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CHESSIE local No. 25 eases into Bellaire station alongside Michigan Railroad Club EJ&S excursion in August 1960, a year before abandonment.

PLYMOUTH gas engine ML 1 possessed steam configu ration, including headlight, stack, dome, bell, whistle.

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On its second attempt the EJ&S finally quit

JERRY PINKEPANK

were

1 IN SOME elegant white build- succeeded by his son, H. P. Porter. break of World War II the road was

ing down in Washington, D. C., When EJ&S went out of business three left with one Mogul and one Plymouth the I.C.C. approved yet another short of the five stockholders were Porters. gas engine purchased from a Governline abandonment. All in a day's Logging business boomed over the ment dam project. A gas railbus rework; short lines vanish almost every railroad's first decades. The 9 miles placed steam passenger service for a month of the year. For the solons of of branches with which the company time, then was dropped in 1945. The transportation this was routine busi- began life grew to 30 miles of ramifi- line continued to serve as rail conness—just the stamp of approval on an cation by the late '20's. The logging nection for the foundry and cannery examiner's report. But a thousand car fleet topped 200. From time to that replaced lumbering in East Jormiles from Washington, in the north time EJ&S would add or subtract an

dan's economy. Michigan woods, the result of the de- engine, but there were always four cision was anything but routine. The or five locomotives on the roster. And THE EJ&S might still have been just East Jordan & Southern Railroad was then the bottom fell out. The logs another short line except for one thing quitting.

gone — an old familiar tale — excursions. Each year the East

wherever lumbermen had stripped the Jordan Chamber of Commerce sponTHIS wasn't the first time. Once land without conservation. Northern sored free train rides as a tourist atbefore, in darkest 1932, EJ&S had had Michigan is covered with the aban- traction on Independence Day and, if the I.C.C.'s approval to go out of busi- doned trails of little railroads that the natural display warranted in the ness but there had been people willing dried up in the resulting desert of tree-lined Jordan River valley, durto save the road and she hadn't been stumps, and EJ&S seemed destined to ing the height of the fall color season. allowed to go under. Those people join the parade. The 30 miles of The jaunts down the somewhat doubtweren't around now.

branches of 1928 had become no ful 60-pound rail of the East Jordan The decision to keep running in branches at all two years later, and in & Southern to Bellaire and return 1932 was based on a virtually com- 1932 EJ&S had its permission to cease drew the attention of newspaper feaplete change in the road's purpose in running. Not enough traffic to warrant ture sections and television cameras, life. Up through the 1920's EJ&S had future operation, said the examiner. which covered such events as "The been part of Michigan's once great That was when the EJ&S changed Great Train Robbery" staged midway network of logging lines, taking tim- its purpose in life, for East Jordan down the line by hard-ridin', pistolber down to the East Jordan mill on rallied to save its railroad and new shootin' "outlaws." Lake Charlevoix (pronounced traffic came to the line to stave off The excursions often involved the Shar-ley-voy) from where it even- starvation. The abandonment petition road's entire roster of rolling stock tually departed as finished lumber expired unused. EJ&S shed its fleet two locomotives and two cars. There aboard white-sailed schooners trad- of logging cars and whittled down the was Mogul No. 6, a 1909 Pittsburgh ing on the Great Lakes.

motive power roster to the needs of product preserved almost intact from In the late 19th century the em- its new mission, so that at the out- construction with her high headlight, bryonic EJ&S was simply part of the operating economy of the East Jordan Lumber Company, but the thriving little community of East Jordan that had arisen around the mills was in need of transportation. The logging road was there, so why not use it? On July 9, 1901, the East Jordan & Southern Railroad Company was incorporated as a common carrier under the laws of Michigan. By October the little railroad was in full operation in its new role, doing business with 4 locomotives, 3 passenger cars, 7 flats, 2 service cars, and — of course 112

6 log buggies. As this last item in the roster makes evident, lumbering was still the staff of life on the EJ&S. Nevertheless, by tying in with the old Pere Marquette 18 miles down the pike at Bellaire, this elaboration on a logger gave East Jordan its needed connection with the world.

Over the line's entire 60-year existence, the President and General

Burdell L. Bulgrin. Manager was an East Jordan Porter — MARCH 25, 1961, excursion for fans finds elderly Mogul throwing back smoke (to any phoW. P. Porter at the beginning, later tographer's satisfaction) over the open platforms and clerestory roof of 1889 combine.

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NO. 1, apparently a 4-4-0, at EJ&S logging camp in early days.

CREW posed with Baldwin Mogul No. 5 on a logging train.

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long wooden pilot, Stephenson valve gear and slide valves, and swinging "church bell.” Her normal duty was to stand by as EJ&S's “big engine” (all 5814 tons' worth), backing up Plymouth ML 1, and to operate when the little gas engine was laid up for repairs or when there were simply too many cars for her to move. Then there was ML 1 herself (the initials stand for Motor Locomotive), no small showman by any means painted bright orange with black zebra stripes and sporting a big bell, an airoperated steam whistle, and vibrating a tall cast-iron stack with what was surely the unmuffled exhaust of her 175-horsepower engine in a sound which resembled five mainline freighters in the eighth notch. These

locomotives hauled: (1) the "Swan Car" (East Jordan likes to call attention to its Lake Charlevoix swans, and calls itself the Swan City) a garish monstrosity consisting of open seats on one of the ancient short logging flats, covered by a red, white, and blue superstructure mounting swan cutouts on the sides; and (2) combine No. 2. This last car was a real treasure. The builder's plate, still mounted in the floor, read CHICAGO & GRAND TRUNK, FORT GRATIOT CAR SHOPS, 1889. C&GT was a Grand Trunk Western predecessor. The C&GT initials could still be seen on the car's thre old and trucks. Fort Gratiot car shops were at Port Huron, Mich., where GTW's car shops remain today.

Naturally this entourage did not

escape the attention of the fans, and in the last years it was a reasonably common event to charter the EJ&S for a day, tacking combine No. 2 onto some of the regular freight work and making the round trip from East Jordan to Bellaire behind the 2-6-0. Many an idyllic day was spent thus, following No. 6 down the line and back again, stopping for photo runs at such scenic places as Deer Creek trestle and the Jordan River bridge.

But no more, for on August 12, 1961, EJ&S ran its farewell fan trip. Operations ceased at the end of the month. Although there was talk of saving the Mogul and maybe the combine as well, the little railroad had, literally and figuratively, crossed over the Jordan for the last time. I

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A BOY on the plank bridge waves as Graham County's sidewinder cranks itself along the weed-grown track toward Topton.

Photo by Mallory Hope Ferrell,

The Graham County Railroad ..

past

and present

MALLORY HOPE FERRELL

1 THE mid-July sunrise that fil- tinued to scrape more coal into the responsible for the Graham County

tered through the mountain cab- panting little Shay as she sent up a Railroad's existence. Now and then in's window was accompanied by the column of gray smoke over the lum- the 56-pound rails dip through minor soft chuffing sound of a Shay down on ber town of Robbinsville.

tributaries such as Juts Creek and the side of the hill. I quickly dressed After coaling up we backed the Jacks Branch without the formality and picked up my Nikon and several three-trucker down to the quaint of a bridge. Tiptoeing through the rolls of Plus-X film. This was a day Robbinsville station, the only one on streams is commonplace for the GC's I'd been looking forward to for some the line and the office of Mrs. Arthur two Shays. time.

Ford, the GC's only station agent. Ed Collins, the veteran Shay driver We coupled onto the short train, WHEN the Southern Railway's Murof the Graham County Railroad Com- then headed out of the tiny two-track phy Branch was built with convict lapany, had invited me to come over and yard with a load of finished lumber bor in 1886 it opened up a vast area ride the 12 miles of light iron through from the mill of Bemis Lumber Com- of inaccessible mountain timberland. western North Carolina's Great pany, three empty tank cars, and the By 1900 many of the choice and accesSmokies.

GC's old wooden caboose, which sible trees had been removed from the After a brisk drive down the hill shows signs of Southern heritage. area by a method called “splash drivon a rural road I found Ed, his fire- The line generally follows rocky ing.” A stream would be dammed up man Wayne Brooks, and the No. 1925 Tulula Creek to the Southern's con- and logs rolled into the resulting lake under a homemade coaling tower. Ed nection at Topton. Occasionally it cuts behind the dam. Then the dam would gave his usual friendly smile and con- off through the deep forests that are be blown up and the logs would be

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literally splashed out of the moun- France for use in the war with Ger- to Asheville for overhauling. In July tains into deeper rivers. This method many.

1916 a flood swept through much of worked only with huge, perfect logs In 1905 a group of mountain men, western North Carolina and the Baldthat would float and was, needless to realizing that the timber in Graham win was washed away in the French say, quite wasteful. The coming of the County could be removed only by Broad River, never to be found again. railroad made it possible to get at rail, organized the Graham County With its one and only locomotive lost, more remote stands of timber.

Land & Transportation Company. the Graham County Railroad project In 1900 the Kanawha Hardwood Plans went so far as to propose a came to a halt. Company, after limited splash driv- through railroad from Knoxville to The early 1920's saw the Bemis ing by other companies, crossed the Atlanta along the present-day Gra- Lumber Company moving south from high Snowbird Mountains on the ham County Railroad right of way. Fishing Hawk, W. Va., to Robbinsville. south border of Graham County and However, the GCL&TC did not go be- Bemis had the title to the land and built several mills along Snowbird yond the planning stage. Ten years hardwood along Snowbird, Buffalo, Creek. Kanawha tried bringing out the later the timber along Big Snowbird and Santeetlah creeks. At the same timber on wagon trains with a steam and Buffalo creeks changed hands, time the Champion Fibre Company of tractor for power. This was and in 1916 a railroad was graded from Canton, N. C., got the rights to the abandoned in favor of a 3-foot-gauge Robbinsville to Topton by Whiting hemlock and softwoods. Both comrailroad called the Snowbird Valley Manufacturing Company. Wooden panies operated their own railroads at Railroad. The operation ended in fail- bridges were built and some ties laid that time. Bemis had a standard-gauge ure in 1917 and the light 25-pound in place. A 90-ton used Baldwin rod Shay-powered line in West Virginia rails were sold to the Republic of engine was purchased locally and sent and Champion Fibre had a narrow

soon

a

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GRAHAM COUNTY AT A GLANCE

Length: 12 miles
Location: Robbinsville to Topton, N. C
Built: 1916-1925
Gauge: 4 feet 872 inches
Owner: Bemis Lumber Company
Motive power: 2 Shays
Rail: 56-pound
Employees: 10
Grade: 1 to 3 per cent normal, 6 per cent

maximum
Cars: 2
Speed: 7 to 8 mph
Stations: 1 (Robbinsville)
Passing sidings: 1
Water stations: 1; usually creek is used
Elevations:

Robbinsville, 2064
Sweetgum, 2200
Bear Creek, 2600
The Mountain, 2700

Topton, 2600
Connections: Topton with Southern Rail.

way's Murphy Branch; Robbinsville with
Buffalo & Snowbird Railroad (aban.
doned)

Mallory Hope Ferrell. FIVE-MAN section crew – one half the employees of GC – replaces ties near Tulula.

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