ETRY still rolling along


Photo by Dave Boyd
ETRY has dedicated right of way tracts and removed rail lines where trains once traveled to the city of Elizabethton earlier this year.
By Thomas Wilson
STAR STAFF
twilson@starhq.com
Despite declining traffic and dedication of land where railroad tracks once lay, a representative of the parent company that owns East Tennessee Railway (ETRY) says the railroad plans to continue operation in Elizabethton.
Ed Clark, director of operations for Rail Management Corporation in Panama City, Fla., stated Monday the company had not sold or dedicated any additional right of way property and planned to continue rail operations.
"We're still a railway and still operating as a railway, and I expect us to remain for the near future anyway," he said.
ETRY is a subsidiary railway of Rail Management Corp. Rail transportation in Elizabethton has been decimated with the closure of major customers such as Inland Paperboard and Packaging, Alcoa Extrusions, and Paty Lumber Co. ETRY made its final inbound delivery to Inland in May.
"All that's left is Blossman Gas, and that doesn't justify staying over there," said Keith Holley, general manager of ETRY in Johnson City. "We'll still going to operate, but we are going to be in Johnson City, not in Elizabethton."
The railway operates roughly 11 miles of existing track. Holley said the company planned to move the roughly 20 "coal cars" that line the track parallel along Stateline Road.
"They will be leaving there in the next month or so," he said.
Clark said a decision would be made about relocating the coal cars when the company determined they no longer needed to be stored. He said there had been no decision to cease all rail operations in Elizabethton.
The railway dedicated three parcels of railroad right-of-way property to the city of Elizabethton earlier this year. The tracts include a 50 x 25 strip of land between Broad Street and D Street and a triangular parcel of land bounded by Doe Avenue, Hattie Avenue, and the right of way of ETRY.
City Director of Planning Development David Ornduff said the city planned to have the right of way property surveyed in the near future. The railway has removed track and cross ties from the property between Broad and D Streets.
Ornduff said the city would remove ties and track between Elk Avenue and Hattie Avenue.
"The rails must be removed to pave the street where they were; otherwise, they will create a lot of pot holes in the street," Ornduff said.
RMC manages and owns 13 short-line railroad operations, as well as a trucking company, rail equipment and locomotive leasing companies. ETRY interchanges with CSX Transportation and Norfolk Southern rail transportation lines in Johnson City. The company's locomotive shop and office shifted all operations to Johnson City earlier this year. The railway disconnected its Elizabethton telephone number effective May 1.
Chartered in 1866 as the East Tennessee & Western North Carolina Railroad, the rail line ran from Johnson City to Boone, N.C. RMC purchased the railroad in 1983. By that time, the line had been abandoned between Elizabethton and Boone.