Train Wrecks


The Little River took pride in its equipment and generally maintained its trackwork in good condition. But the rails ran through difficult terrain, of necessity had steep grades and sharp curves, in gorges subject to flooding and damage. So they were not immune to train wrecks.

Over almost forty years of operation, there were only seven notable wrecks, but of the four Shays bought new from Lima, all were eventually lost, and six crewmen were killed.


Wreck of Number 1

Sunshine, 1900-01

            3479Wreck1Above.jpg (21308 bytes)                    3480Wreck1FromRiver.jpg (25249 bytes)

The little 0-4-0 was never very sure-footed, and on this occasion derailed into the river at Davis Cut, near Sunshine, between Walland and Townsend. She was rebuilt and later sold.



Wreck of Shay 4    West Fork, 1904

Shay 4 fell through a bridge on the West Fork. She was pulled back onto the tracks and repaired, and served for ten years before her next calamity.



Daddy Bryson Wreck, Shay 3

Jakes Creek, 1909

This was the Little River's most famous wreck, in part because it occurred on June 30, 1909, just above Elkmont at the mouth of Jakes Creek. Regular excursion service from Knoxville to Elkmont began July 5, and the holiday crowds arrived to find the wreckage still strewn about.

June 30 was a rainy day with wet rails, and the story goes that the crew, anxious to attend a party that night, brought down 5 loaded cars instead of the 3 allowed. When the sand failed, they lost control on the sharp curve and plunged down the bank. Engineer Gordon "Daddy" Bryson and Brakeman Charles Jenkins were killed.

2201CrowdBrysonWreck.jpg (34884 bytes)               1315BrysonWreck.jpg (35011 bytes)              3481CrowdBrysonWreck.jpg (27681 bytes)

  Crowd at Bryson Wreck                              The Bryson Wreck                            Crowd at Bryson Wreck



Wreck of Shay 9

Mouth of Rough Creek, 1914

Cause of the wreck is not known, but the cab and boiler separated. After repairs she served until wrecked again in 1931.



Wreck of Shay 4

Above junction of Rough Creek, 1914

The boiler exploded after the safety valve had been tied down. Fireman Sam McClanahan was killed. Shay 9, repaired from the earlier wreck, is also shown in the photos below.

3454Boiler4RoughCreek9Logs.jpg (34367 bytes)                    3402Wreck4RoughCk9.jpg (27608 bytes)



Caboose Wreck

Above Elkmont, 1917

The caboose derailed and crashed upside down in the river, killing three men.



Wreck of Shays 9 and 11

Marks Creek Above Tremont, 1931

We've not been able to find any photographs of this wreck, but it was truly a tragedy for the company. They lost their only two remaining Shays, during the depression when business was waning, and near the end of operations. The solution was to lease an assortment of used Shays for the next eight years.



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