Skip to main content

East Tennessee & Western North Carolina Railroad



The East Tennessee & Western North Carolina(ET&WNC) Railroad was chartered by the Tennessee General Assembly on May 24, 1866 for the purpose of importing iron ore from Cranberry, N. C. The mineral had been discovered in 1780, and the Cranberry Iron Company, later Cranberry Iron and Coal Company (CIC), formed before the Civil War to extract the ore. Lacking firm financial backing and management, the railroad failed and was abandoned in 1874.

Ario Pardee and associates, owners of CIC, acquired ownership of the line between 1876-79, with ET&WNC becoming a subsidiary of CIC. The initial construction of a 14.1 mile narrow-gauge track from Johnson City to Hampton, Tenn. was completed August 22, 1881, and an extension to Cranberry, N. C., was finished July 3, 1882.

ET&WNC hauled iron ore from the Cranberry mine, pig iron from the forge, and lumber from the forests of western North Carolina. In 1913, CIC purchased the Linville River Railway (LRR), a line built in the 1890s specifically to haul lumber between Cranberry and Saginaw, N. C. Other property purchased at the time included land, cottages, and the Pineola Inn. The LRR line was extended in the following years to Boone, N. C. LRR suffered heavily from a 1940 flood and eventually abandoned the rail line following Interstate Commerce Commission (ICC) approval March 22, 1941.

CIC became involved in motor transportation with the establishment of ET&WNC Motor Transportation Company as a subsidiary on December 17, 1926. Chartered to operate passenger buses in East Tennessee, southwest Virginia, and western North Carolina, the company expanded into the trucking business in 1928. Initial trucking routes were from wholesale businesses in Johnson City, Tenn., to mountain communities in North Carolina. The trucking business expanded rapidly. By the mid-1930s, ET&WNC trucks traveled as far east as Raleigh and Charlotte, N. C.; as far southeast as Greenville, S. C.; as far southwest as Chattanooga, Tenn.; and as far north as Bristol, Va. A 1937 ICC ruling prohibited ET&WNC Motor Transportation from purchasing additional truck routes. To resolve this situation, CIC reorganized. CIC was dissolved on May 27, 1939 and the Cranberry Corporation was incorporated under the laws of Delaware in April 1939, for the purpose of acquiring the assets of CIC. The following month Cranberry acquired all the capital stock of ET&WNC Motor Transportation, ET&WNC Railroad, and Linville River Railway. Approval from the ICC of this reorganization was completed in 1941. The motor transportation company was then dissolved and the name of Cranberry changed to East Tennessee and Western North Carolina Transportation Company. A new subsidiary, Tennolina Corporation, had been established in April 1939 to control all the real estate in North Carolina, including the furnace properties.

During World War II, ET&WNC was one of the major rail lines hauling freight and passengers throughout the region. With the end of the war, business declined. The narrow-gauge track from Elizabethton, Tenn., was soon abandoned. ET&WNC maintained standard rail service between Johnson City and Elizabethton, largely because of business generated by the rayon plants in Elizabethton.

During this period, ET&WNC Transportation Company's trucking operations continued to enjoy considerable success, expanding operations into North Georgia. In 1956, the company purchased Inter City Trucking Company of Memphis, Tenn. Truck routes then extended from Raleigh to Little Rock, Arkansas. In 1977, Red Ball Motor Freight, a subsidiary of Telcom Corporation of Dallas, Texas, purchased ET&WNC Transportation. Six years later, Red Ball went bankrupt, and the transportation company ceased to operate. Then Green Bay Packaging of Green Bay, Wis., purchased the railroad properties and reorganized the company as East Tennessee Railway. As of 1996, this line, the only remaining descendent of the transportation company, continues to operate between Johnson City and Elizabethton, Tenn., largely dependent upon North American Rayon for most of its freight.

Found in 7 Collections and/or Records:

East Tennessee and Western North Carolina Transportation Company Records

 Collection — Multiple Containers
Identifier: AppMs-0091
Scope and Contents

The East Tennessee and Western North Carolina Transportation Company Records consist primarily of accounting records of the company. Included are cash books, cash voucher records, general ledgers, general journals, balance sheets and supporting statements, time and wage books, and payroll ledgers.

Dates: 1868-1970

East Tennessee & Western North Carolina Railroad Excursion Broadside

 Collection — Oversize box B: Series Series 1; Series Series 1; Series Series 2, Oversize folder: 1
Identifier: AppMs-0703
Scope and Contents

The collection consists of a handbill advertising a weekend excursion on the East Tennessee and Western North Carolina (ET & WNC) Railroad. The text advertises that "this is the Trip featured in the Movie Short entitled 'Tennessee Tweetsie' [1939]" and that sightseers can "SPEND A DAY OF WHOLESOME PLEASURING-In the Land of the Sky!" The broadside lists rates and times from railway stations in East Tennessee and Western North Carolina.

Dates: circa 1939

G.L. Carter Railroad Museum Collection

Identifier: AppMs-0849
Scope and Contents

This collection consists of various materials transferred from the G.L. Carter Railroad Museum at East Tennessee State University.

Dates: 1920 - 1952

John Goodin Papers

Identifier: AppMs-0482
Scope and Contents The collection consists of correspondence, photographs, and memorabilia created or collected by John Goodin. There is a particular emphasis on Goodin’s World War II military service with the United States Army, including correspondence from friends and family at home in East Tennessee. Goodin was also a railroad enthusiast and collected photographs and railroad ephemera, especially that of the Clinchfield Railroad and other Southeastern United States rail lines. Other Goodin family members...
Dates: 1872 - 1999

Hugh L. White Collection

 Collection — Other Boxes 1-9
Identifier: AppMs-0707

This collection consists of three series: Series 1, Study Prints; Series 2, Original Negatives, 1900-1920; Series 3, Original Prints and Related Material. The original negatives were numbered sequentially. The study prints have been given numbers that match the original negatives.

Dates: 1900-1920

James T. Dowdy, Sr. Photographs

 Collection — Box 1-2
Identifier: AppMs-0107
Scope and Contents Throughout his career, Dowdy collected photographs related to various, regional railroads. Some of the collection's photographs were taken by Dowdy, while others were obtained through trade with fellow collectors. Railroads included are: Carolina, Clinchfield, and Ohio Railroad (CC&O); Cass Scenic Railroad; East Tennessee & Western North Carolina (ET&WNC); Linville River Railway (LRR)*; and Southern Railway Company. Images feature communities, depots, engines, roundhouses,...
Dates: 1890-1950

Seiler Photograph Album

 Collection — Box 1
Identifier: AppMs-0684
Scope and Contents

The collection consists of one photograph album containing photographs showing the construction of East Tennessee and Western North Carolina Railroad in the Doe River Gorge near Hampton, Tennessee. The album appears to have been professionally produced, possibly for promotional purposes.

Dates: 1880-1882

Additional filters:

Doe River Gorge (Tenn.) 3
Photographs 3
Elk Park (N.C.) 2
Railroads 2
Railroads--North Carolina 2