East Tennessee & Western North Carolina Railroad (ETWNC) was chartered on May 24, 1866 by the Tennessee General Assembly as a broad gauge railwa,y after iron was found in Cranberry, N.C. Ario Pardee, purchasing the railway in 1875, proceeded with plans to recast the line as a narrow gauge. Late in 1881, the line finally stretched from Johnson City to Hampton, Tennessee. ETWNC operated two trains, Engine #1 “Watauga” and Engine #2 “Cranberry.” They were named for the respective towns that the company hoped eventually to reach. In 1882, the line succeeded by reaching Elk Park and added Engine #3 “Unaka” to service. The railway earned the nickname “Tweetsie” from camp-bound children in response to the sound it made coming around the mountain.
In 1913, ET&WNC purchased the Linville River Railway system, and in 1918, it opened service to Boone. Regular passenger service began on May 9, 1919 and continued until the flood of August 1940 made it impossible to resume. The company entered into a period of decline, which ended with the 3:30 pm run of Engine # 11 on October 16, 1950.
ET&WNC’s history in Appalachia is partially commemorated by a the regional theme park known as Tweetsie Railroad, located in Blowing Rock, N.C.
The Appalachian Rails and Railways Collection consists of over thirty books, journals, and videos about this railway. Several videos, including one of a 1937 Appalachian State Teachers College football game, document the train’s lasting importance and mystic in northwestern North Carolina.
Ferrell, Mallory Hope. Tweetsie Country: the East Tennessee & Western North Carolina Railroad. Johnson City, TN: Overmountain Press, 1991. App Coll Oversize TF25.E37 F47 1991
Waite, John R. The Blue Ridge Stemwinder: An Illustrated History of the East Tennessee & Western North Carolina Railroad and the Linville River Railway. Johnson City, TN: Overmountain Press, 2003. App Coll Train HE3669.E34 W35 2003
Westveer, Neal Brian. Eat Taters & Wear No Clothes: East Tennessee & Western North Carolina Railroad, 1866-1950: An Illustrated History. Little Switzerland, NC: N.B. Westveer, 1990. App Coll Train TF25.E37 W48 1990