THE PEAVINE RAILROAD
With the coming of the first World’s War in 1914, the demand for southern forest especially Walnut wood for gun stocks accelerated and continued well after the wars end. (White County, Tennessee was targeted heavily for its gun-stock production). The Peavine operation continued on as well through the war, only under new leadership. John Heilman sold the complete company in either 1913 or 1914 to Hugh L. White of Johnson City, Tennessee and moved back to Reading, Pennsylvania. James Heilman, brother of John and founder of the Heilman Brothers Lumber Company died in 1913. This was probably the reason the company was sold. Mr. White ran the company for 4 or so more years expanding the rails to other areas in the county until 1918.
Around that time in 1918, a derailment happened on the river trestle. The loaded train had almost made it over the open deck bridge when one to the piles gave away. The train was pulled apart. The next to the last box car loaded with lumber was sent down into the waters edge, leaving the last car still teetering on the tracks above. The box car was separated from its trucks on the way down. It rested with its nose in the water. The back end still sticking up on the air resting on the remains of the rail support or pile. No deaths or injuries occurred in the wreck. Even though the box car remained largely intact and little damage was done else where, the timber was all but exhausted anyway, so the trestle bridge was never repaired. The temporary wooden trestle was probably termite invested and normal decay of untreated wood had probably taken place by then. At any rate the Peavine was soon abandoned. The remarkable pictures below donated to the site by Sarah Jones Adams, depicts the accident.
The rail car below seems to be undamaged by the accident. The railing can be seen hanging from the pile.
The Shay engines were auctioned off in Greeneville in 1919. The number two engine, number 2543 was eventually scraped in Tuscaloosa, Alabama. Typically that meant that the good usable engine parts were sold for repairing other engines and the other unusable metals were melted down for usage later. The tracks and used tools and other equipment were sold as salvage. Some industrious folks of the community, made good usable anvils from the tracks. As for the cross ties, the local people burned them for fire wood. Tim Reaves tells that the rail spikes were used to build A-frame spike-toothed harrows.
Some evidence of the old track still can be found near the old forge at Horse Creek. Other evidence of another saw mill operation owned by a Mr. Patterson can be seen at Paint Creek Recreational Park. Four metal, flat car wheels made by the Bass Company of Lenoir city, are mounted on railing upon two huge lime stone, stones there. The switching rail is also present. The Bass Foundry and Machine Company made flat cars for the logging trains. Evidence of where the train ran on mounded up flat surfaces through fields, along knob bases and parallelling the curves and bends along the creeks can be seen all through the Greystone Community. It is believed that after the lumber company moved out of the Greene County Community, it continued its operation in Hampton Tennessee. A few employees, mostly the ones that had moved to East Tennessee with the company, moved with the operation, but many stayed in beautiful Greene County to return to tiling the soil and growing crops on the farms that had been in their families for generations.
It is our desire that these pages will forever keep the little railroad and logging company alive in the minds of those who remember its past and those new historians yet to come.