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Historic Train Line Restoration Moves Forward

Rocky Hollifield, of the Craggy Mountain Line in Woodfin, leans out of a Southern Railroad Safety Car Caboose. With four restored cabooses and a rail yard switch engine, Hollifield hopes to open the seven miles of track to rides in the fall. / Bill Sanders/wsanders@citizen-times.com

With funding, Craggy Mountain Line could roll by fall

Written by Adrienne Belz, 9:15 PM, Jun. 20, 2011  |  www.citizen-times.com
www.citizen-times.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=2011306210022

WOODFIN — Once faded, moldy and peeling, these train and trolley cars now stand bright and glossy in freshly painted primary colors.

The owner of these restored cars, Rocky Hollifield, could not be more excited about the prospect of opening up the Craggy Mountain Line train ride running along Beaverdam Creek in Woodfin.
The rail and ties are in place. The cars are receiving finishing touches. He even has a few pieces of vintage equipment that he found on eBay, including a few bells, a horn and an authentic ticket taker.

“It’s a big undertaking — it takes a lot of elbow grease,” Hollifield said.

The only obstacles holding back Hollifield and the volunteers from starting up the line are money and help. The line is a nonprofit organization, completely dependent on donations and volunteers.

With about $150,000 more, Hollifield believes that he could open the ride by next spring, if not by this coming October.

The main cost could be the train engine. Right now, the company is in limbo as to whether they could get the engine it has approved for use by the Federal Railroad Administration or whether it will have to buy one that has already been approved.

As far as work goes, a few paid contractors come in to do certain work, but no one is getting paid to work on the equipment.

Not even Hollifield, who is the president of the line. No one receives any kind of paycheck, according to Jim King, who has been volunteering for the last year.

Hollifield works full time as a train engineer for Great Smoky Mountains Railroad, which doesn’t leave a lot of time for him to work on the restoration of his own trains.

But Hollifield’s not alone. King and about four other volunteers consistently come out to help. King, a fourth-generation railroad man, has been helping Hollifield for the past year.

King said that he volunteered at a similar train operation in Spencer, 2 1/2 hours from Asheville, but got frustrated with how far he had to travel to volunteer.

With Hollifield, he said that volunteers can help at their leisure and “do what they want, when they want.”

“Everyone has a different interest and expertise,” said King. “It would be nice to have more of us, though.”

Hollifield has been working on the line for the last 10 years, but the line really started moving toward completion in the last few years. “His goal is getting closer to reality,” said King.

Hollifield explains the business as being “big, heavy and expensive.” Everything to be done is work-oriented and requires some skill, he said.

The hope is for the 3 1/2-mile ride to be open a few Fridays and Saturdays a month, initially. “Our goal is to be open two to four days in a month at first, but our long-term hope is to open up to be six days a week,” he said.

Hollifield thinks that the line offers “something no one else is offering” and that it’s more conducive to families.

At a probable cost of $10 per ticket and a ride lasting around two hours, King said the Craggy Mountain Line would be cheaper and shorter than other rides in Western North Carolina.

Families could take a layover at Riverside Park for a picnic or something along the French Broad River before returning back to the depot, Hollifield explained.

Yet, starting the ride is only the beginning of the journey to completion for the Craggy Mountain Line.

Hollifield would also like to build a depot with a shop and restaurant. Carl Oliver, the owner of Frank’s Roman Pizza in Woodfin, said he wants to build a new, bigger addition of his restaurant into the depot.

On top of that, more cars and cabooses as well as the trolley need to be renovated.

The line would like to get some grant money to help; they haven’t taken out any loans, and they don’t plan to.

“We have had some donations — mostly through real estate and private individuals,” said Hollifield. “We’re now trying to get some grant writers, and I’m trying to find some transportation grants.”

Although hopeful for the prospect of getting a ride up and running, Hollifield said, “If it doesn’t happen this year, it’s OK. We don’t owe anybody anything.”

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