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a Continuing History of
Little River Railroad and Lumber Company
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Along the Little River and the Little Tennessee

In 1940, the Great Smoky Mountains National Park was established. This is one of our largest national parks. Tucked away in this inspiring mountain fastness, unseen by many of its visitors, are many miles of river bottoms, and many acres of hillsides, that once echoed of the sound of energetic geared - Shays, climaxes, and Heislers. Blended in were the whines of the bandsaw mills, the hackings of the woodsman's axe, and the crashing of the falling monarchs of the forest.

The "business end" of the Little River Lumber Company, and many smaller operations lay in this fascinatingly rugged area. Seventy-six thousand, five hundred mountain acres were sold by colonel W. B. Townsend, president of the Little River company, to the State of Tennessee to be given to the Federal Government to aid in the establishment of the vast preserve.

So today, thousands of visitors, driving through Townsend on State Road 73, little realize that they are retracing a route that in earlier days of the twentieth century supported a standard gauge railroad, heavy with the commerce of logs, lumber, and people.

Walland to Forks (Little River Railroad)

Forks to Elkmont (Little River Lumber Company)

Lumbering during the nineties was rife in Blount County, with such firms as the Tuckaleechee Timber and Boom Company, Chilhowee Lumber Company, Tennessee Manufacturing Company, and Tennessee Lumber Canal Company chartered to operate in the area. (The latter company gave its name to the branch line of the Southern Railway between Maryville and Walland.) But it remained for a group of men headed by Colonel W. B. Townsend of Clearfield, Pennsylvania, and including William McCormick, William Wrigley, Joe Dickey and Asbury Lee to lumber the Little River country on a large scale. Subsequently, the same group organized the Morehead & North Fork Railroad in Kentucky.

During the turn of the century, the group acquired approximately 100,000 acres of land on the waters of the Little River, and in 1901 chartered the Little River Lumber Company. On November 21 of the same year the Little River Railroad was incorporated for the announced purpose of constructing a railroad from

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Chilhowee Gap up the Little River to the Forks, with branch lines extending to the North Carolina state line. Construction started at Walland in January, 1902. The eight miles between Walland and Townsend were opened for operation on January 1, 1903, and the final three miles from Townsend to Forks were completed in March of the same year. The work was done under contract by the firm of Condon and Parks of Knoxville.

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