Dedication Celebration for the Restored Linville River Railway Depot Set for May 29 in Newland

Published Thursday, May 19, 2016 at 11:56 am

By Jessica Isaacs | [email protected]

Photos by Ken Ketchie

Dedicated local historians have restored a treasured piece of the High Country’s past, and you’re invited to celebrate the unveiling of their work.

The Avery County Historical Museum will host a dedication celebration to reveal the restored Linville River Railway depot, which once served the original Tweetsie Railroad, on Sunday, May 29.

The restored Linville River Depot, which now sits in Newland at the Avery County Historical Museum. Photo by Ken Ketchie.-11

The restored Linville River Depot, which now sits in Newland at the Avery County Historical Museum.

First established in the late 1860s, the East Tennessee and Western North Carolina railroad, later known as “Tweetsie,” operated for more than 60 years and carried along its route both passengers and materials.

Covering approximately 66 miles of mountain highlands, the railroad began in Johnson City and traveled on its route through Tennessee stops including Elizabethton, Valley Forge and Hampton, crossed over the Doe River Gorge and through Roan Mountain on its way to the state line.

Once in North Carolina, it continued through or near the communities of Minneapolis, Vale, Newland and Montezuma before dipping down into what is now Pineola. From there, it traveled up through Linville, around the towering Grandfather Mountain, through Foscoe and Shull’s Mills ending in Boone.

The stretch of the railroad from Johnson City to Cranberry was dubbed the East Tennessee and Western North Carolina Railroad (ET&WNC), and from Cranberry to Boone was known as the Linville River Railway.

Devastated by excessive and reckless logging, the forestry and lands of the Blue Ridge hill country were left defenseless against the mighty floods of a hurricane that hit North Carolina in August of 1940. In the wake of the storm, much of the railway, which took almost four decades to complete, was destroyed in a matter of days.

By that time, the ET&WNC Company was ready to leave the railway behind and invest in more cars and buses for in-town transportation.

In 1941, the Linville River Railway and all of the tracks between Boone and Cranberry were abandoned, and the closure of the ET&WNC side followed in 1950.

Vanessa Hammel, Tense Banks and Reesa Larsen are pictured working in the Avery County Historical Museum.

Vanessa Hammel, Tense Banks and Reesa Larsen are pictured working in the Avery County Historical Museum.

Eight years ago, the folks behind the Avery County Historical Museum began an effort to preserve the Linville depot, one of the last remaining relics of the railway. They secured enough funding to move the structure to the museum in Newland, and have since been working to restore the depot and create the ET&WNC Railroad Museum.

After a lengthy restoration process, they’re excited to unveil their work and host a dedication celebration at the museum in Newland.

The festivities will begin at 1 p.m. on May 29, giving you the perfect opportunity to enjoy a summer Sunday afternoon and learn about the history of our beloved High Country.

Refreshments and entertainment will open the program, followed by a small dedication ceremony at 2 p.m. and the introduction of some special guest speakers.

“We have invited about 100 guests and it’s going to be a big weekend, so I’m hoping we’re going to have a big crowd,” said Tense Banks, vice chair of the museum. “There will be a few people who are going to talk about the railroad, and the rest of the time we’ll have places for people to sit and enjoy everything. Some of the old-timers who remember it will be here to talk about it.”

For the remainder of the afternoon, you can tour the depot and the caboose, which will undergo restoration next, as well as peruse the museum’s comprehensive exhibit on the railway system.

“We’re finishing up the depot and next we will start on the caboose,” Banks said of the overall restoration effort. “We’re not going to do anything inside it. It’s exactly like it used to be, so we’re leaving it that way.”

While you’re there, you can purchase and dedicate a brick paver to a family member of friend you’d like to honor that worked for, traveled on or remembers the railroad.

After eight years of hard work, a lot of money raised and countless volunteer hours contributed, the depot and ET&WNC museum will soon be ready for you to enjoy.

“We want to tell the story. People that were here know the story, but the kids here today don’t even know there was a train,” said Banks. “We’ve put in a lot of time and money and we think it’s going to be great.”

The Avery County Historical Museum is located at 1829 Schultz Circle in Newland in the old jail next to the courthouse. For more information, call the museum at 828-733-7111 or check out averymuseum.com.

 

Check out the April edition of High Country Magazine for an in-depth look at the history of the ET&WNC and local research.

 

Photos from the museum:

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