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Charles Grattan Price Jr. collection on Tweetsie and the Shenandoah Central Railroad

 Collection
Identifier: SC 0327

  • Staff Only

Scope and Content

The Charles Grattan Price Jr. Collection on Tweetsie and the Shenandoah Central Railroad, 1916-1997 (bulk 1948-1956), comprises correspondence, photographs, newspaper clippings, printed articles, and promotional materials concerning the purchase of Tweetsie, narrow gauge locomotive #12, and related equipment by the Shenandoah Central Railroad in 1952; the opening of the Tweetsie Route in Penn Laird, Virginia in 1953; and the eventual sale of Tweetsie and equipment in 1955.

Photographs primarily document Tweetsie and the Stonewall Jackson train on the Tweetsie Route in Penn Laird and include passengers and railroad workers.

Dates

  • 1916 - 1997
  • Majority of material found within 1948 - 1956

Creator

Access Restrictions

Collection is open for research. Researchers must register and agree to copyright and privacy laws before using this collection. Please contact Research Services staff before visiting the James Madison University Special Collections Library to use this collection.

Use Restrictions

The copyright interests in this collection have not been transferred to the James Madison University Special Collections Library. For more information, contact the Special Collections Library Reference Desk (library-special@jmu.edu).

Biographical/Historical Note

At the suggestion of Don W. Thomas, president of the Chesapeake Western Railway, C. Grattan Price Jr., Harrisonburg insurance agent and railroad enthusiast, wrote to the East Tennessee and Western North Carolina (ET&WNC) Railroad in August 1952 about purchasing a narrow gauge steam locomotive and tender as well as narrow gauge cars. Price, along with fellow railfans Wade W. Menefee Jr. and Dr. Paul S. Hill, intended to build a narrow gauge railroad on Hill's farm in Penn Laird, Virginia as a scenic operating museum line. Narrow gauge railways differ from standard railways in that the distance between rails is 3 feet compared to the standard 4 feet, 3 1/2 inches.

Dr. Paul S. Hill (1907-1986) was a surgeon in Harrisonburg. He attended Washington & Lee University and graduated from the University of Virginia Medical School. Hill served as a major with the Medical Corps during World War II. Wade W. Menefee Jr. (1924-2004) was a graduate of Virginia Tech and a World War II veteran. Upon his return from military service, Menefee managed W. M. Menefee & Son, a local feed, fuel, and general supply company. Charles Grattan Price Jr. (1919-1996) graduated from Virginia Tech with a degree in mechanical engineering. He was a veteran of World War II during which time he served as a railway shop superintendent and was a member of the U.S. Army's military railway service in France. Price was a partner in the insurance firm C. G. Price & Sons, Inc. until his retirement in 1978. He also authored "The Crooked & Weedy": A History of Virginia's Chesapeake Western Railway (1991). He was a resident of Harrisonburg and lived on Franklin Street until 1958 when he moved to Ott street where he lived the remainder of his life.

In November 1952, Price, Menefee, and Hill entered into a partnership agreement forming the Shenandoah Central Railroad. Hill served as Shenandoah Central's president, Price was vice president and general manager, and Menefee was secretary-treasurer. Soon after its formation, Shenandoah Central purchased Tweetsie (aka Locomotive #12), a historic narrow gauge steam locomotive, and two narrow gauge passenger cars from ET&WNC. Prior to its purchase by Shenandoah Central, Tweetsie was a working engine from 1917 to 1950 in eastern Tennessee and western North Carolina, plying the area's Great Smoky Mountains. Shenandoah Central purchased a third car from Pennsylvania's East Broad Top Railroad. After several failed attempts to locate and acquire rail, Chesapeake Western Railway loaned Shenandoah Central the necessary rail to build the one-mile scenic track which would be known as the Tweetsie Route. Norfolk & Western provided the ties and ballast.

Shenandoah Central Railroad held its Golden Spike Ceremony on May 29, 1953 to mark the official opening of the Tweetsie Route and the inaugural run of the Stonewall Jackson train. The Stonewall Jackson comprised a coach, a combination car, and a screened observation car with Tweetsie pulling the cars. During the Stonewall Jackson's first run, Dr. Paul Hill was Tweetsie's conductor, C. Grattan Price Jr. was engineer, and Wade W. Menefee Jr. was fireman. The ceremony included remarks by Don W. Thomas, president of the Chesapeake Western Railway; F. S. Baird, vice president of the Norfolk & Western; Sherman Pippin, retired ET&WNC engineer who was the engineer on Tweetsie's last run in 1950; and C. Grattan Price and Wade Menefee Jr. on behalf of the Shenandoah Central Railroad among others. Music was provided by the Harrisonburg High School band and included the songs "Dixie" and "I've Been Working on the Railroad." Major General Carl R. Gray Jr, Administrator of Veterans Affairs, drove the golden spike.

After two operating seasons, which saw more than 15,000 visitors, the partners were forced to place Tweetsie and the cars up for sale due to insufficient patronage and resulting loss of money. Additionally, flooding from Hurricane Hazel which hit Virginia in October 1954 damaged the track and roadbed beyond what was financially feasible for the partners to repair.

Actor and singer-songwriter Gene Autry inquired about purchasing Tweetsie and related equipment in April 1955. He intended to use the locomotive and equipment in his television and movie projects. Autry even planned to come to Harrisonburg in the spring of 1955 to finalize the arrangements, a visit that was eagerly anticipated by community members and local press. However, by the end of August 1955, the Autry Deal was dead due to the cost to transport the locomotive and equipment from Virginia to Autry's Melody Ranch in California as well as the cost to lay the rails.

During the spring of 1955, singer, musical actor, and automobile enthusiast James Melton also expressed interest in Tweetsie for display in his antique automobile museum, James Melton Autorama, in Hypoluxo, Florida.

Grover C. Robbins Jr. of Lenoir, North Carolina ultimately purchased the Tweetsie locomotive and equipment on August 25, 1955 for $17,000. The Tweetsie Railroad is still in operation in Blowing Rock, North Carolina.

Extent

1.53 Cubic Feet (2 boxes, 1 flat file)

61.9 Megabytes (1 digital file comprising a 00:05:23 video recording)

Language of Materials

English

Abstract

The Charles Grattan Price Jr. Collection on Tweetsie and the Shenandoah Central Railroad, 1916-1997 (bulk 1948-1956), comprises correspondence, printed material, and photographs related to the Shenandoah Central Railroad's narrow gauge engine Tweetsie (locomotive #12) and the one-mile Tweetsie Route, a scenic museum line, in Penn Laird, Virginia that operated from 1953 to 1954.

Arrangement

The collection is arranged into three series. All series are arranged chronologically.

  1. Correspondence, 1916-1997
  2. Printed and Promotional Materials, 1952-1997
  3. Photographs, 1952-1954

Acquisition Information

The collection was donated to Special Collections in July 2021 by C. Grattan "Butch" Price III, son of C. Grattan Price Jr.

Other Formats Available

All photographs (not including photograph negatives) and W. Graham Claytor's video recording of his family's visit to the Shenandoah Central have been digitized and are available online via Artstor. Duplicate copies of photographs and postcards were not scanned.

Separated Materials

Two books were removed from the collection and cataloged individually as part of Special Collections rare book holdings: Mallory Hope Ferrell's Tweetsie Country: The East Tennessee & Western North Carolina Railroad (1976) and Clyde J. Dellinger's Tweetsie and The Clinchfield Railroads: Crossing the Blue Ridge Mountains (1975).

Processing Information

Special Collections staff provided the donor with archival folders prior to transferring materials. The collection was largely received in foldered groupings (correspondence, photographs, newspaper clippings) by the donor. Much of the correspondence was received grouped together according to correspondent and bound with staples, likely an arrangement kept by C. Grattan Price Jr. These groupings as well as the staples were left intact to maintain original order.

Duplicate copies of magazines were not retained.

Photographs with affixed labels or extensive writing on the backs are interfiled with paper to prevent bleeding onto surrounding photographs. Photograph titles are based largely on the descriptions provided by C. Grattan Price Jr. All photographs (not including photograph negatives) and W. Graham Claytor Jr.'s video recording of his family's trips to the Shenandoah Central are digitized. Duplicate copies of photographs and postcards were not scanned.

Title
A Guide to the Charles Grattan Price Jr. Collection on Tweetsie and the Shenandoah Central Railroad, 1916-1997 (bulk 1948-1956)
Status
Completed
Author
Tiffany Cole
Date
April 2022
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
English
Script of description
Latin

Repository Details

Part of the James Madison University Libraries Special Collections Repository

Contact:
880 Madison Drive
MSC 1704
Harrisonburg Virginia 22807
(540) 568-3612