These bores included, from east to west; Jarrett's, Lick Log, McElroy, High Ridge, Burgin, and finally Swannanoa Tunnel. The shortest was McElroy while the longest was appropriately named Swannanoa extending 1,800 feet through the mountain. The work began west of Henry Station in the fall of 1875 and was completed to Azalea (slightly east of Asheville) in 1879. While the WNCRR suffered additional financial hardships it was able to push as far west as Murphy, in the state's southwestern corner, by 1890. During 1886 the railroad was leased to the Richmond & Danville, a major component of the Southern Railway formed in 1894. The line west of Asheville became only a long branch under its new owner but eastward to Salisbury grew into a very important freight and passenger corridor. Today, it remains an integral part of Norfolk Southern with the Old Fort Loops a popular spot to photograph trains.
Andrews Geyser: Star Of The Mountain Railroad
This book covers in greater detail what Mr. Little briefly highlights in Tunnels, Nitro And Convicts: Building The Railroad That Couldn't Be Built, Andrews Geyser. During construction of the WNCRR two resort hotels sprang up along the western end of the line; St. Bernard Hotel at Henry Station and later Round Knob Lodge at Round Knob. It later became known as Round Knob Hotel. Such accommodations, located in the rural mountainous regions outside of large cities or urban areas, were a popular tourist attraction in the East during the late 19th and early 20th centuries. They sprang up in conjunction with the railroad as city folks could escape the summer heat and/or hectic lifestyle as means of relaxing and unwinding. The Round Knob Hotel, situated next to the main line, needed something to set itself apart from the competition.
Its owners devised a plan to construct a fountain and geyser, whose gushing water was fed by an underground pipe that ran up the nearby mountain to a pond formed by damming Long Branch. The entire system worked entirely by gravity but nevertheless created an impressive spectacle as water rose high into the air with local accounts at the time insisting it was at least 200 feet high. Whether this is true is unknown but the hotel nevertheless claimed that it owned the "...highest fountain in the world." Unfortunately, the hotel burned in 1903 but the fountain was later rebuilt about a decade later by George Baker following years of neglect and disuse. He dedicated the new structure to his friend, Colonel Alexander Andrews, who a played a major role in the WNCRR completion.
The rest of Andrews Geyser: Star Of The Mountain Railroad provides a brief background of Colonel Andrews and efforts to keep Andrews Geyser preserved and in operation to the present day.
The Mighty Locomotive
The Mighty Locomotive is a children's story with wonderful illustrations by Jeffrey Duckworth, whose work has appeared in more than 30 such titles. Despite its lighthearted nature the book describes a very real event that took place during construction of the WNCRR; moving a several-ton 4-4-0, "American Type" locomotive named the Salisbury over Swannanoa Mountain during the summer of 1877 in an effort to complete the tunnel then under construction. Done entirely by muscle and physical exertion the task was given to convicts and oxen, a backbreaking job that must have been excruciatingly painful. They eventually completed the move and helped hasten the tunnel's completion from the western portal.