Published in the Greeneville Sun Saturday September 6th, 1958 on pages 1 & 8
this material was transcribed from a print of a microfilm copy of the
newspaper. The microfilm copy was likely made from a faded newspaper and is not always readable, so where
characters are missing you will see a series of dashes "--".)
Rader's Switch -- An Important Early Railroad Siding
By HARRY ROBERTS
- The small
railroad village known as "The Side Track" is located about two
miles east of Mosheim in the 8th Civil District, where the Southern
Railway crosses Little Chuckey Creek. Known as "Raders Switch" or
"Raders Side Track", the --- village originated and developed as the
result of railroad in----which in addition to a switch and side track
included a coaling chute, a sand house, water tanks, a depot and a
telegraph office. During the early years of this century, the railroad
payroll at the Side Track ---nding three telegraph operators and seven
men on the coal chutes and water tanks totaled --- per month. Most of
these men worked 12 hours per day for $1.10, less than 10 cents per
hour. With such a concentration of important railroad installations it
was quite natural that a thriving village should develop.
As a necessary part of any typical village a church spire made its
appearance in the village, but somewhat later than would be expected.
The small one room school which served this village was just over the
hill north of the side track. The location of the school about one half
mile from the village is probably accounted for by the possibility that
this school replaced an early old field school which had been
established prior to the construction of the railroad.
Although the village my be accounted for by the railroad installation,
a rural store and stage coach depot had been established here prior to
the construction of the railroad which was completed in 1858.
STEEP GRADE It is said that history is the result of geography that the lay of the
land and the various physical features along with the climate and other
geographical aspects of a region largely determine the nature of the
industrial development of the area and to a great extent influence the
cultural traits of its people. This idea is illustrated in the
development and growth of the Rader's Community. The steepest grade on
the Southern Railway between Bristol and Knoxville and probably for a
much longer stretch is the upgrade extending from Little Chuckey Valley
to Greeneville. The steepest grade of any railroad in the United States
is found on the Southern Railroad in the mountains of Western North
Carolina. With the increased freight loads being carried eastward, it
was soon discovered that the normal load which could be brought fro the
Knoxville direction could not be pulled out of the Little Chuckey
Valley and into Greeneville. This problem was solved by establishing a
sidetrack near the creek where part of the train could be disconnected
and placed on the siding while the remainder was taken up the hill into
Greeneville. The engine could then return and take the remaining cars
up the long steep grade.
Constructed in the early 1870's, the side track for this purpose was
the first located near the Mt. Pleasant crossing about ---- the track
but it was then found that this was too near the --- at the beginning
of the --- and the engine could not --- get up speed enough --- steep
grade, so the sidetrack was moved to its present location near the
Little Chuckey Trestle. From there the train had about -- mile if
comparative level and straight track necessary for the initial speed
for making the long up grade pull into Greeneville.
ORIGINAL LAND OWNERS Prior to the coming of the railroad most of the land now occupied by the village was owned by John Rader, from whom the
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(starts on page 1)
Bill Myers -----Bible and Ja---
COAL CHUTES AND WATER TANKS
the days of the steam locomotive which was powered by a coal burning
engine, it was necessary --- make frequent stops for water or coal and
for refilling the boiler with a supply of water. The straight track ---
furnished ----for refueling and ----.
As the only coaling station between Bristol and Knoxville, the coal
chutes at Raders represented one of the most important installations on
the entire line. The coal chutes were constructed in the autumn of
Coal for this refueling station was brought from the coalfields of
Virginia and West Virginia and Kentucky to Bulls Gap and fro there to
the chutes at the Side Track. There the coal cars were pushed up the
incline track to a height of about 60 feet above the main line.
From the high track the coal was dumped onto a platform fro which it
could be transferred into the engine render, the -- -cars which carried
the coal --- the engine boiler ---- An average of about -- the ----of
coal per day were -- and transferred to ---- it is interesting to note that employees of the railroad were able
to buy coal at the chutes for a cost of $2.00 and $2.50 per ton. Foremen
who have operated the coal chute include William Bryant, James Lyons
----- and R. D. Hull. Giving way to the improved type of engine which
did not require such frequent refueling, the coal chutes at Rader's
were discontinued in --- closing officially on November of that year.
WATER TANKS The
first water tanks built in 1906 were located beside the present A. F.
Bible's store with the pum to the rear of the present building. Water
was brought to the pump by way of a large underground pipe.
years later the pump and tanks were moved to the trestle where along
with the ---- swimming hole in the creek, they became the favorite
playground for the boys of the village and surrounding area. Any man who
grew up in the Side Track area thinks first of playing around the water
tanks and the swimming hole whenever he remembers his boyhood at Raders.
to the later railroad installation at Raders were the two large water
tanks and the pumps. Water for the boilers was taken from the creek
where a large concrete box was constructed from which the pumps forced
the water into the tanks. One of the tanks held 60,000 gallons and the other
In addition to straining the water to remove all particles, it was
necessary also to soften the water by putting chemicals into it which
would remove the calcium, lime, magnesium and other dissolved minerals.
Whenever the water in the boilers was heated to produce steam as was
required for the operation of steam engines the material it left
dissolved in the hard water would not evaporate with the water, but
instead would precipitate or settle to the bottom sides of the tank and water
pipes as is done in tea kettles in which hard water is boiled. This
constant deposit hard water scale would clog the water pipes and form
a heat insulating film on the bottom of the tank boiler making it more
difficult to heat the water hot enough to produce steam.
water was softenened by mixing it with chemicals which caused the
dissolved minerals to precipitate (settle) in the water tank producing
a slimy substance called sludge which was removed periodically. Local
residents were able also to procure these chemicals for use in
softening water in their homes.
THE SAND HOUSE Another
locomotive service offered at the chutes at Rader's was the filling of
the engine sand bins. The locomotive wheels of polished steels working
on the smooth rail of "iron" were great improvements over the early
wooden rails, but when the rails were wet or covered with snow or ice
there was often a lack of traction required for pulling heavy loads. To
overcome this it was soon discovered that sprinkling sand on the track
would furnish the necessary traction.
To provide a supply of
sand the engines were provided with a sand bin with a small pipe line
leading to the top of the rails just in front of the tractive wheels.
The sand was refilled from an opening on top of the engine.
Sand for the engines was hauled to the coal chutes at Rader's by the
car loads where it was dried in the sand house where a large coal
burning furnace was operated for this purpose. After being thoroughly
dried the sand was screened and placed in the hopper from which it
would be run through a small chute into the engine sand bins. The sand
house at Rader's was the only one between Bristol and Knoxville.
The telegraph, which has been called the most
important invention of the first half of the previous century, was
perfected by Samuel Morse, an artist. Although he was not responsible
for the basic discoveries of electricity upon which the telegraph is
based, Morse did assemble the sender and receiver, and more
importantly, he devised the telegraphic code system of dots and dashes
- the international system of sending messages.
Congress, seeing the practical value of the new mode of communications,
appropriated $30,000 in 1844 for the construction of the first
telegraph line which was built between Washington, D. C. and Baltimore.
Setting up his telegraphic instruments in the Supreme Court building in
Washington, surrounded by curious and unbelieving spectators, Morse
tapped out the first telegraphic message, a quotation from the Bible,
"What Hath God Wrought".
By 1850, telegraph
lines connected all important cities in the northeast as far west as
Chicago and a line extended through Dixie, from Washington to New
By 1860, the telegraph lines had
been extended west of the Rockies and a few years later to the Pacific
Coastal cities. In fact, the telegraph was extended westward so rapidly
that that it made the familiar Pony Express obsolete in little more
than one year after that colorful means of western communications by
fast horse had been inaugurated.
TELEGRAPH OFFICE In
order for trains to be operated a means of communication must be
maintained all along the line. As the telegraph was considered the most
practical device for sending the necessary messages from one station to
another. By 1851 telegraph lines were being erected as a necessary part
of railroad construction.
office at Raders built in 1905 was originally located to the left of
the A. F. Bible Store. In 1908 the office was moved into the depot. A
list of telegraph operators at the Side Track includes Jesse Payre,
Lens Byington, Bill McFarland, Bill Hartman and June Harmon. The
Telegraph office was discontinued in 1933.
The Rader's Depot built in 1908 was located on the site of the
waiting room across the tracks from the present church. Called a "flag
stop", this depot served as a station for the local trains which would
stop to take on or discharge passengers or freight whenever
flagged by the local station master. In the early decades of this
century 6 trains per day stopped at this station whenever flagged.
After the local trains were not permitted to stop at the smaller
stations the village flag stop became obsolete. The depot at Rader's
closed in 1935.
For many years spur tracks
use3d for loading logs, acid wood, and other products and for unloading
coal for local residents were operated at Rader's Side Tracks.
The Side Track area has been the scene of two serious railroad
accidents. In 1894 three men, the brakeman, flagman and conductor were
killed when several cars jumped the track because of a defect in the
switch just below the coal chutes. As some of the cars were
loaded with peanuts which were poured out in large piles, this accident
has since been known as the "peanut wreck".
1956 one of the major railroad wrecks of this area occurred on the
curve just above the Side Track. Many cars were demolished and a
large section of track was destroyed.
Beginning as an obscure small scale operation, the history of railroads
in America is typical of the origin of most of our present day large
industries. The first railroads in the United States were short
connecting links between cities and the nearby canal which preceded
railroads as the main means of commerce in the early decades of the
In 1830, the first railroad
in America was built a distance of 14 miles out of Baltimore. On
this short line the first cars were drawn by horses, as the first
railroads were only intended as an improved road for horse-drawn cars
By 1833 the Tom Thumb, one of the
first steam locomotives in America, was pulling one car with 24
passengers at a speed of 4 miles per hour. By that time South
Carolina had constructed a railroad extending 137 miles inland, the
longest railroad track in the world.
The first railroad tracks were made of wood. Later a strip of
iron was nailed on top of these wooden rails. One of the chief
worries of early operators was the danger of the iron strips coming
loose and either wrapping around the wheels or running up through the
floor of the car. Iron rails replaced the wooden rails in a short time
but the steel rails replaced the wooden rails in a short time but steel
rails did not come into use until after the Civil War.
Powered by wood-burning steam engines which belched forth showers of
sparks, the early train represented a fire menace to town and
countryside alike. Often the clothing of passengers would be ignited.
The following actual account of an early passenger illustrates the
inconvenience of the early train as a mode of travel:
"They used dry pitch for fuel, and there being no smoke or spark
catcher to chimney or smoke stack, a volume of black smoke strongly
impregnated with sparks, coals, and cinders came pouring back the whole
length of the train. Each of the passengers who had an umbrella
raised it as a protection against the smoke and fire. The were found to
be but momentary protection, for I think that in the first mile the
last umbrella went overboard,, all having their covers burned off from
the frame when a general melee took place among the deck passengers,
each whipping his neighbor to put out the fire."
As all tracks were of different widths varying from 4 to 6 feet, trains
could not run on tracks other than their own, so that whenever a new
line was encountered all goods and passengers were required to
transfer to another train. Today all railroads in America are
built at the standard width of 4 feet 81/2 inches, which is also standard for Canada, Mexico and most European nations.
The first passenger railroad cars were built much like the stage which
they were supplanting and usually were painted in bright colors. Some
early cars were shaped much like canal barges which they were destined