April 30, 2014. Many railroad enthusiasts in the area are likely familiar with the Clinchfield 100 and after 30 years away, the railcar will soon return back home. Clinchfield 100 will return to Erwin, Tenn. on Wednesday, May 7 for the CSX Transportation Erwin Health Fair. The famous car left Erwin in 1983 after the merger and became property of CSX Transportation in Jacksonville, Fla.
Since the car is 103 years old, Car 100’s passengers have included railroad officials, business leaders and even Santa Claus. Car 100 began its run in 1911 when the all-steel coach car was built by the Pullman Co. for the Atlantic Coast Line Railroad. Originally, the car was known as the ACL 985.
Around 20 years after its construction, what would come to be known as Car 100 was rebuilt by the ACL’s main passenger shop in Rocky Mountain, N.C. into a full-operating dining car by the ACL, which dubbed the car the “Orlando.” Until 1951, the Orlando operated as a full diner car on the ACL’s main line between Washington, D.C. and Miami.
Car 100 is 82 feet long and 10 feet wide, it could comfortably haul 20 people and that many meals were served and much poker was played in the car’s heyday. Aside from its dining area and kitchen, the car also had room for three bedrooms. There are very few pieces of former Clinchfield Railroad equipment in existence now.
It was early in 1951 that officials with the Erwin-headquartered Clinchfield Railroad decided that the railroad’s original office car was getting just a tad too old to keep in service, and officials began their search for a replacement.
In May of that year, the Clinchfield purchased the unserviceable Orlando diner car from the ACL and brought it to Erwin to undergo major renovations from ground up. After almost two years of restoration work, completed under the direction of Clinchfield Chief Mechanical Officer P.O. Likens, the Clinchfield Railroad had its new office car, which was dubbed Car 100.
Car 100 had its first test run in August 1953 and first official run three months later when it began service as the official car on the Clinchfield Santa Train, which it would do until 1983.
According to WVRHS&M President Mike Tilley, Car 100 was also used for business meetings and trips for businesses along the Clinchfield Route beginning in the mid 1950s while under Clinchfield Railroad ownership.
“In 1968, Mr. T.D. Moore took over the general manager’s job of the Clinchfield Railroad and put new life into Car 100,” Tilley said. “Mr. Moore brought back to life the Clinchfield 1 steam locomotive and put together the 14-car excursion fleet. The special excursion train operated from November 1968 to May 1979 hauling passengers over the Clinchfield. Car 100 served as the trail car on many of the trips. Mr. Moore used the car to entertain customers during the excursions and at the CC&O stations in Johnson City and Kingsport.”
On top of its numerous trips to important Clinchfield Railroad locations such as Elkhorn City, Ky., and Spartanburg, S.C., Car 100 was used to transport folks to the Barter Theater in Abingdon, Va., along the Southern Railway and Norfolk & Western. It also made trips to Memphis, Richmond, Charlotte, Corbin and Jacksonville, Fla.
“It was seen all over the Family Lines System in operation during the ’70s and ’80s,” Tilley said.
When the Family Lines System absorbed the Clinchfield Railroad in the 1970s, Car 100 was painted to reflect the Family Lines grey, red and yellow color scheme in 1980. Car 100 was later retired and transported to the CSX office in Jacksonville, Fla., in 1983 to be evaluated for use as a CSX fleet car.
It was stored at the CSX West Jacksonville Office Car track for the next year, when it was sold to a private party in Tampa, FL . Car 100 was again sold to Florida resident Bill Beddell around 1985. Ten years after this, Car 100 was moved to the Aberdeen Carolina & Western Railway in North Carolina and was subsequently moved again to the Lancaster & Chester Railroad in Lancaster, S.C.
In July 20, 2013, Car 100 was moved from Lancaster SC to the North Carolina Transportation Museum in Spencer, NC for restoration. Watauga Valley RHS&M members worked long ours matching up the paint and the stripping to bring back the beautiful Clinchfield colors. Willetts Rail Car Company of Spencer, NC did the painting on Car 100. Car 100 rolled out of the paint shop on January 14, 2014. On March 16, 2014, the State of North Carolina dedicated the car to the general public and Clinchfield Railroad rail fans at the North Carolina Transportation Museum. Over 800 people attended this big event to show off Car 100.
Many people still remember Car 100 as she shined the rails on the Clinchfield Railroad even though it’s been 32 years since the car has been in Erwin. For one day only, Wednesday, May 7, Car 100 will be placed on display at the corner of Nolichucky Ave and Opeskiska St in Erwin just south of the CSXT General Office Building and Erwin Library. The car will be on display only and will be available for exterior pictures, interior tours will not be available at this time.
Attendees can also attend the CSXT Transportation Annual Health and Safety Fair also on Wednesday May 7, at the National Guard Armory in Erwin. The event is open to the public with free admission. More than 50 health and safety vendors will take place including physicians, the city health department, smoking cessation counselors, local wildlife experts, and insurance company representatives, firefighters, EMT’s sheriff’s department, Operation Lifesavor and LifeFlight helicopter staff. A blood donation van will be available for those wishing to donate blood. Many former Clinchfield employees, families along with area rail fans will be on hand to welcome Clinchfield 100 back home again. Both the events, display of Car 100 and the Health and Safety Fair will have free admission.