The Mount Airy and Eastern Railroad
Page Two: Riverside Drive To Johnson's Creek
We believe the Dinky began with a Y that paralleled the standard gauge railroad that still exists today beside Cross Creek Apparel on Riverside Drive (Hwy 104) in Mount Airy, North Carolina. This site along the Ararat River was my employer when I first got out of college and many nights I would step outside on third shift for breath of fresh air never realizing the history that once was right in front of me. Today with the loss of textile jobs Mount Airy is facing economic changes along with an influx of tourism relating to the relationship between native son Andy Griffith and the fictional town of Mayberry.
“My name is Esther Draughn Johnson. I grew up off of Riverside Drive where the railroad crosses the road and Kyle Street turns back, with my parents Elliott and Frances Worrell Draughn. My Grandparents Prince and Alice Gates Worrell lived in the first house on the left going up Kyle St. My Uncle Woodrow and Phobia Goins Worrell lived in the second house beside of my grandparents and my house was behind theirs. My grandpa Prince Worrell was a carpenter and built almost every house on Kyle Street. My Uncle Woodrow was a carpenter also and the kitchen of the house he lived in, he built it from the lumber from the Round House of the Dinky Railroad. Back when I was growing up there was not a Riverside Drive. I think it was built in the late 40’s are early 50’s. Before that it was a dirt street and it was called Galloway Street Extension. Of course I grew up hearing and seeing the train go up and down the track as it went to the Quarry (North Carolina Granite Corp.) where they sent the stone out by train. We loved the train. Most of the time we did not have a car and we walked up the track and cut through to Galloway Street to go to town. When I was very young I remember my Grandpa “Daddy Prince”, built a store below their house. It was called Prince Worrell’s Grocery Store. Out in front he had cross ties that they use on the train track laying on cinder blocks for people to sit on. At one time he also sold gas at the store. He would be gone during the day building a house somewhere and my grandma would stay in the store, but my grandpa was always there at night and on Saturday. They didn’t open on Sunday. It was a great gathering place at night for the men folks in the community. They played checkers and pitched horse shoes. My grandma would sell you a bologna sandwich, she made right in the store. (Bologna came in a big roll.) You could buy Sardines and crackers and she kept a bottle of vinegar with a hole in the lid to pour over them. Better than any fast food restaurant of today. The dirt road at that time came right up in front of the store. All of the kids in the neighborhood walked to North Main School up the railroad track. Lots of mornings when we would start to school the train would start down the track. I can hear my Momma right now saying, if that train comes get as far as you can away from the track. It would always shift cars at the substation. We would have to stand and wait for it to get done. As the years went along they started stopping the train at my grandpa’s store and the men would get off to buy a snack. Of course as a child I remember the Bailey Sheds that were on up the track just a little ways from the store. They cut stone in those sheds also. I just remember what was left of the sheds. I remember there was a tract that went up into those sheds. Sometimes the train would come down at night. That hardly ever happens. Of course the train track has been condemned now because they take the stone out from the quarry on flat bed trucks. There were stories about the track, but that is another story.” –Esther Johnson
The Dinky paralleled the Ararat River along Riverside Drive from the railroad tracks near Cross Creek Apparel to the intersection with Linville Road and then moved closer to the Ararat River near the present day site of Renfro. Tracks were recently near the Olympic Restaurant at near the intersection of the two roads. Little evidence of the railroad can be found in this area due to the city developing along the industrial complexes located her. Following the Ararat River the railroad passed by Linger Longer, the Fulton House, where tradition states that the mother of Confederate Major General James Ewell Brown “Jeb” Stuart stopped to replace her everyday bonnet with her dress bonnet before she entered Mount Airy.
While no map of the actual track is known to me, these maps are meant to give interested parties as close a proximity as can be estimated.
Above, the route of the Mount Airy and Eastern Railroad at the intersection of Linville Road and Riverside Drive.
Below, the confluence of Johnson's Creek with the Ararat River along Riverside Drive, where a water tower serviced the railroad.
Below left, looking south towards the bridge over Johnson's Creek, where the water tower was located.
Below left, looking south towards Mount Airy, railroad cut in the brush on the right of the photo.
Below right, looking north towards Virginia, railroad cut in the brush on the left of the photo.
Remnants of the railroad in the undergrowth is one thing we learned in searching for the railroad. We paid attention anytime there were briars and growth such as this because it seemed even in winter we were going to get stuck looking for the Dinky Railroad. It never failed that every time we went out searching that Kenney found evidence of the railroad such as remnants of the coal fired in the steam engines or spikes from the tracks and occasionally the tracks themselves.
At Johnson’s Creek the first water tower was in place for the locomotive following the curves of the Ararat River. Next, the railroad came to a destination for many who rode the rails the White Sulphur Springs.
Continue on the Dinky Railroad to the White Sulphur Springs
Return To The Dinky Home Page