Our Avery County: The Newland Depot
Michael Hardy / (firstname.lastname@example.org)
The East Tennessee and Western North Carolina Railroad arrived in Cranberry in 1882. The line’s primary function was to haul iron ore out of Cranberry, along with locally harvested lumber. Secondary to this mission was the hauling of freight and passengers.
In 1890, Hugh McRae approached the ET&WNC about building a line to the new town (or community) of Linville. However, the ET&WNC showed little interest in the proposed Cranberry and Linville Railroad. Soon thereafter, a company came from Chicago and incorporated the Linville River Railroad Company. A line was surveyed from Cranberry to Saginaw (Pineola), but the company ran into financial trouble in 1897. William M. Ritter purchased the unfinished line at a public auction the next year. In 1899, Linville River Railway was incorporated, and rails soon reached Pineola.
After Ritter logged the timber available to him, he moved his sawmill to Caldwell County, and the Cranberry Iron and Coal Company, which owned the ET&WNC, purchased Linville River Railway.
Samuel McDowell Tate, a former Confederate officer from Burke County, owned much of the property comprising Old Fields of Toe. In 1896, Tate had granted an informal permission for a right-of-way through his property for the railroad. Tate died in 1889, and John Yoder purchased the property in 1903. In 1912, LRR acquired land for a depot from N. T. Fletcher in the new town of Newland. A depot was constructed in Newland not long after. The wooden structure contained a waiting or passenger room and a freight room, with an office separating the two rooms. William N. Fletcher was the agent from 1917 until 1937. However, that depot, and a boxcar sitting close by, burned on Oct. 21, 1921. The new Newland Depot was larger than its predecessor.
Floyd Dellinger became the agent at the Newland Depot in April 1937. Later in life, he penned “Tweetsie and the Clinchfield Railroads: Crossing the Blue Ridge Mountains.” In his autobiography, Dellinger wrote about some of his experiences at the depot:
“At 4 p.m. Mr. Wright called to tell me that the train had cleared Elk Park and was headed to Newland. Within a few minutes a mail truck arrived from the uptown post office in Newland. About the time he arrived, one from Pineola arrived also with mail ... About that time, one of the section crews arrived, then another. It was customary for them to request and get a clearance on the time the train, No. 14, would arrive before they proceeded to their destination.”
Soon thereafter, the railroad started to run excursion trains on Sunday afternoons.
“Usually there were three coaches and two excursion cars,” recalled Dellinger. The excursion cars had open tops and “many people wishing to take pictures or see the scenes more clearly rode those cars.“Almost every time an excursion train ran ... there were six or eight couples or more that boarded the train at Newland to ride to Boone or Linville Gap to see the scenery and then return to Newland.”
Dellinger was working in Newland in August 1940 when heavy rains brought the floods that washed out much of the track for Linville River Railroad. A few days after the floodwaters receded, “we learned of the decision. It was a sad day for many of us because we knew that no longer would we hear Tweetsie blow for the Newland station. It was like losing a friend we had known for a long time.”
In 1941, the ICC gave permission for Linville River Railway to be officially abandoned. In March 1945, the Newland Depot was sold to Sam Ray for $750. For the next few decades, the Newland Depot was used as a warehouse. Toward the turn of the 21st century, the Newland Depot was razed, and an auto parts store was erected on the spot.
Of course, a Linville River Railway depot has returned to Newland. A couple of years ago, the depot from Linville was given to the historical society, which moved the building to the museum complex, and is currently in the process of restoring the structure. On the inside, the Linville Depot looks much like the old Newland Depot.