The Virtual Corkscrew Museum's Weekly Newspaper

Sunday, December 9, 2007

Number 493

Click for free subscription

News Archive

Tweetsie Railroad Corkscrew

In the March 23, 2006 issue, we looked at the "Flash" corkscrew produced by Williamson Company of Newark, New Jersey. These souvenir corkscrews date back to the mid 1930s and were apparently produced into the 1950s. Hundreds of different vacation destination locations have been catalog on these corkscrews.

Now we have made a new discovery of a corkscrew using the same type of coated paper label wrapped around a sheath. This one is on a key shaped corkscrew and is from the Tweetsie Railroad of Blowing Rock, North Carolina.

A Virginia Beach "Flash" and a Tweetsie Railroad Key

It is interesting to note that the Tweetsie Railroad label is taller than the standard "Flash" label (2 1/8" vs 1 13/16") ruling out any "foul play" with the corkscrew. The Tweetsie Railroad corkscrew is marked "Made in Japan".

From the Tweetsie website we learned:

"Tweetsie's history dates back to 1866, when the Tennessee legislature granted the East Tennessee & Western North Carolina Railroad Company permission for the construction of a railroad. At the outset, the ET&WNC line (which mountain humorists dubbed the "Eat Taters & Wear No Clothes" Railroad) was to operate from Johnson City, Tennessee to the iron mines just over the state line at Cranberry, North Carolina.

The narrow-gauge railroad began operations in 1882 after 32 miles of track was laid through the rugged Blue Ridge chain of the Appalachian Mountains that divide the two southern states. Later, additional tracks were laid to Boone, North Carolina and in 1919 rail service was extended to that mountain community. The new line added passenger service to the formerly isolated area, and brought lumber out of the mountains.

The name "Tweetsie" was given to the railroad by local folks who became accustomed to the shrill "tweet, tweet" train whistles that echoed through the hills. The name stuck, and the train was known as Tweetsie ever since.

Unfortunately, the affection felt for Tweetsie by mountain dwellers could not protect her from a changing economy. The construction of modern roads made the mountain communities more accessible, and Tweetsie felt the competition from trucking companies. Severe floods came in August, 1940 and obliterated sections of the line, hastening the demise of the mountain railroads.

On October 16 , 1950 the ET&WNC Railroad Company came to an official end. Tweetsie Locomotive #12 -- the last of the original 13 coal-fired ET&WNC steam engines -- was purchased by railroad enthusiasts and moved to Virginia. Her stay there was cut short when hurricane Hazel swept through the state and wiped out the train tracks. The owners found a buyer for #12 in Gene Autry. The movie cowboy intended to ship the locomotive out west to use in films.

Grover Robbins, Jr., a native of the North Carolina Mountains, decided that it was time to bring Tweetsie back where she belonged. Robbins purchased Tweetsie from Gene Autry and in 1956 the little engine headed back to Robbins' home town of Blowing Rock.

North Carolina Governor Luther Hodges designated May 20, 1956 as "Tweetsie Homecoming Day", but it was only a partial homecoming. The locomotive spent several months in Hickory, NC undergoing complete restoration. A year later, on May 23, 1957, Bragg McLeod of Moss Trucking Company in Charlotte moved Tweetsie and some of the original rail cars from Hickory to a scenic spot near Blowing Rock.

In the summer of 1957, Tweetsie Railroad became North Carolina's newest travel attraction, as she made her first run at her new location just a couple of miles away from the old railroad station in Boone. People came from all over the South to welcome her famous whistle back to the mountains.

Tweetsie now makes a scenic three-mile loop through the mountains near Blowing Rock, not far from the original end of the line station in Boone. Tweetsie also operates a complete steam locomotive repair shop, rebuilding and restoring locomotives for other theme parks and museums."

Visit Tweetsie at

Have any readers seen this key from other travel desinations?

New York World's Fair Flash

Speaking of "Flash" corkscrews. Here's another type. This one has a plastic sheath with an applied label from the 1939 New York World's Fair. For more New York World's Fair corkscrews, see the May 28, 2006 issue.

News Index

©2006 Don Bull, Editor


The Virtual Corkscrew Museum