Book highlights history of the E & A Railway

Wendy Byerly Wood Content Manager

October 25, 2013

The railroad was instrumental in the development and life of Elkin and its surrounding areas as far back as the Elkin & Alleghany Railway. A new book on the history of the railway seeks to preserve that history and teach others of its importance, while raising funds for a local cause.

“In 1974, Dan R. Bray Jr., a senior at Elkin High School, wrote a term paper on the Elkin & Alleghany Railway,” said Jason Couch, a member of the committee who helped with the new book, “The Elkin & Alleghany Railway Revisited.” “In 1979, he privately published a historical booklet on the subject with the hope of preserving a bit of Elkin history and as a tribute to the pioneer efforts of some of Elkin’s founding fathers.”

Couch said Bray “graciously donated his original manuscript and photograph copies to the Elkin Valley Trails Association.”

Work began by a local committee comprised of Couch, Dr. Bill Blackley, Martha Smith, Joe Hicks and the late Randall Ray, with help from Matt Bumgarner of Hickory, to reproduce the original book in a new and revised version, which was released in recent weeks and is being sold in three downtown Elkin businesses — Elk Pharmacy, Yadkin Valley General Store and Diana’s Bookstore.

“Matt Bumgarner added historical text and photographs from his personal collection to the original manuscript. He is one of the foremost railroad historians of western North Carolina, having authored/co-authored more than a half dozen books on Tarheel railroads and the Civil War,” Couch said.

“Newly discovered local photographs, newspaper articles and many personal interviews conducted by Dr. Bill Blackley are an interesting addition to this revised version,” he said.

Proceeds from the $22 book will benefit the trails association, Couch said. The funds raised will be used to aid in future construction along the Elkin Valley and the original E & A Railway bed.

“Most of the first two miles of the trail, which begins in downtown Elkin, will follow the original railroad bend of the E & A,” the local historian said. “The Elkin & Alleghany Railway was chartered in 1907 and the first ‘run’ of the train occurred on July 4, 1911.”

“The goal of the railway was to connect Elkin to West Jefferson traveling through Roaring Gap and Sparta. However, the railroad never made it beyond the foot of the mountain at Doughton,” Couch explained. “It was mostly used to haul timber and tanning bark from the mountains to Elkin to be used in local industries, however it did also offer passenger service during its lifetime.”

This lasted until 1931 when, Couch said, “the railroad was abandoned…and the rails and cross ties were taken up and sold.”

“Many local citizens remember the old E & A with fondness and memories of the steam locomotive chugging northward from downtown Elkin through North Elkin, State Road and Thurmond.”

Reach Wendy Byerly Wood at wbyerly-wood@civitasmedia.com or at 835-1513.