Location / Name:
Johnson City TN, Washington County (6)
Norfolk Southern (former Southern Rwy)
CSX (former Clinchfield RR)
East Tennessee RR
High Bridge north of town
GPS Coordinates: as needed
Phone A/C: 423
Access by train/transit:
Johnson City is about 14 miles south of the east-west running Interstate 81.
I-81 brings you in from Knoxville TN to the west, or Bristol VA/TN and
Roanoke VA to the east. It's about 20 miles or so north
of Erwin TN. One of the biggest things in town
is ETSU, the East Tennessee State University.
Back in the 80's before the last of the
big mergers took place, the Southern Rwy,
the Clinchfield, and the
East Tennessee RR serviced town.
Today, NS And CSX are the main players, although since the decline of coal's
popularity over the past years, traffic is almost non-existent on CSX.
The Clinchfield came thru more or less north and south, like 12 and 6 on
the clock. The track runs from Dante VA to Spartanburg SC.
The Southern came thru on its way from
Bristol VA/TN to Knoxville, right into the eastern end of the Knoxville
Yard. It runs thru town at about the 2 o'clock to 8 o'clock points on the clock as seen
above in the map. According to Wikipedia: The Southern Railway used to serve
Johnson City with several trains: the Birmingham Special (ended 1970), the Pelican
(ended 1970) and the Tennessean (ended 1968).
By the time I arrived in Johnson City in 1980, the East Tennessee was
running between Johnson City and Elizabethton.
Over in Elizabethton, one of the more active facilities was a plant that
used a boilerless steam engine to shuttle cars around - most interesting.
The green and gold paint scheme is not,
as most might assume, based on Southern Railway's old scheme. The
predecessor East Tennessee & Western North Carolina narrow gauge "Tweetsie"
adorned its Baldwin Ten-Wheelers in a similar green and gold livery in the
'30s. Also, the original ET is now gone, but the current operation handles
the remains of local switching in Johnson City. Not that many years ago,
Southern, Clinchfield, and the ET&WNC itself served many rail-served
industries and customers here with locally based crews. Now, only the ET
handles what's left on both NS and CSX (under contracts). (from Ron Flanary)
The former Clinchfield/CC&O depot was recently bought and now houses the
BURG'r & BARREL restaurant - it looks great in the pictures and should be a
nice place to have lunch if you're coming thru for railfanning since it's in
the middle of everything.
One of the largest water heater manufacturers in the
U.S. is located in Johnson City, the American Water Heaters Co. Back
in the 80's they were called something else, but I can't remember.
Postcards came from: http://www.johnsonsdepot.com/postcards1.htm
Getting to Johnson City is
If you're coming from the west or northeast of Johnson City, the easiest way
is to come in via interstate 81 (and I-40 further west from where I-81
begins). I-81/I-40 brings you in from the Tennessee towns plus
Alabama. I-81 to the NE brings you down from VA, MD, PA, NY, and other
"remote" locations such as OH and New England. You want exit 57 going
south, which puts you on I-26, one of the "newer" interstates, being US 23
prior to that, altho it still carries the US 23 route.
To hit the downtown area where most of the stuff is located, jump off at
exit 23. This will put you on Market St, which you can then take west
to buffalo St, where you want to take a left. Going a couple of blocks
on Buffalo St will take you right to the Clinchfield depot when you come to
State of Franklin Rd (it will be off to your right).
From the south, ie: Asheville NC, use I-26. This also connects with
I-40, which splits off from I-81 about 30 miles east of Knoxville. On
the way "up" to Johnson City, you will also pass thru Erwin. Coming up
from the south like this, you can also use exit 23, but at the end of the
exit ramp, you will want to cross Main St and go one block to get on to
Market St heading west, as both Main and Market are one-way streets.
Johnson City had at one time three railroad depots, two of which have
survived to today. In the aerial view below we can
see where they were in relation to each other.
Former Clinchfield RR Depot
GPS Coordinates: 36.314382, -82.35285
Corner of Buffalo St and West State of Franklin Rd
The depot was built in 1909 by the CC&O RR.
The historic Clinchfield Depot in Johnson City was saved from the wrecking ball in 2003 by Dorian Jones.
In 2008, the building was added to the National Register of Historic Places.
It housed the Tupelo Honey Cafe, however, as of December 2019, the Johnson City location has closed.
As of May 2022, the building was bought by PHC, Peerless Hospitality Concepts, and they have
renovated the restaurant and reopened it as BURG'r AND BARREL.
A few pictures are below provided by PHC, Google Streetview has not been thru sine 2021....
Judging from the condition of the track at the Buffalo St crossing, I would
infer that the ETRY doesn't use this NS interchange track.
GPS Coordinates: 36.314604, -82.353533
Aerial pictures of the ET&WNC can be found at: http://urbaneagle.com/etwnc-aerialpics/
This depot is across the street from the Clinchfield depot, at the corner of
Buffalo St and State of Franklin Rd.
You can see substantial redevelopment has taken place since I took the first
Streetview shots about 6 years ago.
The rear end of both depots can be seen in this view....
From Wikipedia: The East Tennessee Railway
(reporting mark ETRY) is a short line railroad connecting CSX Transportation and the Norfolk
Southern Railway in Johnson City TN. Since 2005, the railroad has been owned by
and Wyoming, an international operator of short line railroads, as part of its Rail Link
group. The railroad uses a single diesel locomotive, SW1200 #214, to serve a small
number of industries and a transloading facility, as well as to provide interchange services between NS and CSX.
The current standard gauge railroad is a remnant of a larger, narrow gauge railroad, the
East Tennessee and Western North Carolina Railroad,
chartered in 1866 to haul iron ore from Cranberry NC to
Johnson City TN across the Appalachian Mountains. Through an acquisition and track extensions, the
railroad grew to serve Boone NC and Saginaw NC. ET&WNC used dual gauge
tracks between Johnson City and Elizabethton; eventually the railroad ceased all narrow gauge
operations and only operated standard gauge service on this one section. Later, with a change
in ownership, the line was reorganized as the East Tennessee Railway.
In 2003, the last train left Elizabethton TN. In 2009 the line was formally abandoned
and railbanked. The rails and ties were removed in 2012 to make way for a rail-trail. The East Tennessee Railway still services customers around the yard in Johnson City and
still makes deliveries to the CSXT and NS. ETRY started out with a two-man crew for many
years, and have just now upped to a three-man crew. They work Monday through Friday.
ET&WNC depot, unknown location, ~1930
2011, photo by Matt
I usually stick postcards in the Floobydust section, but since these are
East Tennessee related, I present them here:
Southern Railway Depot
GPS Coordinates: 36.317737, -82.352572
Don't have any information on the Southern depot, so I don't know when it
was built, and don't know when it was torn down....
I used the aerial photo above to approximate its location, it would be in
the middle of Buffalo St if still around :-)
The picture below comes from the Watauga Valley Chapter NRHS newsletter from July
2015. Can't tell you much about it other than what the caption states.
Interesting semaphore pole and mounting, wish we had close-ups! :-)
An undated timetable for trains passing through Johnson City on the Southern:
On the Clinchfield, we have the following bridges, overpasses, and
underpasses from north to south, starting with Boones Creek Rd:
Boones Creek Road
Knob Creek Road
Indian Ridge Road
Boones Creek Trestle
GPS Coordinates: 36.364144, -82.437201
On the north side of Johnson City is a really beautiful steel trestle
going over Boones Creek Rd. It used to be called the Knob Creek Rail Bridge.
Access for pictures is messy, I notice in the 5 years between pictures on
Google Maps, that it looks like one fence, which was covered by vines, is
gone. The vintage photo came from johnsonsdepot.com, which is
no longer around. Would love to see a picture of a train crossing the
trestle when there was nothing in the way.
Knobs Creek Overpass
GPS Coordinates: 36.340004, -82.416850
GPS Coordinates: 36.334240, -82.409135
This is more like a short, very short tunnel than an overpass.....
Indian Ridge Road
GPS Coordinates: 36.334240, -82.409135
Here, the railroad goes under Indian Ridge Road, providing the railfan with an opportunity for some nice shots from either direction.
Sight lines good in both direction, but less trees in the way for better sun
in the afternoon to the north.
West Market Street / US312
GPS Coordinates: 36.310242, -82.393032
Another overpass to shoot down from. Sight line OK, but trees on both
sides interfere with good sun.
GPS Coordinates: 36.310242, -82.393032
Here the Clinchfield goes over the NS (Southern Rwy) and McKinley Road.
CSX freight at Knob Creek and Redstone Roads, Johnson
City, Oct 2005. Photo by Pete Greischar.
East Tennessee #214 at City Garage Rd, by Johnson City, Oct 2005. Photo by Pete Greischar.
NS freight on the west side of Johnson City at Woodlyn and
Weaver Hill Rds, Oct 2013, photo by James Edgar.
East Tennessee #214, Oct 2013, photo by Ron Flanary.
The train is standing on what was the
Clinchfield Railroad main line through Johnson City before October 1970,
when the "High Line" a couple of miles to the west was opened for traffic.
With three F unit pushers on its rear, southbound coal Train 26 is clearing the north
siding switch at Barrett Yard or Johnson City, Tenn. to allow Extra 817
North to proceed. Photo by Steve Patterson, March 1965.
A somewhat rare sight, a Clinchfield SW7
355 enters Johnson City, TN on an Erwin bound local. After construction of
the high line in the mid seventies, the Clinchfield no longer had to run
through Johnson City with manifest trains, which shortened the journey from
end to end and sped up traffic. Photo in the collection of Kyle
Korienek. June 1971.
A former Seaboard Coast Line GP38-2 is
in charge of a work train at Johnson City. Using a bay window caboose
as a shoving platform, the train is backing toward the small yard on the
south side of town, used for interchange with the East Tennessee Railway.
The former Clinchfield portion of CSX is in the midst of a maintenance
jamboree, which should be wrapping up soon. Meanwhile, aside from
various work equipment, this is the only movement I've seen since the first
of the month. Jul 2013, photo by James Edgar.
After a brief meet with the Greeneville
local at Piney Flats, a westbound Norfolk Southern manifest rolls through
downtown Johnson City on a warm summer evening. At left is the site of a
former tire warehouse, currently being developed into a new city park as
part of an effort to eliminate flooding problems that have plagued downtown
businesses for years. Jul 2013, photo by James Edgar.
I know of two famous people lived here at one time, Hulk Hogan is one of
them, he supposedly lived down the street from my Westinghouse buddy Dennis
according to him, but I cannot confirm this. The Wikipedia page has
around 40 or so people that you may know.
The other person that came thru Johnson City is
Timothy Busfield, known for being in Thirty Something and Field of
Dreams. He attended ETSU, and the only reason I know this is because a girl
I dated, Elaine, went to school with him. https://www.imdb.com/name/nm0124079/?ref_=tt_cl_t1
If you notice, at the top of the page where I have --Johnson City TN,
Washington County (6)--, that is for those of you that may remember the "old" days when Tennessee used
numbers on their license plates to denote the county. The "6" in the
plate denoted Washington County. Erwin (to the south) is in Unicoi
county, and the plates started with a 59. Folks in Johnson City used to kid
around saying you never want to get behind a 59 plate (they always drove slow).
I have to say tho, that even when I was driving
here in the 80's, people were always nice and courteous, and, if you were in
a line of cars going down, say, highway 23, and the car in the front was
making a turn, everyone in that line of cars would turn their signals on
too, to let the people behind them know someone was turning - only place in
the U.S. I ever saw that done. Thanks to Elaine Goller for letting me
have her old Johnson City license plates.
A Washington County plate from 1951
The Tennessee plates looked like this when I was coming here in the early 80's
The next step in TN license plate evolution
A plate from Unicoi County
One day, back in 1982, or something like that, when I
had the license plate UP 8444 on my car,
I stopped off at the Clinchfield office in Johnson City to get the scoop on
operations. While in there, I noticed they had a Union Pacific
calendar on the wall, and it just so happened, that that month the featured
picture was of, you guessed it, 8444. I made mention of that, and told
the guy to look at my car and the license plate, and he was amazed to say
the least. This was before vanity plates were in vogue in Tennessee,
and he asked how I was able to do that!
Tickets, Matchbook Covers, Letters, Etc....
From a variety of sources including EBay.
And some letters with a connection to Johnson City.....
I love trains, and I love signals. I am not an expert. My webpages reflect what I find on the topic of the page. This is something I have fun with while
trying to help others.
Please Note: Since the main focus of my two websites is railroad signals, the railfan guides are oriented towards the signal fan being able to locate them.
For those of you into the modeling aspect of our hobby, my
indexa page has a list of almost everything railroad oriented
I can think of to provide you with at least a few pictures to help you detail your pike.
If this is a railfan page, every effort has been made to make sure that the information contained on this map and in this railfan guide is correct. Once in a while,
an error may creep in :-)
My philosophy: Pictures and maps are worth a thousand words, especially for railfanning. Text descriptions only get you so far, especially if you get lost or
disoriented. Take along good maps.... a GPS is OK to get somewhere, but maps are still better if you get lost! I belong to AAA, which allows you to get
local maps for free when you visit the local branches. ADC puts out a nice series of county maps for the Washington DC area, but their state maps do not have the
railroads on them. If you can find em, I like the National Geographic map book of the U.S..... good, clear, and concise graphics, and they do a really good job
of showing you where tourist type attractions are, although they too lack the railroads. Other notes about specific areas will show up on that page if known.
Aerial shots were taken from either Google or Bing Maps as noted. Screen captures are made
with Snagit, a Techsmith product... a great tool if you have never used it!
By the way, floobydust is a term I picked up 30-40 years ago from a National Semiconductor data book, and means miscellaneous
and/or other stuff.
Pictures and additional information is always needed if anyone feels inclined to take 'em, send 'em, and share 'em, or if you have something to add or correct.... credit
is always given! Please be NICE!!! Contact info is here
Beware: If used as a source, ANYTHING from Wikipedia must be treated as being possibly being inaccurate, wrong, or not true.