The Railroad in the Smoky Mountains: The Little River Railroad

The Little River Railroad was a line operating between Maryville, TN, where it connected with the Southern Railway; east to Elkmont, TN in the Great Smoky Mountains. (Right of way)

A branch emanating from the Thompson Wye served the ghost town of Tremont, TN.

Little River Lumber Co. 110. Image and history

The LRR began operations in 1901 as a wholly-owned subsidiary of the Little River Lumber Company. Although almost entirely a logging railroad, it was designated a common carrier road. The mainline extended 35 miles, but the railroad built over 150 miles of track to tap into the forests. Typically, a line would be built to an area, and removed upon the harvesting of all the available timber, similar to how most logging railroads operated.

By 1939, the timbers had been harvested and the line ended service. A significant portion of the right of way was used to create US-321 around the Melrose to Townsend area.

A small part of the right of way exists as the Townsend Trail in Townsend, while the Little River Railroad & Lumber Company Museum in the town has been active since 1982.

Interestingly, the above locomotive is still in service for The Little River Railroad, except this operation is a tourist line in Coldwater, MI, which began service in 1975. What, if any, relation it has to the actual railroad line in Tennessee is unknown.

Thanks as always for reading!


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