Driving into town on a rain splattered spring morning, Clifton Forge looks like dozens of other small towns scattered about the mountains of western Virginia. The only clue to the town’s past is a small sign pointing the way to the Chesapeake & Ohio Railway Heritage Center.
Clifton Forge was once a booming railroad town. In the early 19th century, a settlement grew up along the Jackson River between Slaughter Pen Hollow and Smith Creek which eventually became known as Clifton Forge. Read more
In time, the Lethbridge (Alberta district, Northwest Territories) coal mines would feed all the Canadian Pacific Railway (CPR) steam locomotives in western Canada, as well as the stoves of its stations and many settler prairie homes. The slogan “Galt Coal Burns All Night” was emblazoned on signage wherever it was sold; lumber yards, grain elevators, and farm cooperatives. By 1890, the North-West Coal & Navigation Company (NWC&NC) averaged 90,000 tons delivered per year to Dunmore, and the CPR wanted more. Northwest Mounted Police Superintendent Deane reported the Galt mines could produce more than 1,000 tons per day – with the possibilities for more in sight.
The last time I saw the East Broad Top under steam was October 29th, 2011, during a freak pre-winter blizzard fondly referred to as Snowtober. The storm produced unusually early season snowfall across the northeastern United States, breaking records for total accumulations. In fact, in some cities Halloween was cancelled and children were left without treats. Two months later, the tourist excursion season ended, and the East Broad Top Railroad and Coal Company suspended operations indefinitely. The narrow gauge railroad has been dormant since, their doors locked. Once touted as the oldest operating narrow gauge steam train at its original location in America, water has not boiled inside a locomotive for five years. But I never stopped going back to visit this historic landmark. Face-to-face in the presence of absence; the current chapter.
Since its most recent closure, I have been routinely visiting the towns of Orbisonia, Mount Union, Robertsdale, and all points of interest in between. Regardless of season, weather conditions, or time of day, it is my mission to photograph and document the facilities as they exist present day. With permission from EBT management and ownership, access to the railroad complex has been graciously granted to capture photographs of these spectacular scenes. Read more
Like so many of us, my interest in railroading led to a parallel interest in photography. Not only did I have the pleasure of planning the photo, but later the images evoked powerful memories of people, places, and events I had encountered as I learned more about this fascinating industry.
The East Tennessee and Western North Carolina Railroad (ET&WNC) was a mainly narrow gauge line that ran from Johnson City, Tennessee to Cranberry, North Carolina. The original intent of the line was to haul high-grade iron ore from the mines at Cranberry to transfer points in Johnson City. The ET&WNC began operations in 1881 as far as Cranberry, and by 1918 the railroad reached Boone, North Carolina. The ET&WNC was also laid with dual gauge tracks from Johnson City to Elizabethton, Tennessee and served two rayon plants there. The little narrow gauge served the people of the mountains faithfully for many years, and become known affectionately as “The Tweetsie.”
It was a cool day in late October in Martinsburg, West Virginia. The buildings I had come to see were bathed in the warm light of a late autumn afternoon and all was silent and still behind the vacant windows. It wasn’t always so. Read more