The Cliffside Railroad
Engine 110’s Last Run
Cliffside Railroad’s Steam Engine Retired After Friday’s Run
‘Old Puffer’ Made Final Trip Friday
From The Forest City Courier, July 23, 1962
The old ‘Puffer’ made its last run Friday.
Cliffside railroad retired their two engines, No. 40 and No. 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.
“Our run may not be as long as some,” one of the trainmen said during Friday’s final run, “But the track is just as wide.”
He had reference to the length of the run, which is just over three miles, from Cliffside to Cliffside Junction near Avondale.
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 a ride.”
Bridges and his 14-year old daughter, Janice–the company’s 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 run.
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 few days.
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, which retained its old Cliffside number, 110.
A Passenger Trip Recalled
Avondale Man Recalls 1921 Trip on RR
In the early days of the Cliffside railroad, it wasn’t a one trip per day deal.
J. H. Roach of Avondale well remembers his first trip on the railroad. He was just a youngster, but he remembers the year – 1921. There were three passenger and two freight runs from Cliffside to Avondale daily. The fare? It was one way for 10 cents for adults, five cents for children.
“It was good passenger service in those days,” Roach remembers. “There were two coaches, just as nice and clean as any in the country. I guess the railroad was formed mainly to handle freight to the mill, but certainly gave a first class passenger service in the bargain.”
Roach still owns the ticket he used back in 1921 for that first ride.
“I’d sure like to see them keep ‘Old Puffer’ in service, even if its just on Saturday and Sunday as a pleasure ride,” Roach said. “Tweetsie is making plenty of money, and I believe there’s a lot of folks who would love to ride a steam engine here in Rutherford County. A lot of folks have never even seen one and there are thousands of the younger countians that have ever ridden on one.”
Apparently Mr. Roach has a lot of company in the desire to see the steamer as a pleasure train on weekends. It’s worth consideration.
From The Courier.