The Cy Crumley Scrapbook
Tour 9a: Clinchfield Cousins
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.
In 1909, Johnson City received its third and final railroad boom when the Carolina, Clinchfield, and Ohio - known as the Clinchfield Railroad was completed from the coal fields of Virginia to the textile mills of South Carolina. With its primary headquarters and Johnson City passenger depot both located directly across the tracks from the ET&WNC depot, the Clinchfield shared spur lines and had some common yard areas with the Tweetsie. Stories abound as to how materials being discarded by the larger Class I Clinchfield would be tossed out for use by its older but smaller cousin, the ET&WNC. Many railroad men worked for both railroads during their careers. With later headquarters in Erwin, Tennessee, fifteen miles south of Johnson City, the Clinchfield was a legendary railroad in its own right offering incredible scenery along the mountainous area between Johnson City and Spartanburg, South Carolina. Construction of the Clinchfield set off a railroad war with the Southern Railway and constructing this diffiicult route involved countless loss of life.
Below Clinchfield Number 1 steams toward Altapass, NC in a 1974 excursion run.
At the TN - NC State Line
Here's the Clinchfield, Carolina & Ohio Engine 52 at what is now the corner of Spring Street and State of Franklin Road in downtown Johnson City. That's my Uncle Willie Lewis with his elbow on his knee. He was the regular engineer on the 52 for many years. He had started out on the narrow gauge Tweetsie but came to the CC&O about 1920 and retired there. He lived in of of the houses on Maple Street that Pappy built and I sure spent a lot of time with him when I was a little boy. I would have probably been normal had it not been for Uncle Willie.
He loved that 52 more than anything except maybe Aunt Evy, and I'm not so sure about that. He kept this picture hanging on the wall of his living room until he died. His brother was Big John Lewis and when Uncle John had more than he could get over "Buffalo" with Engine 7 on the narrow gauge, if his brother was on that end of the yard he would put the Clinchfield 52 on the rear of the ET train (remember, they had the narrow gauge cars on the front of the 7 and the standard gauge cars on the rear) and Uncle Willie and the 52 would shove Big John and the 7 over the top of Buffalo, then cut off and let the ET&WNC go on to Elizabethton. Buffalo is the top of the hill leaving Johnson City. It is uphill out of the yard toward Milligan for less than a mile. It turns downhill about Maupin Row and is downhill all the way to Watauga Point. Coming uphill from about where Happy Valley cemetery is from Carter County or coming out of Johnson City to the top of the hill is "getting over Buffalo". Lots of times they had to break the train in two coming out of Johnson CIty and put it back together up at the top of the hill (double the hill) to get all the cars to Elizabethton.
It was really something to sit around with them when I was a little boy and listen to all of that talk!
Here's a good picture of Uncle Willie that he gave me when I was little. That's him on the 52 in the middle, with Ben Taylor and Marshall Hampton with him. Man he loved that old 52. I have this picture blown up and hanging over my chair in my living room.
Here's one of the first Clinchfield engines. This little guy came second-hand I think from one of the Pennsylvania Railroad subsidiaries. Read all about it in James Goforth's book "When Steam Ran the Clinchfield," published by our local printer, Overmountain Press. The dapper young engineer I understand to be Ross Jones. He worked many a day with old man T. E. Goodin, the daddy rabbit conductor on the CC&O, and the father of a great guy, John Goodin, who left us way too early a few years ago. John's collection of railroad pictures and paperwork are now in the Archives of Appalachia.
Here's the little 32 with big old CC&O number 558, the engine Charlie Bowman made famous in his song about Fred Leonard "Fogless Bill on the CC&O".
Sitting at the throttle
on the SEE SEE an OH!
Big Jim Lewis
Here's my Grandpa, Big Jim Lewis with the 14 on Legion Street. He started out railroading on the narrow gauge with his Pappy, WIlliam "Uncle Bill" Lewis, and his brothers Big John, Willie, Theodore, and Charlie. All of them but BIg John went to the Clinchfield.
Big Jim had a bad temper and was an incredibly strong man, even in his old age. He was so strong he could pick up two crossties, one on each shoulder, and carry them from the carshop to Sell's factory. There is a good tale about him and our old friend George Hardin.
Papa (Big Jim) went to work as a laborer on the track crew with his brother Uncle Willie. As a matter of fact, this is how Uncle Willie got his name. At that time, around 1910, Uncle Willie was called either William or Bill. Well, Mr. Hardin was down there with the track crew and told my uncle, "WIllie, get on the end of that tie and nip it up so we can tamp it".
Papa immediately flew into a rage and gave Mr. Hardin the uppercut of his life with that big ol' fist he had. Knocked out George Hardin colder than a January popsicle. They splashed ol' George with the drinking water and got him alive again, nobody daring to say anything to Papa lest they be smitten by his might arm as well.
When Hardin got back up, Papa told him "Listen to me--his name is William or Bill--Willie is an African-American (except Papa didn't say African-American) name. It's WIlliam or Bill!
Mr. Hardin apologized to Papa and Uncle Willie (WIlliam or Bill) and the track work went on. But from then on Uncle WIllie was Willie.
Below is Papa about 1940 with his boys in Erwin. Paul, James, and Sam and Carol are in the front. Uncle James still lives in Johnson City today.
The Lewis Boys
Here are the Tail Tracks at the Clinchfield's Erwin Roundhouse a few years ago.
Here's my all-time favorite CC&O engine, Old 99. She is still around today down in Jackson, Tennessee all dolled up like Casey Jones' engine, #382. She is out by Interstate 40 at the Casey Jones Village. I always stop and pay my respects when I am in the neighborhood. 99 was the passenger engine on the CC&0 way back when, before the big 150-series engines showed up. She was the pet and even when all the other engines had gone to scrap, the mechanical department hung on to 99.
As you go into Erwin on old Highway 23 you will see a little cemetery between you and the railroad and in that cemetery there is a grave with a fence made of steel pipes around it. That is the resting place of an old CC&O engineer named Ed Lewis. He died back in the early twenties, and his regular engine was 99 on the north end passenger train. Ed was sick and died before he retired and they had his funeral at the Baptist church in downtown Erwin. After his service they loaded his casket on the front of 99 and draped her all in black cloth. The family and friends loaded in a coach behind 99 and old Ed made his last miles on the head end of his engine from downtown Erwin out to that cemetery I was telling you about, where he was buried.
Those iron pipes around his grave are boiler tubes from 99, welded up and put there by CC&O shop men from Erwin. They petted old 99 and kept her around to the end of steam. When the newer, bigger engines were all going to scrap trains, 99 was stashed in the roundhouse and was even working the Kingsport yard as late as 1952 when one of the new 350 series diesels laid down on the job. When the relief engine came in from Erwin, it was 99.
My grandpa Dewey Riddle was the Erwin roundhouse carpenter and did all the woodwork on 99 that you can still see down in Jackson. She was still around in the middle 1950's when the City of Jackson bought her. I am really glad she is still around. James Goforth told me that great story about Ed Lewis. Get his book.
Above is the Clinchfield 499, a very unusual locomotive,especially for the state-of-the-art Clinchfield. It is an old, saturated hog that came here from somewhere else. Most all modern steam locomotives carried a device called a superheater, that got the steam even hotter by passing it back thru the hot firebox gases on the way to the cylinders. This gives a locomotive a LOT more power. Old 499 didn't have that and according to Lynn Lowe, and old CC&O engineer and old friend of mine, the 499 puffed out a constant stream of black water everywhere she went. I guess this picture was made on the Johnson City yard. This is a different picture from Mr Crumley's books. This one also came up missing and I reprinted it from an old copy negative.
Here's the 152, one of the passenger engines sitting in Erwin.
Now buddy, here's a real engine. One of the Clinchfield "Mikes". Remember what I told you about the Yukon Queen (Engine 190) over at Tweetsie Railroad and how she was a 2-8-2 "MacArthur". Well this is a "Mikado", built by an American Locomotive Company in the 1920s, before the Japanese got obnoxious. Clinchfield had several of these, not counting the oddball old 499, and man I hear they were great. They could pull like a mule or run like a racehorse and rode like a Cadillac, so I heard. Looks like this is the 417 at Erwin.
Here is Number 1 cruising into middle Tennessee on the Howard Baker for U.S. Senate campaign
They had two B-unit diesels behind number 1 that did all the work,
controlled from the cab of the steam engine. We called them "Clinchfield
Number 1 sitting out of service in Erwin, waiting to be put on display.
never made it.
Unlucky Number 313
What a great tale goes with this old girl. This is the CC&O 313 at the Erwin coal tipple.
The 313 was a regular engine on the Kingsport Yard in the early 1950's. My old neighbor on Lakecrest Drive was L. G. Lowe, engineer on the Clinchfield and a steam engine man if ever there was one. Mr. Lowe started his railroad career firing for my Uncle Willie on the Johnson City yard and he took a lot of time with me when I was a boy to talk steam. He was a great guy and I miss him a lot.
Anyway, in early 1951 Mr. Lowe was firing the night shift on the Kingsport yard for an old engineer that I can't remember his name. But he was an old original CC&O man, and, as most of them were, superstitious when it came to the railroad.
The night job at Kingsport went over to Frisco, right at the Virginia state
line where the Clinchfield met the Southern's Bulls Gap-Appalachia line. They set off stuff for Eastman and the night man gathered it up and drug it back to Kingsport every night. They left the yard and because they went out on the main line, their trip was governed by train orders issued by the Chief Dispatcher in Erwin.
Well, The old guy, Mr. Lowe, and the crew gathered up the setoffs from the Southern and waited for the return train order. When it arrived, the operator at Frisco brought it to the 313 and it read this way:
"ERWIN DISP EXTRA 313 CLEAR FRISC0 1:13AM JANUARY 13 1953 13 LOADS 13
EMPTIES TO KINGSPORT JBA 1/13/53"
The old man read the order, saw all those thirteens, and fainted dead away!
He passed out in the locomotive cab cold as a popsicle. Those thirteens just scared him to death. The crew thought he had a heart attack and Mr. Lowe took the throttle of old 313 and brought the train back to Kingsport as fast as he could get it there, where an ambulance met them and took the old engineer to the hospital. He recovered, but never worked another day.
Mr. Lowe sent that story to the "Railroad" Magazine back in the sixties and they printed it. Wherever you are Mr. Lowe, thanks so much for all the time you took with me.
On September 11, 1916 a hotel worker named Red Eldridge was hired as an assistant elephant trainer by the Sparks World Famous Shows circus. On the evening of September 12 he was killed by an elephant named "Mary" in Kingsport, Tennessee while taking her to a nearby pond to splash and drink. There are several accounts of his death but the most widely accepted version is that he prodded her behind the ear with a hook after she reached down to nibble on a watermelon rind. She went into a rage, snatched Eldridge with her trunk, threw him against a drink stand and deliberately crushed his head with her foot.
The details of the aftermath are confused in a maze of sensationalistic newspaper stories and folklore. Most accounts indicate she calmed down afterward and didn't charge the onlookers, who began chanting, "Kill the elephant!" Apparently within minutes, a local blacksmith tried to kill Mary, firing more than two dozen rounds with little effect. Newspapers published claims Murderous Mary had killed several workers in the past and noted that she was larger than world famous Jumbo the elephant. Meanwhile, she was impounded by the local sheriff and the leaders of several nearby towns threatened they wouldn't allow the circus to visit if Mary was included. The circus owner, Charlie Sparks, reluctantly decided that the only way to quickly resolve the potentially ruinous situation was to kill the elephant in public. On the following day, a foggy and rainy September 13, 1916, she was transported by rail to Erwin, Tennessee where a crowd of over 2500 people (including most of the town's children) assembled in the Clinchfield railroad yard.
The elephant was hung by the neck from a railcar-mounted industrial crane. The first attempt resulted in a snapped chain, causing Mary to fall and break her hip as dozens of children fled in terror. The severely wounded elephant died during a second attempt and was buried by the tracks.
According to William W. Helton, author of Around Home in Unicoi County, around on September 13, 1916, Mary and twelve other elephants were led to the Clinchfield Railroad yard.Mary was the leader of the herd and would not go anywhere without the other elephants following her.After the elephants arrived at the spot where the execution would soon take place, they were led away as one of Mary’s front feet was chained to the railroad tracks.The other elephants became suspicious when they realized Mary was not with them and they began to trumpet warning signals.After a few moments, however, the warnings ceased.It is not known if the elephants were bribed with food or if they stopped trumpeting on their own.
The man who usually operated the derrick was not working that day, so a fireman, Sam Harvey, known to Erwin residents as “One-Eyed Harvey”, was assigned to the hanging.Sam Bondurant, the wreck master, began the execution as soon as the other elephants had disappeared from view.Harvey was instructed to lower the chain, and as soon as the chain was placed around Mary’s neck, Bondurant gave the order to lift her off the ground.
As Harvey began to lift Mary from the tracks, there was a loud ripping noise.They had forgotten to unhook her front foot from the tracks!The ripping sound that some witnesses heard was probably the ligaments which tore in her foot.Unknown to the operators and the onlookers, a link, which made up the chain around the neck of the elephant, had pulled from its welding.As Harvey once again started to lift Mary from the tracks, she began to fight and the swaying motion from the new, rigorous movement caused the link to “jump” from the next link which connected it to the rest of the chain.Mary fell to the tracks and remained dazed until the chain was secured around her neck once more by a brave circus roustabout.People scattered at the sight of the unrestricted murderous elephant.As all the people on the ground ran away, Wade Ambrose noticed from his secure perch on top of a railway car that Mary “jumped to her feet” just as Sam Harvey pulled her up off the tracks for a final time.It took about ten minutes before Murderous Mary was finally dead.Witnesses reported that her body went limp and did not move after she was brought down onto the railroad tracks.
Amazingly, a steam shovel was not used to dig a final resting place for the giant pachyderm.Erwin residents reported that they watched as the circus employees dug a hole with shovels to accommodate Mary’s large size.The circus workers toiled the rest of the day digging Mary’s grave.
There are rumors that Mary was buried under the place where the courthouse now sits in Erwin.However, she would have had to have been moved almost a mile for this to be true.Witnesses to the execution and burial state that Mary was buried near the roundhouse in the Clinchfield Railroad yard and there isn’t any evidence to prove otherwise.
Sometime during the night, Mary’s large ivory tusks were cut off.Area residents believed that the elephant’s owner had ordered them removed secretly in order to compensate for some of the loss he had taken because of Mary’s early death.He had told reporters that he had paid $10,000 for Mary (the equivalent of $100,000 in 1986, according to William W. Helton).
Why was Big Mary hung?Mary was probably hung to keep Charlie Sparks’ circus from losing admission.Then why didn’t Sparks sell her to another circus?William W. Helton speculates in his book that, because the news of the murder Mary had committed spread so rapidly, Sparks had no other choice than to execute Mary or risk losing admission to his circus. Anyway, Erwin, Tennessee is duly noted in history along with the Clinchfield Railroad as the host site and the industrial muscle necessary for the execution of a murderous elephant.