It ran a distance of 34 miles.
Narrow gauge track was ran instead of standard gauge because of the mountainous terrain. It was called “the Narrow Gauge” for several decades to come. Sometime around 1930, the name “Tweetsie” was coined and the name stuck.
It was originally intended to primarily carry iron ore and iron from the Cranberry mines. It greatly improved the economy of Avery by increasing the iron ore production and enabling the area to produce and deliver logs, lumber and crossties. As a result many were put to work to cut the timber and sawmills were put in operation to service the loggers. Mica was mined from the area and transported by the train. Shrubs and greenery were produced and grown in the area, and transported on the train.
The railroad also brought many tourists and summertime residents to the area. It was a huge boon for the economy of an isolated tiny mountain town.
Sherman Pippin of Roan Mountain, TN was an engineer for the “Tweetsie” line for 45 years.
The Linville River Railroad was begun in 1894 by three Camp brothers of Chicago. They were involved in a lumber industry at Pineola. The Linville River Railroad’s rails extended 12 miles to Cranberry.
The Camp Brothers built a small hotel in the pines near their sawmill and employed a lady by the name of Lewellen Penland. One of the Camp brothers, took the name of Lewellen Penland’s daughter 'Ola', and combined 'Pine' and made the new village name of “Pineola”. The name stuck.
Even though she was loved dearly by the area mountain folk, eventually time took it's toll on the railroad and its demise was inevitable due to the changing economy. Floods in the 1940's washed away some of the tracks, bringing an even earlier end to her run. Then Tweetsie Locomotive #12 was purchased and moved to Virginia. She was there until 1954, when Blowing Rock native, Grover Robbins, Jr. purchased the train from Cowboy film star, Gene Autry, and Tweetsie came back to North Carolina in 1956.
Tweetsie park opened in 1957 and eventually evolved into the theme park of today.
I went to ride the train many times as a child, and got to see the Cowboys and Indians have a wild- west "shoot out" right in front of the spectators. It was quite a sight for a little girl that had never seen anything like that!
For more info visit : http://www.tweetsie.com/
Fred Kirby was also a favorite of the local kids. He is truly missed. We love you, Fred.