The River Line
Asheville, NC -- New Line, TN
The secondary main line from Salisbury, North Carolina, to Asheville, North Carolina, and on to New Line (Morristown), Tennessee, is designated as the S-Line from Salisbury to Asheville, and the River Line west of Asheville . The Salisbury to Asheville portion is part of Norfolk Southern's Piedmont Division, while the Asheville to New Line portion is within the Tennessee Division.The total timetable distance is 228.0 miles, and starts at Salisbury and ends at New Line. This section of the tour covers the Asheville - New Line segment (87.0 miles), while the Salisbury - Asheville segment of 141.0 miles is here.
Contents And Navigation
Tony Hill, Webmaster and data provider
Train Gifs. All train gifs used within this tour are from the Ed Bindler's train gifs site, which is here.
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Description of the railroad. [NOTE: This description covers only the segment from Asheville to New Line. The remainder of the line is in the Salisbury to Asheville segment, which is here.] We start in the yard at Asheville, and almost immediately enter a long valley with the railroad on the west bank of the French Broad River, and the road on the east bank. This valley becomes more and more rugged, and by the time the railroad crosses over to the east bank near Marshall, the territory is so rough that "normal" railfanning is impossible.
However, there are several places between Asheville and Del Rio (where you are pretty much out of the mountainous area) where you can set up for some interesting photos. Indeed, if you're just hoping to see trains, you're missing one of the most beautiful drives in America. Very shortly after leaving Asheville, you are in a virtual wilderness, with the marvelous French Broad as your companion all the way to Leadvale, over 70 of the 87 miles of this tour. If there is any way for you to get the time and resources to do it, this would be a truly spectacular float trip: Asheville to Leadvale. Wow! The photos you could get would be stellar.
As far as commodities, you'll see it all (except perhaps hot metal cars and stock cars!). Unit coal trains, local movements, general freights, etc., etc,. The trains are usually rather short, in deference to the ruggedness of the terrain.
Yes, you'll find lots of lines with more traffic, but you'll find few with the mix of scenery, engineering interest, and railroad intensity that characterize the River Line.
Traffic density. For the Salisbury - Asheville segment, density is supposedly 8-12 trains total per 24 hours. For trains that used to run down the Saluda line from Asheville, the frequency was some 4-5 trains per 24 hours. Therefore, expect 12-17 trains over the New Line - Asheville segment, but I may be being overly optimistic. Local movements and 2nd sections of scheduled freights can change this significantly, however.
Mapwork: Much of the tour is not easy if you have no detailed map for back country roads. I definitely recommend you get a DeLorme Atlas & Gazetteer, study it before your trip, and copy pertinent pages for your field work. You can find information here about Railfan Maps that are available.
WEBMASTER'S NOTE: I do not recommend or condone walking along the tracks, as this means trespassing and exposing yourself to danger. You will have to be creative, in some instances, to avoid trespassing while getting to the detailed locations included herein, but you will either have to be creative or not visit those sites. At no point in this tour guide, or any other tour which is part of Frograil, is it recommended that you trespass or expose yourself to danger. If you are a fool and have a leg cut off (or worse), don't come crying to me: You have been warned. Trains are big, powerful, and often surprisingly quiet. Don't end up being a statistic.
Asheville - New Line -- Railfan sites:
|Alphabetical Sequence||Sequential Order:
North (East) to South (West)
|Asheville -- Lyman Street||Asheville -- Yard|
|Asheville -- Murphy Junction||Asheville -- Murphy Junction|
|Asheville -- Yard||Asheville -- Lyman Street|
|Bridgeport -- Huff Siding||Marshall -- Station Area MP S163.8|
|Del Rio||Marshall -- River Bridge|
|Hot Springs||Hot Springs|
|Leadvale -- Douglas||Paint Rock, NC|
|Marshall -- River Bridge||Del Rio, TN MP S195.0|
|Marshall -- Station Area||Bridgeport -- Huff Siding|
|New Line||Newport -- Trestle|
|Newport -- Downtown||Newport -- Downtown|
|Newport -- Trestle||Leadvale -- Douglas|
|Paint Rock||White Pine MP S219.0|
|White Pine||New Line|
Asheville -- Yard. From the intersection of US-25, US-25A and NC-81, go north on US-25. You will cross over the yard leads, and then take a left (west) on Commerce/Meadow Street. The big, impressive brick building just west of the US-25 overpass was the Southern Railway freight station. Continue west on Meadow, and you'll pass a lot of industrial facilities, none of which offer trackside access. Eventually, you'll cross over the yard, and need to take your first right. This un-named street will take you into the yard proper, with the engine facility to the left, and the south/east departure tracks closest to you. This entire area, however is posted. You might wish to take one panoramic shot and then leave. If you stay more than a moment or so, you might just get to be a guest of the City of Asheville overnight -- and they'll also help make your wallet lighter.
In late 2006, however, Harold Hodnett pointed out that the ex-freight station was vacant and posted as available for lease. This may offer some viewing opportunities. As Harold points out: "One could always stay near the Habitat facility next door, which abuts the Southern facility."
There is, however, one other possibility, according to Brandon Hampton. The impressive building that sits below Meadow Road now houses the NS Asheville Police force. Brandon has been told by a yardmaster that viewing is OK in the parking area, as long as you stay behind the yellow railing. He is probably correct, but I would want to verify that with a human being before I decided to sit for a spell.
Asheville -- Murphy Junction. Continuing on around the southwest portion of the yard, Meadow has become Lyman Street. This area is interesting, as the beautiful French Broad River has now made its presence known, and is immediately to your west (and will be your companion for lots of miles north of here as you tour the River Line further north and west). The yard will be on your right, but will be fairly inaccessible, and those places which are close to the road are usually obscured by cars. Therefore, continue further north until Lyman reaches the west (compass north) end of the yard and is about to cross the tracks.
When you make the sharp curve east to approach the crossing, turn left just before the crossing. This will take you down along the River Line, via Riverside Drive. At the first traffic light, take another left onto Craven Street, which will carry you across the river. Immediately past the river, take a right onto Emma Road. Emma will take you down the "back side" of the river, and then under the bridge where the main line crosses the river. You will now be between the railroad and the river.
Less than 1/2 mile down from the bridge, Emma Road will once again go under the main line. Just after you cross under the railroad, there is a very small pull-off on the right. This spot offers a view of both the Murphy Branch (Canton Line) and the River Line. This is Murphy Junction. There is a daily local to and from Canton, and the Vulcan quarry at Enka has been putting together trains for CSX on an almost daily basis.
Frograil wishes to thank Brandon Hampton for the information on this entire location.
Asheville -- Lyman Street. Backtrack to Lyman Street, take a left, and go over the tracks. To the left (north) is a big area to the east of the tracks. There is lots of off-railroad property area for photos here, but you can't get any shots from the west. You'll get all trains coming off the Tennessee Division as well as the infrequent trains coming off the Canton Branch.
Even though the division changes in Asheville from Piedmont to Tennessee, the railroad still counts the miles on the line from Salisbury all the way thru Asheville to the Morristown, Tennessee, area with an S for a prefix for the mile markers on the timetable. North of Lyman Street, the S-Line goes under the high, impressive I-240 bridge, and then crosses to the west bank of the river (see Asheville-Murphy Junction).
From here north, the S-Line follows the west bank of the river, while the highway we'll be following, NC-251, follows the east bank. So, let's move on. Go back over the tracks to the west, and take a right to head north on Riverside Drive. You'll go under the high I-240 bridges and follow the remnants of the branch to Woodfin north to the intersection with NC-251, which retains the name of Riverside, and continue north. Gradually, the spur between the street and the river will peter out, and you'll cross it's dying gasps at Old Beaver Dam Road. Keep on northbound on NC-251, and you'll note that you are in the country!
From here on, the scenery is terrific. The beautiful French Broad is right outside the driver's window, and the railroad is on the far side. Again, you'll not be getting pix here, but the drive is one of the better ones in the east. This enjoyable drive continues as NC-251 ends at US25Business/US70Business. Take a left (north), and go on in to Marshall.
Marshall -- Station Area. Just north of the end of NC-251, the S-Line comes across from the west bank to the east. You will be above the tracks until you actually enter the outskirts of this small county seat. At the southern end of town is the ex-Southern Depot. Park anywhere in the area, and walk south of the station. Here is the defect detector "Marshall" at MP 163.8. There is good viewing to the westerly side of the tracks, but there is a vertical concrete wall just west of the tracks, so you will not be able to get anything from that side. Take a few moments to enjoy the nice station, and be impressed with the willingness of the Southern to put a fine station in such a small town.
Marshall -- River Bridge. In the center of town, going north on US-25Business/ US-70Business, go left at the only stoplight in town, and quickly find a place to park. Walk past the tracks and onto the bridge over the French Broad River. This is the only place for miles in either direction that you'll be able to get pictures of trains from the westerly side of the tracks. [NOTE WELL: The river is noisy, and there is a lot of street traffic over this bridge. Trains thru here can be very fast and surprisingly quiet. Use extra caution here,]
[With thanks to Fred Burton for this information concerning Marshall.]
Hot Springs. From Marshall all the way to Hot Springs, the railroad and road do not play tag; indeed, they don't even come close together. US-25Business/ US-70Business will dead-end into US-25/US-70, and you'll follow the latter thru some impressive countryside, cross the Appalachian Ridge (and the Appalachian Trail), and drop down into the village of Hot Springs. This is a town which specializes in outfitting hikers and rafters. It is also one of the few places for many miles where you can actually see the railroad.
Cross the French Broad River and the tracks, and then park anywhere. There is excellent viewing from the west, and OK viewing from the east. You're now at MP 179, 40 miles from the US-25/US-25A/NC-81 crossing in Asheville.
OK, enough of the easy stuff: Here's some Combat Railfan-type stuff. We're going to visit a once-was place, and if you want to get the most out of it, you might want to pack a machete. Head west on US-25/US-70 about 5 miles out of Hot Springs. You'll maybe see a sign (and maybe you won't, because it's only half right side up) pointing to the Paint Rock Full Gospel Church. Take a right onto Rock Road (no road sign, of course), and drive approximately 2 miles to the tracks.
Paint Rock, North Carolina. This community is Paint Rock. The MapQuest service shows you a two track yard just to the west of this location. When you get to the end of the street, you can go under the tracks (if you're driving a 3' tall vehicle), or you can turn right (east). There simply is no way to turn left and go where the yard must have been, unless you want to walk. If it were me, and I had some time, I'd like to walk west and see what there is to see. At one time, this was a happening place.
Today, take a right, and drive along the rudimentary road, until it crosses the tracks. This is a most interesting, very old and humble community. Find a place to park, and you'll be able to get good pix from both sides of the tracks. Be wise here: You are in the real country, and these folks are fiercely protective of their property rights (and why shouldn't they be?), so DO NOT TRESPASS. Be friendly, say hi, and ask questions. Don't be a dork, and ruin this interesting place for the rest of us.
Del Rio, Tennessee. Go back to US-25/US-70, and continue west into Tennessee. Take a left (south) on TN-107, cross the river, and parallel the tracks to the signal at the west end of Big Creek Siding. In the middle of the village, you can take Summer House Hollow Road over the tracks, just before the signals, and be rewarded with great views both north and south. Just east of this road is MP 195.
Bridgeport -- Huff Siding. The local roads will not allow you to follow the railroad very far west from Del Rio, so get back on US-25/US-70, and head west. You'll cross over the French Broad River, and swing to the west at Bridgeport, a rather fictional point on the map. However, there is a siding here, and some NS MoW material in evidence. Take the crude crossing over the railroad at the west end of Huff Siding, turn left towards the MoW material, find a place to park, get out the lawn chairs and coolers, and enjoy yourselves. If you don't get stupid and run around the tracks, you'll enjoy one of the best photo locations between New Line and Asheville here [MP 202].
Newport -- Trestle. As you come into Newport, you'll swing to the north and go into the city to follow the tracks. You'll be on US-25 here, and both the highway and railroad will vault the river below via a bridge. The highway bridge is quite new, and has a nice sidewalk on the east side. You can get very nice pix here as the PM light can be perfect for eastbounds crossing the trestles. Incidentally, and it might surprise you, but this is the Pigeon River from way down to the southeast in North Carolina and Tennessee. The lighting doesn't give you a big window here, but it you're a true photographer, you might be intrigued by this site.
Newport -- Downtown. The Southern station is at Main and Mims and/or Main and McMahan. Main is one of those downtown streets which parallels the tracks on both the north and south side, so you can roam around a bit and get a photo location which is perfect for field of view and sun. It is a busy area, so be careful, however. The station itself, interestingly, is still in daily use by the folks at NS who want to keep the road fluid.
Leadvale -- Douglas. Leaving Newport, head north on US-25E. You'll enjoy skirting the Douglas reservoir, and will eventually go over the bridge at the north end of Douglas Lake. From the north end of the bridge, go 2 miles further north, and turn right on Leadvale Road. Continue for a mile or so, go under tracks, and park anywhere which is not stupid. Walk up to the tracks on the rudimentary road to the northeast side of the underpass. At this point, the railroad splits to go to Bull's Gap and Frisco to the northeast, and the S-Line to New Line swings off to the northwest. Viewing here is good from the east, and OK from the west. Stay back from the tracks.
White Pine. From the underpass at Leadvale, go back towards US-25E. You can save some miles by taking Old Airport Road, rather than Leadvale Road, incidentally. As you go north on US-25E, you'll enter the town of While Pine, and will need to take a left into the town just before going over the tracks. Go into the town and take a right at the light. Go over the tracks, and then immediately take a right into the Library parking lot. There are lots of excellent places for train watching both north and south of the MP 219 marker.
Get back on US-25E to just past I-81. There is a Hardees fast food restaurant there with a picnic table. Get your food and sit at the table. Look at the scenery. You've got a pasture, small creek, the S-Line, and another pasture on a broad hillside. The railroad is not close -- this entire bucolic scene is like an attractive model railroad scene. Enjoy your food, and if you're lucky enough to see a train, you'll enjoy everything far more.
From here to the end of the S-Line at New Line Road southwest of Morristown, it will require some research on your part to follow the line. The tiny communities and roads are hard to follow, and I'll do my best to describe them, but you've got to use your common sense and railfan nose to follow the line. From Hardees and I-81, go north on US-25E, until taking a left on Benton-Hale Road (If you get to TN-343, you've gone too far north), and then take a right on Old Witt (further note: These roads can be confusing. Actually, there are at least two ways to get over to Old Witt, and maybe more, but the most important thing is to not get as far north on US-25E as TN-343). From Old Witt you'll get to Sulphur Spring Road, and will take a left. You'll cross the tracks a few times, and will be able to reach out and touch the trains, but photo ops are zilch. You will come to a 4-lane highway, unmarked, and you should turn left. This 4-lane divided highway, which turns out to be TN-160, will shortly take you to a crossroads at TN-66, and you'll want to turn right and go north into Morristown.
At the southwest portion of Morristown, turn left (west) on US-11E. This will run into the main US-11E by-pass, Andrew Jackson Highway. As you go south out of Morristown, you need to take a left onto New Line Road. WARNING: This is not a big, new, commercial crossroads. It's an old road, and you may go by it once or twice (as did your friendly webmaster) without seeing it, don't feel badly.).
New Line. Go down New Line Road, and park to the northwest of the road in the old Lowe's store. Walk down to the tracks. Here, the S-Line, which has come up from Salisbury, NC, thru Asheville, NC, ends. There is a lot of action here, as the Knoxville/Bristol mainline is busy, and the S-Line traffic just adds to the business. If you're interested in Morristown and the line from Knoxville to Bristol, well, you'll just have to stay tuned, as I've not had anyone volunteer to do that tour for us. Interested in contributing? Talk to me at...........mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org