Cliffside Railroad's Steam Engine
'Old Puffer' Made Final Trip Friday
Retired After Friday's Run
From The Forest City Courier, July 23, 1962
The old ‘Puffer’ made its last
Cliffside railroad retired their two engines,
No. 40 and N0. 110 this week after exclusive use of steam locomotives
during the 55-year history of the company. Monday’s run will
be with a new diesel unit.
Óur run may not be as long as some,” one of the trainmen
said during Friday’s final run, “But the track is just
He had reference to the length of the run, which is just over three
miles, from Cliffside to Cliffside Junction near Avondale.
|'Old Puffer' final run—W. Paul Bridges
(center) president of Cliffside Railroad, wishes Conductor R.
S. Biggerstaff well as No. 110, affectionally called 'Old Puffer,'
prepares to maker her last run at Cliffside. Standing by is Bridges'
daughter, Janice, 14, the company's youngest stockholder.
This photo, from the Hazel Haynes
Bridges collection, and this caption appeared with a similar
story in The
Charlotte Observer on
July 22, 1962.
Making the final run, in addition to the trainmen, were several
photographers and company officials. Included was W. Paul Bridges,
president of the company.
“I guess I’ve run the limit,
from hobo to president.”
Bridges said that when he was a lad of six or seven, he hitched
a ride on the train. Jumping on just outside Cliffside Station he
rode to the junction.
“That was about 43 years ago and I’m
here to tell you my daddy really tanned my hide when the trainmen
told him what had happened. Anyway, it was the last time I hitched
Bridges and his 14-year old daughter, Janice–the
youngest stockholder – rode in the caboose during the hour
trip to the junction. Janice is the great granddaughter of the railroad’s
founder, r. r. Haynes, who also founded Cliffside Mills. Another
great grandson, Hollis Owens, Jr. of Rutherfordton, now Rutherford
County’s state legislator, and his son Chip, were among the
passengers on the final run Friday.
The once-a-day run is usually prompt, beginning at 12:30 p.m. Friday,
it was a little late Friday so conductor R. S. Biggerstaff had to
be sure his of passengers were all aboard, and the photographers
had completed their chores.
Then he gave the signal to substitute Mack
Henson, who released the break, Eli Wilkins, for 28 years the railroad’s sole fireman
poured on the coal and “Old Puffer” was off on her farewell
Wilkins is the only trainman who will lose his job to the new mode
of travel. Is he sorry?
“No sir,” Wilkins answered. “There’ll be
a job for me at the shop or with the section crew. I’ll really
be glad to get off this run. It’s too hot for me.”
The regular engineer, Odell Biggerstaff, is on vacation and was
unable to make the run.
Started in 1907, the Cliffside Railroad is the final commercial
company in North Carolina to leave the steam engines.
Along the route, there were the usual line of spectators, but not
near what might expect for such an occasion. However, no previous
announcement had been made about the final run with a steam locomotive.
Thus, the line of spectators will probably be out Monday to see the
first run of the diesel.
Old No. 110 will be cleaned up and painted and
put in the shed at the station, ready to be put back into emergency
use. No. 40 has been sold, however, and will be shipped out in a
There were no tears as the old “Puffer” completed
its final run about 3 p.m. But it meant the end of an era in Rutherford
County and in North Carolina commercial railroading.
The next year, in 1963, Cliffside sold No. 110
to the Swamp Rabbit Railroad (a tourist operation) in Cleveland,
S. C., which eventually sold it to Stone Mountain Scenic Railroad,
Stone Mountain, Georgia. SMSRR retained its old Cliffside number,