Nashville, Chattanooga & St. Louis Railway aka NC&StL, NC&Stl.L, ncstl,  




James F. Ingram

Ken Ingram shares a story with us:

My father, James F. Ingram, was born in Eva, Tennessee, and then spent his childhood and teenage years alternating between Memphis and Eva. One summer afternoon in 1934 while "up at Eva", the year before he graduated from Memphis Technical High School, my dad and a bunch of his cousins and friends, including first cousin and best friend Bill Latham, decided to take a walk over the Tennessee River bridge to Johnsonville. In those days, that was how you got over there; there was no highway bridge back then. This was the high point of their youth; very soon would come the struggle to make a living out of the Great Depression, and all went on to honorable service during World War II. But this day, they were all together, and headed for Johnsonville because, quote, "That's where the girls were", unquote.

Eva was located on the west bank of the Tennessee, and the NC&StL main line sort of paralleled the river past the town, over a long elevated rail bed and concrete trestle. This elevated levee, over which ran the NC&StL main line, was made necessary by annual flooding of the bottom land on this side of the river. The levee rail bed "islands" and trestle are still visible above the waters of Kentucky Lake to this day; plenty of catfish, crappie, bream, carp and bass caught in the immediate vicinity of the remains of the concrete trestle. The railroad then made a sweeping curve to the right and crossed the big river via a long, steel-superstructure swing bridge, and proceeded more or less straight through Johnsonville before angling off toward Nashville at Denver. Old Johnsonville was a considerably larger town than Eva, and offered more in the way of "entertainment".

Afer hiking the cross ties and crossing the high trestle came the most adventurous part of the afternoon - crossing the bridge. If fortunate enough to miss a train, another adventure might ensue should the bridge tender decide to open the swing span in order to facilitate a passing barge tow or steam boat. Last, but certainly not least, there were no walkways or guardrails. It was cross ties on top of girders all the way across. With luck, they could make it to Johnsonville, spend the evening with their female acquaintances, maybe even catch a film - Johnsonville boasted a movie house, something tiny Eva would never have.

Well, lady luck wasn't with them that summer afternoon. At about mid-point of their so-called "walk" across the bridge, an afternoon timed freight steam locomotive whistle announced imminent danger. What to do? To a man, they immediately decided to high-tail it back to Eva! So, hopping ties, off they went. They hadn't got far when the locomotive entered the bridge structure, causing the old bridge to rumble. The engineer, seeing these local trespassers to NC&StL property just ahead of his train, began "laying it down" on the whistle. Four or five fellows kept hopping ties in an effort to clear the bridge; my dad and Bill Latham, pulling up the rear, decided to leap outside the rails to the side of the bridge, hanging on for dear life between superstructure girders, realizing that outrunning the train was futile. As Bill relates the story, "That old engineer shook a mean fist at us as the locomotive went past. I'll never forget him". Those other fellows just made it, leaping out of harm's way at the last possible moment.

This anecdotal little yarn, first told to me years ago, kindled an avid curiosity and interest in an old, long gone railroad for yours truly. Only too soon, there won't be anyone left to remember the tales of either Eva before the TVA or the old NC.

--Ken Ingram


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