Lone Mountain hub








We were coming down Lone Mountain Road in Claiborne County TN when this caught my eye.  The lower track is an active N&S line, the upper track is very old steel and long disused.  As I was taking this picture, a man approached and wanted to know what I was doing.  I told  him I was interested in this old jib crane (called a derrick by the railroad) and asked him if he knew anything about it.  He tended to be a bit confrontational until I explained that I was from Kingsport and that I  had an interest in old railroad equipment and trackage.  He loosened up a bit and told me he owned the land here, but the jib crane still belonged to the railroad.  He said, “this old track was put down in 1878 to load granite and marble from a quarry up the tracks.”  We chatted for a bit more and I moved off, since it turned out that his wife and daughter were a little further down the track (for some reason) and he had gotten suspicious when he saw me exit my car and come in that direction with something in my hand (my camera).  Did I mention he was carrying?
I was rather amazed at the date, so I made an audio note of it and we moved on, looking for Lone Mountain elementary school, which was right in this neighborhood.  However, we encountered Dan Beeler, who told us the school had burned down eight years before.  He did confirm the dating of the railroad, though, and said the foundation of the old depot was still there, behind the still existing old store that had been a post office for Lone Mountain.   He also informed us that Lone Mountain was quite a hub of activity in the day, with trains stopping to load pulpwood, minerals, livestock and the like.  Here’s what the foundation of the old station looks like today:








This is looking west.  The track here ends just a little bit beyond the end of the foundation…there’s a cross-rail block there.  The steel in this track varies from a 1901 Scranton to a 1903 Carnegie.

So, I had a puzzle. Dan Beeler told us the granite and marble (Tennessee marble, not “real” marble) came from a quarry in Springdale, about 4 miles to the east.  I carefully checked Google Earth to find any remnants of a railbed in that direction and couldn’t find any…then, it suddenly all clicked.  I’d been in the area before documenting the three tunnels on the old Knoxville, Cumberland Gap and Louisville Railroad.  The old stories handed down to the gentlemen we talked to were giving a date a decade or so too early.  This was the old K, CG & L line and probably came through here about 1888.  This was the company that managed to totally screw up the first digging of the tunnel at Cumberland Gap.  They also managed to off a number of important Knoxville personages on their very first run when the locomotive went off a trestle at Flat Gap.  This railroad company was as short on luck as it was on money.

My feeling is that the railroad came through and built the spur to the jib crane and down to the station.  The quarrymen (not the Beatles) and others would haul the product by wagon down to the railroad where it would be loaded onto freight cars for a trip to Morristown, Knoxville, or, eventually, to Middlesboro.  Everyone was hot for Middlesboro in that time, since quality iron had been discovered in the area.  Flash in the pan, as it turned out.

If anyone has more information on this or wants to tell me I’m all mouth and no trousers, please make a comment.

11 thoughts on “Lone Mountain hub

  1. Bill Jacobs September 14, 2015 / 9:50 pm

    Bob, I have just stumbled onto your blog, really fantastic stuff here. Thanks for doing this. Wondered if you have a source for info on re-alignments of the old Cumberland Gap and Louisville RR, just south of Lone Mountain, as it crosses the river. I have been looking at an 1895 topo map of the area and it looks like some significant changes have been made. Thanks in advance


    • Bob Lawrence September 15, 2015 / 4:00 pm

      I’m wondering if that was the realignment necessitated by the forming of Norris Lake in 1933 – 1936?

      • Bill Jacobs September 17, 2015 / 7:54 am

        Would be my guess….assume the RR has records, maybe the county. Looks like I have a Sat stroll coming soon, date on tunnel keystone (looks like two active, maybe one abandon?) will satisfy my curiosity, somewhat.

  2. Jeff Singleton September 7, 2017 / 8:57 pm

    Do you think that the Sycamore Tunnel was built near the same time as the original Oakman Tunnel or closer to the replacement? I am also looking for a place Named Day’s Siding near the south entrance to the Sycamore Tunnel. Has your research uncovered anything regarding this other depot near Lone Mountain?

  3. Bob Lawrence September 8, 2017 / 6:06 pm

    Both Sycamore and Oakman tunnels were on the original Knoxville, Cumberland Gap and Louisville railroad built in the late 1800s. When Norris Dam was built in ’36, the tunnels and the attendant bridges had to be raised to avoid being swamped by the rise of the river as the lake formed.
    As to Day’s Siding, I couldn’t find it, but sidings come and go as the railroad needs a passing lane or some business needs service. Also, sidings often acquired local names that never made it to the official railroad records.
    No need to tell you to avoid going in the tunnels and especially avoid that long trestle over the river. It’s got no side rails. If a train comes along and you’re on the bridge, hope you enjoy your swim.

  4. Randy Bullen September 9, 2018 / 11:23 am

    Days Siding was near the mouth of Big Sycamore Creek it was on the pre TVA area where the ROW crossed the river. I have one photo of Days Siding. The location had a Grist Mill, Saw Mill, Store and a Coffin Factory
    The quarry he spoke of is actually in Thorn Hill near the Clinch River at Indian Creek.. Marble would be floated down to Lone Mountain loaded and shipped to Beverly in Knoxville for processing.

    • Bob Lawrence September 9, 2018 / 4:30 pm

      Excellent information! Thank you for commenting!

    • amypaynepotts September 23, 2018 / 12:28 pm

      I am from a Lone Mountain Family. Still part owner of our family homestead at Lone Mountain – I visit often. I have a good bit of information about Lone Mountain and the early depot. My great grandfather, Anderson Payne, was one of the earliest (if not the earliest) Depot Agents there. I am working on genealogical history of my Lone Mountain families (Payne and Jennings) and of Lone Mountain in general.

      • Bob Lawrence September 24, 2018 / 4:59 pm

        I wish you the very best of success on your genealogy. My late brother was a part-time genealogist and tracked my family back to the UK in the early 1800s. He thought the process of genealogy was deeply fascinating, but time consuming.

  5. Joe Payne July 7, 2019 / 7:00 pm

    Bob, I am Joe Payne, a cousin to Amy Payne Potts. You have everything correct and I appreciate your posting. That is correct as I know it. My grandmother and grandfather, L.G. Payne and Mattie Alice LIvesay Payne lived just across the street from the platform of the Lone Mountain Depot. My great grandfather, Anderson Payne, was the first depot agent in Lone Mountain.
    The quarry I think everyone is referring to and from all my research is the Imperial Black Marble Quarry in Thorn hill. My friend Randy Bullen has done more research on this than myself, but I do have pictures of the quarry taken, probably illegally of the black marble. There was no “no trespassing” signs when I took the pictures but I did see the place after I put the pictures online.
    They are located by accessing the link below. You information is great and I thank you for mentioning our little community of Lone Mountain.


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