would let me ride along through the yards, blow the whistle and it was great fun." "I fell in love with the trains just like dad did and enjoyed his friendship with the railway workers." "The retired railway men were the ones that brought the old photos over to dad he used when he was painting. They would sit around, laugh, and tell tall tales, while dad would be designing the layout or painting his next work." The painting featured above shows the ET&WNC - Linville River Railway line on the left and the Clinchfield Railway passenger platform on the right near Buffalo Street in Johnson City. The painting below (segmented due to size) features the ET&WNC Depot (present Free Service Tire Store) and the Buffalo Street intersection with an eastbound train leaving Johnson City toward Elizabethton and Boone, North Carolina.