The Mount Airy and Eastern Railroad
This is the story of a narrow gauge railroad that ran from Mount Airy, North Carolina, to Kibler Valley in Patrick County, Virginia officially known as the Mount Airy and Eastern Railroad and affectionately known as "The Dinky." This webpage will be one of many on The Free State of Patrick that will cross the state line between North Carolina and Virginia being a truly regional webpage about history in this area.
Click Here To See How The Dinky Railroad Tracks Were Found In Ararat Virginia
Remnants of the Mount Airy and Eastern Railroad on the Clement property in Ararat, Virginia by Anthony Terry in 2006.
Click Here To See The Dinky Railroad Exhibit At The Hollow History Center
Below, maps showing the route from Mount Airy to Kibler Valley and the connector railroads in North Carolina.
Thanks to the staff of the Bassett Historical Center, Pat Ross, Anne Copeland and Sam Eanes, Richard and Shawn Ardner, Gordon and Janice Axelson, Jim Baum, Porter Bondurant, Pansy Broughton and the Surry County Historical Society, Edith Brown, Don and Mary Chasteen, Barbara and Romey Clement, Darryl and Sandra Clement, Emily Clement, James and Sandra Clement, Bobby and Nathan Culler, Carrie Sue Culler, Nick and James Epperson, Reverend Fred Gilley and the congregation of Danube Presbyterian Church, Brian and Dwight Jessup, Esther Johnson, Jerry and Jim Love, Jasper Nye, Leroy Pack, Raleigh and Shelby Inscore Puckett at The Hollow History Center, Burke Robertson and the White Sulphur Springs, Amy and Eric Sawyers, Amy Snyder and the Mount Airy Museum of History, Steve Talley and his late father Carl, Craig and Jane Tesh, Turner Thompson, Anthony and Estelle Terry and all their families for the help they gave in searching for the Dinky Railroad.
Special thanks to David Bott.
Special thanks to Kenney Kirkman shown here along Clark's Creek in Ararat, Virginia, with a rail from "The Dinky."
The cold bleak months of winter are often a depressing time of year, but when you are searching for the past the winter when the leaves are down and the reptiles are hopefully asleep is the best time to go find remnants of the past. Beginning in 2005, several of us set out on a journey to find the Mount Airy and Eastern Railroad as it made a nineteen mile trip from Mount Airy, North Carolina to Kibler Valley in Patrick County, Virginia and only two of his finished it. This website is what we found searching for the narrow gauge railroad affectionately called “The Dinky.” We found history and many new friends. During the entire journey we never had an unfriendly landowner or any angry dog, but we did find out that history is right before our eyes if we are willing to look for it.
“A narrow gauge railroad is technically defined as any line where the distance between the rails is less than 4 feet eight and a half inches, commonly referred to as "standard gauge." Between roughly 1870 and 1885, "narrow gauge fever" swept the nation under the pretenses that the smaller equipment cost less, construction requirements were less stringent, and therefore, were easier to finance and build. By far, the most common of these narrow gauges was 36 inch, or rather, 3-foot gauge. Though there were numerous private railroads and logging companies that operated their own narrow gauge railroads, far fewer actually acted as "common carriers," or in essence, federally-regulated railways that were allowed to serve the public at large.” Courtesy of http://www.tarheelpress.com/narrowgauge.html
Above, map of the Atlantic and Yadkin Railroad showing "The Dinky" and tracks to Mount Airy in the top left corner.
Elizabeth Letcher Pannill Stuart, mother of Civil War General James Ewell Brown “Jeb” Stuart, noted in the 1850s from her home, Laurel Hill that people were coming to “take the waters.” The White Sulphur Springs Hotel became a major resort stop for people traveling to Mount Airy, North Carolina in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, downstream on the Ararat River from the Stuart property.
At the end of the 1800s and early years of the 1900s the Mount Airy and Eastern Railroad “the Dinky” aided in this boom. This modern marvel brought tourists and industry on its narrow gauge tracks to the White Sulphur Springs Hotel along the Ararat River. The railroad running from Mount Airy, North Carolina to Kibler Valley along the Dan River in Patrick County, Virginia was only the second railroad in Patrick County. The gauge or width of the railroad was 36 inches, while standard gauge is 4 feet 8 inches. The Cape Fear and Yadkin Valley Railroad connected Mount Airy to Wilmington, North Carolina. The railroad reached Mount Airy in 1888 with a spur built three years later to what is today is the world’s largest open face granite quarry giving Mount Airy the name “The Granite City.”
The “Dinky” chartered in 1899 was a spur from this line and ran until 1918. This rail service ran for 19.25 miles with only five of that being in North Carolina. The first 15.75 miles opened in early 1900 and extended to Kibler Valley nearly three years later. Various owners operated the nineteen and one quarter miles of track along the Ararat River, Clark’s Creek, Fall Creek and then along the Dan River and into the Kibler Valley.
Visit the return of the White Sulphur Springs Resort at www.whitesulphurspringsnc.com
Forty or so years after the Stuarts sold their land in Patrick County the cars of “The Dinky” chugged along by Stuart’s Birthplace powered by a steam locomotive. The Mount Airy and Eastern went to Kibler Valley to haul lumber to furniture factories in Mount Airy. While it carried people to the White Sulphur Springs just south on the Ararat River in Surry County, North Carolina, it also brought people just north to Ararat, Virginia, to Pedigo’s pond, which froze in the winter allowing people to ice skate. The pond’s dam was about where the present bridge on Clark’s Creek is on the Ararat Highway, Virginia Route 773.
Railroad service spurred a boom time for the “Granite City” with the granite, furniture and tobacco industries. The large amount of Victorian architecture still in Mount Airy speaks to this time of growth. The train brought the mail, picking up and depositing packages along the tracks while carrying local people to the hotel for picnics, Sunday school groups. Couples courted while sitting in chairs on flatcars beside out of town visitors as they traveled to the resort. Stories abound of the train stopping so passengers could pick blackberries. One story involved the Kibler Valley girl who fell in love with the engineer of “The Dinky.” The legend says she ran off with him, got married, moved out west and lived happily ever after, much to the chagrin of her father. Such as the lost romance of time gone by when trains held the imagination of the people of Patrick and Surry Counties.
“The railroad was chartered by T.E. Houston and associates on May 3, 1899 and the Mount Airy Construction and Manufacturing Corporation was chartered on May 31, 1899. Both were chartered under the laws of North Carolina. The two companies were operated as one with the same officers and books with headquarters in Mount Airy, NC. “The road was opened to Goins, VA (15.75 miles) on February 1, 1900. The enterprise was unsuccessful and C. B. Keesee of Martinsville, VA was appointed receiver on May 4, 1901. Under Keesee the line was extended to Kibler, VA by November 1, 1902 to serve a lumber mill of Kibler & Kay. An extension to Stuart, VA (10 miles) was surveyed in 1904 but never built. The road was sold under foreclosure on November 15, 1910 and purchased for $20,000 by the Rosslyn Lumber Company, Inc. of Rosslyn, VA. Sale confirmed December 13, 1910. It was sold again on April 1, 1915 to Sidney Bieber of Washington, DC, who reorganized it without changing the name. Biebe and some New York Associates had bought 12,000 acres of hardwood timber lands in southwest Virginia and planned to use the MA&E to deliver the lumber. The Mayo-Dan Lumber Company with principle offices in Washington, DC was organized to handle this enterprise. The later history of the line is obscure, but the railroad stopped operations in the Spring of 1918 or thereabouts. It was sold and reorganized as the Virginia & Mount Airy Railway on February 6, 1920 but there is no evidence that it was restored to operation. It was apparently liquidated in 1930.”
“The Mount Airy and Eastern connected with the Atlantic and Yadkin Railroad on the Flat Rock branch near the granite quarry. The narrow gauge tracks were parallel to the standard gauge tracks and freight was transferred from car to car. According to Gareth McDonald, there was no evidence of moving cars from narrow gauge to standard gauge trucks by lifting, as was done elsewhere with different gauge interchanges.”
Visit David Bott’s webpage on the Atlantic and Yadkin Railroad. http://southern-railway.railfan.net/ay/
Quarry and Textiles
The Mount Airy and Eastern Railroad “The Dinky” begins its 19.25 miles journey near the largest above ground granite quarry in the world in Mount Airy, North Carolina. It terminates in the bottom land along the Dan River in Patrick County Virginia’s Kibler Valley. This webpage describes that journey and the history this small and short railroad passed by in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.
North Carolina Granite Corporation http://www.ncgranite.com/
Other links about the quarry
This image shows a Mount Airy Construction and Manufacturing Company flatcar with a MoW gang probably circa 1900. The image appears to be a double exposure and the bottom image is of an unidentified lumber yard, perhaps a load for the MA&E.
Glass plate negative loaned by Carson House, Marion, NC to Doug Walker. Obtained from the collection of Mac Connery, Durham, NC.
Courtesy of David Bott.
Click Here To See Photos Of The Dinky Railroad From The Early 1900s.
A PHOTOGRAPHIC TOUR OF THE PATH OF THE RAILROAD.
The Mount Airy and Eastern Railroad began its journey parallel to the standard gauge tracks along Riverside Drive in Mount Airy, North Carolina.
The Mount Airy and Eastern terminates near the Danube Presbyterian Church and the Epperson Home in Kibler Valley along the Dan River.
Follow The Path Of The Dinky Railroad From Mount Airy To Kibler Valley
The Dinky Railroad From Mount Airy To Johnson's Creek
The Dinky Railroad From White Sulphur Springs to Virginia
The Dinky Railroad From Stuart's Birthplace to Clark's Creek
The Dinky Railroad From Clark's Creek To The Holly Tree Road
The Dinky Railroad From The Holly Tree Road To The Homeplace Road
The Dinky Railroad From The Homeplace Road To The Crossroads
The Dinky Railroad From The Crossroads To The Dan River
The Dinky Railroad At Meadowfield
The Dinky Railroad Up Bateman's Straight To Kibler Valley
The Dinky Railroad Up The Dan River To Kibler Valley
The Dinky Railroad In Kibler Valley
Courtesy of the Martinsville Bulletin www.martinsvillebulletin.com
Wednesday, May 3, 2006
They may call it "The Dinky," but finding intact relics of the old Mount Airy and Eastern Railroad was no small task.
For two years, local historian Tom Perry of Ararat and railroad enthusiast Kenney Kirkman of Collinsville have followed a trail of 100-year-old court records and discarded rail spikes to retrace the train's path through the woods of Patrick County.
Despite discoveries of overgrown trestles and occasional single-rail sections, the pair had all but given up on finding a full, intact portion of track, thinking it was sold off for scrap metal long ago.
But recently, Anthony Terry struck gold -- or steel, anyway. While clearing property for a neighbor, Terry's bulldozer hit something so rigid, so tough, so stubborn that he soon began to doubt it was a tree root.
His suspicion proved correct. After a little digging, Terry found a 40-foot portion of track with rails lying side-by-side in their original road bed -- the only section of its kind left in Patrick County, said Perry.
For that reason, Perry said he and Kirkman plan to leave the rails where they are. But he hopes to reconstruct about 30 feet of rail for a display at Ararat's Hollow History Center, which is dedicated to collecting, preserving and sharing local history.
The story of the Mount Airy and Eastern Railroad -- known affectionately as The Dinky due to its short length (19 miles) and track width (36 inches) -- begins around the turn of the century.
Chartered in 1899, The Dinky was built in 1900, mainly to haul lumber to the then-thriving furniture factories in Mount Airy. The railroad began in that town, crossed the Virginia state line near the Ararat River and ended around the Danube Church area of Kibler Valley.
Following its completion, The Dinky passed through numerous hands, many of which went bankrupt, during its 30-year life span.
"When the Depression hit," said Perry, "that killed it."
But not before the train wove its way through the lives and lore of Patrick County residents. Perry said that in researching The Dinky, he has come across countless stories and memories in which the railroad plays a leading role.
One of his favorites involves a Kibler Valley girl who married one of the train workers -- much to the dismay of her father.
"I just have this image of her father chasing the train as she runs off with her boy," Perry said with a chuckle.
Other stories involve packs of rambunctious boys who come across lumber-filled train cars abandoned on the track for the night.
"The boys think, 'How are we going to get this thing to move?'" said Perry. "They figure out how to release the break and they go down the track and then it dawns on them: 'How are we going to get this thing to stop?' Then all of a sudden it (the car) derails and there is lumber everywhere."
It is that type of tale that Perry said draws people into history.
"When history is boring, it turns people off," he explained. "But people relate to the railroad. I think it tells a great story."
So he and Kirkman are looking for more memories of the Mount Airy and Eastern Railroad for educational programs and a Web page they plan to create around The Dinky. Anyone with more information, stories or photos of the railroad is asked to contact Perry at 276-692-5300 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Courtesy of the Mount Airy News www.mtairynews.com
The Dinky’ railroad uncovered at Ararat, Va.
ARARAT, Va. — Part of the original rails of the Mount Airy and Eastern Railroad
named “The Dinky” were found in the Crossroads area of Ararat, Va., last week by
Anthony Terry and his bulldozer.
For the past two years, railroad enthusiasts Kenney Kirkman of Collinsville and Tom Perry of Ararat have retraced the path of the 19-mile railroad which was chartered in 1899 and ran through the 1920s.
The railroad started near Cross Creek Apparel on Riverside Drive in Mount Airy and followed the Ararat River past the site of the White Sulphur Springs resort across the state line into Virginia passing across the road from J. E. B. Stuart’s Birthplace.
The railroad then veered away from the river and followed Clark’s Creek up to the Squirrel Spur Road area where it then followed Fall Creek to the Dan River. The railroad terminated near the Danube Church area of Kibler Valley in Patrick County, Va.
Another spur followed the Bateman’s Straight route into Kibler Valley.
Terry uncovered a section where both rails are lying side by side in the original road bed.
“We believe this is the only railroad in Patrick County still in the original road bed,” Perry said. “For years, we thought the railroad was taken up as scrap metal, so finding part of it intact in the original bed is a very satisfying find for everyone involved.”
Kirkman and Perry acknowledged the help and support of Anthony and Estelle Terry, James and Sandra Clement, Charles and Carol Clement, David Clement and Ted Bowman for assistance in preserving this part of Patrick County history. Many other families have offered their assistance allowing Kirkman and Perry to cross their property, including Richard Ardner, Gordon Axelson, Jim Baum, Porter Bondurant, Edith Brown, Bobbi and Romey Clement, Darryl and Sandra Clement, Bobby and Nathan Culler, Carrie Sue Culler, Nick and Janice Epperson, Brian and Dwight Jessup, Diane King, Jerry and Jim Love, Burke Robertson, Amy and Eric Sawyers, Carl and Jane Tesh and many others.
“We hope to take some of the rails to The Hollow History Center and restore them and place them in an exhibit in working condition,” Perry said.
Kirkman plans to do programs about the railroad and Perry will put a page about the railroad on his Web site (www.freestateofpatrick.com) this year.
According to southern-railway.railfan.net/ay/mae/index.htm, the Mount Airy and Eastern Railway was a narrowgauge lumber-hauling line from Mount Airy, N.C., to Kibler, Va.
The Web site said the railroad was chartered in 1899 by T.E. Houston. The two operated together until 1900 until they were taken over by C.B. Keesee of Martinsville, who extended the lines to Kibler near the end of 1902.
Records indicate a couple of changes in ownership before the line ceased operations in the spring of 1918. It was sold in 1918 and reorganized as the Virginia & Mount Airy Railway in 1920, but there is no notation that the line was ever reopened. The site said the company was liquidated in 1930.
The site said the line connected with the A&Y on the Flat Rock branch near the granite quarry.
“The narrow gauge tracks were parallel to the standard gauge tracks and freight was transferred from car to car,” the site said. “According to Gareth McDonald, there was no evidence of moving cars from narrow gauge to standard gauge trucks by lifting, as was done elsewhere with different gauge interchanges.”
For more information, contact Perry at (276) 692-5300 or email@example.com.
Reaction to stories
“Last week I read the story about the Dinky Railroad with much interest. I heard many stories about the Dinky when I was growing up. My father, Forester Epperson, grew up in Kibler Valley and of course saw the train when it came up and he told of riding on it to Mt. Airy. His parents were Nick and Sarah Epperson and their home was near the Danube Church. He had a sister and on April 18, 1980 my sister, Elizabeth Stanfield sat down with my aunt, Mamie Collins and discussed several things my aunt remembered from the days when she was young. They taped their conversation and I listened to it again after reading the article to refresh my memory about her stories. One of the things they talked about was the railroad. As you asked for stories about the Dinky I thought I would pass along a couple things she mentioned. You may have already heard these stories. She remembered them blowing the train whistle when it got to the lower end of the bottom and this was an exciting time for the children. The train would stop at the Crossroads and the Conductor would call my grandmother, Sarah Epperson, to tell her how many people on the train wanted dinner. Then my grandmother would have the meal ready when the train arrived. Many times there were passengers on the train from Mount Airy or guests from the Sulfur Springs Hotel. Aunt Mamie also mentioned that many of the people who worked on the train ate at my grandmother’s. She mentioned that the train carried lumber and bark from the mill that was further up the river. The train would turn around in the bottom near their house and then back up the track to get the lumber and bark.”
--Dorcas E. Slopey