Clinchfield 100 is back and riding the rails once again

Tri-Cities Original

More than a century after it was built, the Clinchfield 100 is back.

The historic car once belonged to the Erwin-based Clinchfield Railroad, but now it belongs to the Watauga Valley Railroad Historical Society and Museum in Jonesborough, which saved it from being scrapped.

“It’s just special,” said Mike Tilley, President of the WVRHS&M and former Clinchfield Railroad employee. “You’re looking at the original Clinchfield Office Car. Car 100. It was built in 1914. It’s 105 years old.”

The car was originally part of the Atlantic Coast Line fleet before the Clinchfield purchased it in 1951. After nearly two years of restoration work, the car was converted into an office car and dubbed Car 100.

Only a select few got the chance to ride inside of it.

“It served as a business car in Erwin, it entertained guests in Johnson City and Kingsport for the president of the railroad,” Tilley said.

Until 1983, it served as the official car of the Santa Train, transporting Santa Claus as he delivered gifts to the children of eastern Kentucky, southwest Virginia, and northeast Tennessee.

The Clinchfield Railroad later became part of the Family Lines System before it was acquired by CSX. Clinchfield 100 was sold to an individual Florida and the car disappeared into storage and slid into disrepair.

Decades ago, the Watauga Museum tried to buy it but couldn’t.

“We just kind of gave up on it and then we got a phone call that said ‘it’s available, you want it?’ We went after it fast and got it,” Tilley said.

The inside has been restored, from the carpet on the floor to the gauges on the wall to the lights which now shine like new.

“It looks just like it used to,” Tiley said.

Now, Clinchfield 100 is riding the rails once again, heading to North Carolina and along the east coast for tours.

The Watauga Railroad Museum is hoping to bring it back early next year for the public to tour.

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Born and raised in the Tri-Cities, Josh Smith has been a member of the WJHL team since 1999. His family roots go deep in the region, and he’s traveled through almost every part of it covering news on local TV since 1995. When he’s not on the job, he’s with his wife, two sons, and daughter.   “They’re the best part of me,” he said.   You may run into them biking on the Tweetsie Trail, hiking around Bays Mountain Lake, or browsing the shelves at the local public libraries.

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