One of my favorite trail rides in the Big South Fork National Park is along the former railbed of the Oneida and Western Railroad, a ride we call simply "the O&W." Defunct railbeds all over the country have provided thousands of miles, reclaimed for use as bike trails, hiking trails, walking trails, running trails and equestrian trails.
In the early 1900s, large tracts of land rich with virgin timber and coal lay in what is now the Big South Fork National Park. The remote and rugged terrain from which these resources had to be extracted rendered them almost inaccessible. Both the Stearns (KY) Coal and Lumber Company and the Tennessee Coal and Lumber Company began building railroads for the purpose of transporting these raw materials.
Construction started on the O&W Railroad in November, 1913 at Oneida, Tennessee and was completed to Bridge No. 6 near the Big South Fork River (10.2 miles) in June, 1915. Five more miles extended the line to Gernt in 1916. Another three miles was completed that year to Christian. It took two years to complete the 6.8 miles to Stockton. And, in 1921, the line reached five more miles into East Jamestown. A total of thirty miles!
The Jamestown Railroad Station was built by the Oneida & Western Railroad when rail service was extended another seven miles past "the end of the line" in 1930. It was hoped that the addition of passengers and cargo to and from Jamestown, Tennessee, the Fentress County seat, would increase the profitability of the line. Passengers could board a train in Jamestown for the 37-mile trip to Oneida, where they could connect to the Southern Railway.
It was a case of "too little, too late," though, as the advent of automobiles took its toll on the railroad's passenger service. Rail freight service was also meeting competition from trucks that were now able to traverse the new highways and bridges constructed in the early 1930s by Teddy Roosevelt's Civilian Conservation Corps.
The last train left this station on March 2, 1954. The Jamestown depot was sold and used as a feed business. Today, animal feed is sold through the Fentress Farmers Co-op and the old depot stands derelict.
For information on horse properties and big SouthFork real estate, go to www.trailridersrealestate.com