May 04, 2009
One of the ways I know summer is finally here is when I hear that whistle whine from over the mountain. The whistle I'm talking about is from the old Engine #12 of Tweetsie Railroad between Boone and Blowing Rock. The steam engine was originally run on the East Tennesee and Western North Carolina Railroad, running from Johnson, Tn to Boone, NC. It began operation in 1866, hauling iron ore as well as passengers. In 1940 a large flood wiped out much of the ET & WNC railroad tracks, and considering money was still owed on the railroad they were never replaced. The engine #12 that was in operation at the time was built in 1917, by Baldwin Locomotive Works. It is the last of the 15 coal-fired steam engines that were run on the ET & WNC railroad. It was sold to a group of collectors, then to Gene Autry. Later real estate developer Grover Robbins bought the engine and built Tweetsie Railroad amusement park. Tweetsie gets its name from the high pitched shrill the engine's whistle gives. To learn more about the park and the Tweetsie history, visit the Tweetsie Railroad website. The photos were taken as my first assignment ever for The Appalachian newspaper. It is probably my favorite story I had the chance to shoot.