‘Tweet-tweet’ went the mountains’ money machine

On this day in 1957: A coal-burning, narrow-gauge engine that once hauled iron ore from an Avery County mine to a Tennessee smelter returns from retirement as the centerpiece of a Blowing Rock amusement park.

The East Tennessee & Western North Carolina Railroad began doing business in the late 1800s. Locals dubbed the ET & WNC the “Eat Taters and Wear No Clothes” railroad, then the “Tweetsie,” after the “tweet-tweet” of its whistle.

After competition from trucking shut down the line in 1950, actor Gene Autry purchased Engine No. 12 for an attraction that never materialized. Autry then sold it to entrepreneur Grover Robbins Jr., who laid three miles of track around Roundhouse Mountain and brought the Tweetsie back home in a 50-mile motorcade that shut down whole towns along the way.

Tweetsie Railroad will prove to be a popular and financial success for many decades, helping to finance such real-estate developments as Hound Ears and Beech Mountain.

Pictured: Pinback button and personalized marshal’s badge from Tweetsie Railroad.


Underground railroad did lay track in western N.C.

An enlightening  “I Was Wrong” from Civil War blogger Michael C. Hardy:
“I was digging around and came across something that I’ve been telling folks did not happen: escaped slaves on the ‘underground railroad’ in western North Carolina….
“It’s not so much that it did not happen, it is just that it VERY seldom happened. I have a post-war account here someplace that speaks on escaped Union soldiers telling slaves they could not come with the fleeing soldiers. A slave would be missed and sought after immediately. While escaped Union soldiers were always being sought after by the home guard, it is not the same as a master getting together a posse to hunt for an escaped slave.
The account below was written by Dr. Steadman O. Pine (sometimes listed as Oran Steadman Pine). Pine served as a private in the 14th Brooklyn and in the 5th New York ( Duryea’s Zouaves).  Pine was captured at Cold Harbor in June 1864.
“This account was written more than 40 years after the event, so we should not take it as gospel.
“Pine probably would have traveled through modern-day Avery or Mitchell Counties to join up with Federal soldiers. Of interest is his description of his escape in Charlotte.”