1883 TRAIN TRIP FROM KNOXVILLE TO JELLICO DESCRIBED IN OLD KNOXVILLE DAILY TRIBUNE
By Dallas Bogan
Reprinted with Permission from Dallas Bogan. This article was published in the LaFollette Press.
While rummaging through the archives at the Campbell County Historical Society, the writer came across an article entitled, "To the State Line over the Kentucky and Ohio (K. & O.) Railroad," which was published in the Knoxville Daily Tribune, Saturday, May 5, 1883. The trip was taken on the railroad from Knoxville to Jellico in 1883. We will now transcribe it as it was actually written.
The remainder of the party, which went out on the line of the K. & O. road Tuesday morning returned to the city yesterday. The party which left Knoxville on the special train was composed of Major Henry Fink, General Manager of the East Tennessee, Virginia and Georgia System of Railroads; Major J.F. O'Brien, General Superintendent; Major F.K. Huger, Superintendent; B.R. Hutchcraft, of the Jellico Mining Company; E.E. McCroskey, of the Standard Mining Company; John M. Brooks and E.J. Davis, of the East Tennessee Coal Company; W.S. Gears, of the Coal Creek Company, M.J. Condon, railroad contractor, Gustav Murmann, engineer for the Standard Mining Company. There were a number of others in the party including a Tribune representative.
We left Knoxville a few minutes past 7 o'clock, a heavy rain falling at the time. But for the rain the party would probably have been twice as large. The railroad officials went to inspect the road while the other members of the party went to examine the coal mines near the State line and to look at the country. The train consisted of two cars. One was a passenger coach and the other was the elegant official and palace dining car belonging to the road.
The first point inspected was the notorious Black Oak Ridge, which so many land slides have occurred during the last year. The last slide occurred last month stopping the trains for nearly a week. Trains now pass without difficulty though a large force of hands is still at work removing the large quantities of dirt, which only awaits another rain to slide down and cover the track. To make the road at this point perfectly safe for next winter will require the removal of more than a thousand car loads of dirt. The cut through the ridge is very deep and it is thought by some that the building of a tunnel would be the cheapest protection against the slides, which are likely to occur here for several years. Beyond Black Oak is more than a mile of new road, which was built last summer for the purpose of lightening the grade and shortening the distance. It is a splendid piece of work.
Soon after passing this point the rain ceased and the skies began to brighten. The coal men settled down to telling jokes while the railroad men from the rear end of the observation car examined the road critically.
All the towns along the line from Knoxville to Careyville are brightening up. All of them have handsome new storehouses, residences or cottages. The zinc works and the lumber companies are making Clinton lively. Coal Creek is improving rapidly. Almost every town along the road can boast of some manufacturing or mining enterprise. The neat farm houses, new barns and fences are closely cultivated fields along the line indicate that the farmers are also prospering.
The most expensive structure on the K and O. Railroad is the Careyville tunnel, a short distance south of Careyville. About two years ago the woodwork, which supported the tunnel on the inside caught fire and the dirt began to cave in. The work of repairing was at once, but a seam of coal shale in the tunnel had caught fire and the smoke drove the workmen out. The fire continued to burn for several months, and until it was extinguished little work could be done. In the meantime a zig-zag road was built across the mountain, and by this means trains have been crossing the mountain for nearly two years at a great expense and loss of time. A series of accidents retarded the work in the tunnel, the great rain-fall two weeks ago delaying the completion of the work two weeks. The Careyville tunnel will be completed by the middle of the present month.
The railroad officials and several others of the party walked through the tunnel conducted by Major Anderson, who has the work in charge. We found the work all completed except 28 feet of the arch, which was yet to be turned. The tunnel is about 15 feet wide and is 20 feet high from the track to the keystone of the arch. The sides are built up of massive stone, the walls to the spring of the arch being about 14 feet high. The arch is of brick and is capable of resisting any pressure, which could possibly be brought upon it. The portals of the tunnel are of sandstone and present a splendid appearance. The entire cost of this tunnel will not fall short of $150,000, and when completed it will be one of the best and most perfect structures of the kind in the United States. For several months a double force of nearly a hundred hands have been worked in the Careyville tunnel. About thirty of them are convicts.
The next point of interest is the Elk Gap Tunnel some distance beyond Careyville. It is 1,799 feet long and the road through it is a curve. This is the highest point on the road between Knoxville and the Kentucky State line. It is 1,750 feet above the sea level or 750 feet higher than Knoxville. The mountain through which the tunnel is cut is the water-shed between the East Tennessee valley and the Cumberland. The water from one slope of the mountain finds its way into the Tennessee River. For several miles beyond this tunnel the road is cut into the sides of the mountains, and is carried over the deep ravines and gorges by immense fills and trestles of great height. On the left it seems a thousand feet to the bottom of the valley down the steep and rugged mountain sides while on the right the ragged crest of the mountain chain is so far up as to seem almost in the clouds. The forest trees are in tender leaf and mountain wild flowers cluster on the slopes above and below the railroad.
A few miles farther on is the wonder of East Tennessee. Within one mile the road runs through five tunnels of solid limestone. As we enter the first tunnel we see through three tunnels and into the mouth of the fourth one. We can stand in the entrance of the fourth tunnel and looking back at a glance through the fourth and fifth. These tunnels are through five spurs of the mountain and are cut through solid limestone. They need no artificial arches, for they are supported by the everlasting rocks. The portals are not the entries to dark and gloomy caves in the mountain gorges, but like portals to the enchanted grottoes of fair land. There is not such a sight on any railroad in the United States and there are few natural scenes more magnificent than that which greets the vision of the traveler as he speeds across the deep ravines and darts through the solid rock ribs of old Pine Mountain. As we emerge from the fifth tunnel the beautiful Elk Valley burst upon our view. Hundreds and hundreds of feet below and to the north and west the fertile fields of the valley stretch out before us smiling in the spring sunshine through the tears of the morning May shower. Beyond the valley is the Jellico Mountain range beneath the crust of which are exhaustless mines of coal, more than the world could consume in a hundred years.
But we must take another look at Pine Mountain from the solid sides of which has been chipped a pathway for the iron horse. Pine Mountain is a geological wonder. In it can be found the rocks of every formation since the world began. It was thrown up thousands of years ago during a great convulsion of the earth and the upheaval brought to the surface the bottom crust and exposed to the light the light the rocks that were made millions of years ago. Pine Mountain is an irregular, distorted mass of the strata of all the past geological ages. It is a fine study for the Geologists.
But we cannot wait for a lecture on geology, for the train is dashing on and we are in Hell's Point Gorge, and soon we are in the darkness of Hell's Point tunnel. The tunnel is cut through solid sandstone. Hell's Point is a cut off from Pine Mountain and is the divide between Big Elk and Little Elk Fork of the Cumberland River.
From this point the road is built through a country comparatively level. It is a broad valley with Pine Mountain on the right and Jellico on the left. At Newcomb, three miles south of the State line, passes within a mile of the Standard Coal Mines and the Jellico Mines which are being opened up in spurs of Jellico Mountain. From Newcomb to the State line the country between the two mountain chains is almost perfectly level. On the Kentucky side of the East Tennessee Coal Company is opening the new coal mines.
The station here is to be known ad Jellico. It is a beautiful location for a town and in a few years will doubtless be a place as important as Bristol. The train arrived in Jellico a short time after noon. The officers of the road examined the connection at the State line and the whole party passed over into Kentucky. They remained only a few minutes and returned to the train for dinner.
A handsome depot building is being erected at Jellico and a pretty little town springing up. A handsome new hotel has just been completed. Along the line from Careyville to Jellico little towns are growing up where the stations have been marked. The East Tennessee, Virginia and Georgia Railroad company encourages and stimulates the erection of neat buildings by setting a good example. The company is erecting at each station a handsome depot, an elegant cottage for the section-master and comfortable and neat houses for the section hands.
The entire road is in fair condition, and we see nothing to prevent the running of through trains for Louisville as soon as the Careyville tunnel is finished. There are no less that fourteen iron bridges between Careyville and the State line. Everything bears marks of a substantial finish seldom seen on a new railroad.
After dinner at Jellico the officers of the road returned to Knoxville, the remainder of the party starting off for the mountains.
(Many thanks to Trulene Nash at the Campbell County Historical Society for allowing the writer to use this material,)
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