Appalachia Murphy Pap

The Train and Murphy


Photo by Kathryn Keily Jenkins

On October 6, 2018 a crowd of people gathered in downtown Murphy NC to “Call the Train Home.” The event was organized and supported by folks who are interested in starting a tourism train between the towns of Andrews and Murphy. I heard they were hoping to set a Guinness World Record for whistling “She’ll be Comin’ Round the Mountain” for the longest time. Over 2,000 train whistles were said to be purchased for the event. I haven’t heard if they broke the record or not.

The train used to run from Andrews to Murphy and on through Polk County TN and beyond. When Pap was a boy he caught the train with his mother to go to Newport News VA where Pap’s father was working in the ship yards during war time.

Pap once told me another sweet story about the train in Murphy.

They were attending church in Factory Town, which is a little community in the city limits of Murphy. Pap said as they sat on the bench his mother gently poked him in the arm and pointed her head out the window. Pap was only three or four years old and almost had to stand up in the pew to see what she was pointing at. It was the train coming into Murphy.

I always thought Pap’s mother showing him the train was the sweetest image. The memory conveys the feeling of those personal glances and looks we give those we love. You know, when you know someone so well no words are needed to send a message only a nod of the head or a raise of the eyebrow.


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  • Reply
    Ripley Bradshaw
    October 20, 2018 at 1:29 pm

    Tipper, When I was a teenager, we lived in West Asheville, in Malvern Hills, and we could hear the train horns as the “locals” came in from the Murphy Branch. It would be nice, indeed, to have a “Tourist Train” in Murphy. I’d have to visit WNC especially to see, and ride, such a train!!

  • Reply
    Mary Lou McKillip
    October 20, 2018 at 6:17 am

    Hope they get enough funds to restore the clank and rumbles of the ranks that others may get pleaser from the lomotive once more here in these hills of home

  • Reply
    Ron Stephens
    October 19, 2018 at 6:36 pm

    It is late in the day and many of your readers will not see rhis but …. the Amtrak Crescent Line that runs between Washington and New Orleans passes through Gastonia and Charlotte, NC. One of these days I want to travel some of that route anyway . The train has several features to recommend it. Unfortunately price is not one of them, so far at least.

  • Reply
    Papaw Ammons
    October 19, 2018 at 1:32 pm

    I remember, as a child working out in the fields, I would listen for the factory whistle in town when it was dinner time and quitting time. Town was almost 10 miles away and we could only hear the whistle on a clear day but clear days were when we were out in the fields. I didn’t have a watch so I listened intently for that whistle. If I heard the sound I would stop and listen for a little while. If I heard another one I knew it had to be the train because the factory whistle only sounded once. The whistle at quitting time was only punctuation, a comma, a brief pause. That was the best time to work. The sun was behind the mountain but it was still a long time until dark.
    For several years I lived within feet of a railroad track. Down over the coal chute was a siding where one train would pull off and wait for another train to go through. Sometimes there would 4 or 5 locomotives sitting there with those big unmuffled diesel-electric engines rumbling. Any time, day and night! You would think the noise would keep me awake but the opposite was the case. Sometimes when I was having trouble sleeping, I would lie there waiting for a train to stop and put me to sleep.

  • Reply
    Ken Roper
    October 19, 2018 at 12:46 pm

    The retired Mayor of Murphy always talked about getting the Train back so folks could sitesee most of the county and others. I imagine riding the Train thru the Nantahala Gorge would be exciting. Maybe one day the Tourist Train will run again in our area. Pretty near the Swinging Bridge over the beautiful Nantahala has some caves the Indians used a long time ago. Daddy and my oldest girl have been in those, rock hunting. They can be seen from the highway when the leaves are down. It’s right beside the Railroad. …Ken

    • Reply
      Papaw Ammons
      October 19, 2018 at 7:08 pm

      Me and my cousin Crazy Joe when over there with tow sacks hoping to find some rattlesnakes. We heard they would fetch a pretty penny because they wanted their venom to make anti-venom. We never even saw a snake much less a rattlesnake.

  • Reply
    October 19, 2018 at 12:44 pm

    My wife was the victim of those glances between our daughter and me many times. She would repeat some ‘old wives tale’, we would exchange glances and whoever was further from her would twist it into something silly.

  • Reply
    Glynda P. Chambers
    October 19, 2018 at 12:33 pm

    Tipper I love this story, so sweet and I too love trains.

  • Reply
    Mary Lou Mckillip
    October 19, 2018 at 11:17 am

    We would ride the train to Murphy it was called the Pea Vine then before Murphy up date and got a more modern train . Miss Julia and my favorite sister law along with her Son Fred who was just a baby and I was 2 years old believe it or not I remember it as if it was yesterday. The train was full so Mother and Ann had to stand. There were two soldiers boys said they would hold us. Boy my solder was good looking as my brown eyes pierced his he kissed me on the cheek my This was my first sweet kiss .hubby and I were in Fort Wayne Okla and found a train named Pea Vine. I have often wondered if this was the old train Murphy and Marble had some years ago

  • Reply
    Roy Vann Helms
    October 19, 2018 at 10:14 am

    We need more trains running around these mountains for the tourists and the locals. Nothing like hearing that whistle echo around the valleys.

  • Reply
    Miss Cindy
    October 19, 2018 at 9:09 am

    I can remember my grandmother taking a train from NC to Texas to come visit us when we lived there. I was very small but still remember that it was a big deal. I don’t ever recall riding on a train. It seems to me that it would be a pleasant and interesting way to travel.

  • Reply
    Sheryl A Paul
    October 19, 2018 at 9:03 am

    The passenger train was always a big event when I was a child if we happened to be downtown I had to go see it. There was a caramel popcorn trailer right by the depot and lots of excitement. Gradually the passenger line fell away leaving only the freight trains.

  • Reply
    Kay Dallas
    October 19, 2018 at 8:26 am

    Kindred spirit

  • Reply
    Ron Stephens
    October 19, 2018 at 8:23 am

    His Mom knew a little boy would be fascinated by a train. And the memory didn’t just stick with him, it got passed along.

    Speaking of trains, there is The Loop in the track on the Hiwassee River where the train crosses over itself. There are only two of those in the US on active tracks.

  • Reply
    Gayle Larson
    October 19, 2018 at 7:33 am

    We were there and we did break the Guinness world record with over 1,000 whistle blowers.
    They gave out 1,500 whistles and needed more. I am not sure how I feel about the need for the train but it was an interesting night. The Kidzu Kickers danced for the crowd and were really well received. We all then went to the Daily Grind and free styled. As you would say, more great memories from Murphy.

  • Reply
    October 19, 2018 at 5:31 am

    Talk without talking, strange but true, you just know the look.

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