Saturday, March 07, 2020

Stone Mountain Scenic Railroad, Georgia, July 1969

Let's take a trip to Stone Mountain Park, in the north central part of Georgia!

Stone Mountain is a large quartz monzonite dome that is 825 feet (251 meters) high. Today it has the largest bas-relief sculpture in the world, depicting Confederate heroes Jefferson Davis, Robert E. Lee, and Stonewall Jackson. Like most Confederate monuments, this one has been the subject of controversy, and I would prefer to not open that can of worms here, if it's OK with you folks! There are plenty of appropriate forums for such debates.

Here's an early photo when work on the bas-relief had only just begun.

And here's how it looked in 1969. I did not know that Gutzon Borglum was originally approached to carve the monument. That deal fell apart, and he went on to carve Mount Rushmore years later. 

The real subject of today's post is the Stone Mountain Scenic Railroad! It's a standard-gauge railroad that was once an industrial spur of the Stone Mountain Granite Company. Wikipedia sez: In 1960, Stone Mountain Scenic Railroad, Inc. was formed to construct a tourist railroad encircling the mountain, operating it under lease from the Stone Mountain Memorial Association. Between 1961 and 1963, two miles of former quarry trackage were rebuilt, followed by construction of additional new trackage to complete the road around the perimeter of the mountain.

Man, there's lots to read today! Feel free to skip ahead if it's all too boring. Here's some Wiki info about the original locomotives: Stone Mountain originally had three steam locomotives, the "General II," "Texas II," and "Yonah II." The SMRR named the engines after the famous engines of The Great Locomotive Chase, and were given nineteenth century style smokestacks and headlights. Despite these modifications, the engines, having been built between 1919 and 1927, still have noticeably modern appearances, with larger proportions than their ancestors and have more advanced cylinders, valve gear, and other modern applications.

Seen here is the Texas II: #60, The Texas II - a former San Antonio and Aransas Pass Railway 4-4-0 built by the Baldwin Locomotive Works in 1923. Through merger, came into Southern Pacific Railroad subsidiary Texas and New Orleans. Paulsen Spence bought the engine for his proposed Louisiana Eastern Railroad and was sold to Stone Mountain after his death. Withdrawn in 1983 when it came in need of boiler work and other mechanical issues, though it continued to occasionally "pull" the train while pushed by a diesel until 2002, and remained within the rail yard thereafter. In 2011, the engine received a partial cosmetic restoration, including the removal of the undergrowth and repainting the portions of the engine that are visible to passing trains, similar to what was previously done to the General II. The Stone Mountain Memorial Association donated the engine to the Gulf and Ohio Railways in Knoxville, Tennessee in 2012. The engine was moved to Tennessee in March, 2013 and is undergoing restoration to operating condition for use on the Gulf and Ohio's Three Rivers Rambler tourist train operation.

Presumably the locomotive really did use wood to fire up the boiler (instead of coal or dilithium crystals) and that the stack of wood seen on the tender wasn't just for show - although it does appear to have been darkened by long exposure to smoke.

Let's go for a ride! Pay no attention to that flaming railroad car, that's probably where smokers can go to satisfy their tobacco cravings.

Well, hey! There's a peaceful Native American encampment. 

Camp McDonald? I'll have a Quarter Pounder combo with a Sprite. Ha ha ha ha! See what I did there? I looked to see if there really was a Confederate "Camp McDonald", and as far as I can determine, there wasn't. This one looks like it was built from a mobile home.

Uh oh, I don't like the looks of that guy with the war bonnet and spear.

Here he comes! It's actually kind of a neat picture of that horse caught in mid-gallop. The brick-red makeup smeared on that actor's face was apparently OK 50 years ago. In 2020... not so much.

Based on the photos (posted in order), I guess we escaped to the safety of this prosperous little town located at the base of Stone Mountain without incident. I see a man on the balcony of the Hotel Ringgold, but can't tell if he's friendly or not.

Somebody's getting a shave and a haircut at Joe's Barber Shop. Next stop: Kitty's Saloon for a hot bath, and a game of poker. 

Well, the hostile warriors followed the train, and now they're attacking the town. It's pandemonium out there.

The fellow to the right is holding on to a fright wig, most likely part of a hilarious scalping gag. 

The little red schoolhouse is aflame, and for once it wasn't caused by the children.

While you can still ride the Stone Mountain Scenic Railroad, I am not sure if any of these sets have survived, or if there is any sort of show performed for the guests while aboard the train.

Let's take one last look at the burning schoolhouse; nearby, a dead Indian warrior still sits on his horse. Fun times for everyone, eh? 

I hope you have enjoyed your visit to Stone Mountain!


Nanook said...

"Fun times" - I think so.

Thanks, Major.

TokyoMagic! said...

What a hoot! The whole thing sort of has a "Disney crossed with Knott's" kind of vibe.

That boxcar sitting all by itself on the tracks (minus the flames) reminds me of a series of books called, "The Boxcar Children," which my second grade teacher read to the class.

"Lou and Sue" said...

A very interesting place! Thank you, Major, for all the fun pictures and information about Stone Mountain. I knew about the bas-relief sculpture in the mountainside, but not about the scenic railroad and everything around it.

I do see a lot of Disneyland's influence on this vacation spot:

They both have a mountain, scenic railroad, burning building, indian camp, Chief Wavey, "small" western town, person shot with arrow, and more. No princesses, though.

Thanks for today's mega-post, Major!


"Lou and Sue" said...

Oh, TokyoMagic! You beat me to it! :)


JC Shannon said...

What great photos. Where does the Major come up with these? It is a mystery. You gotta love attractions like this one. The amount of thought and work to make it. I had no idea that this place ever existed. Thanks for sharing these awesome scans.

Andrew said...

In the picture of the mountain, you can see one of the towers for the "Skyway" that carries visitors to its peak.

Anything in an attraction is better when it's on fire.

Thanks for the nice, long post today!

Pegleg Pete said...

Great pics today, Major. I rode the Stone Mountain scenic railroad when I was a child in the early '70s but I have only the dimmest memory of the ride and the show that unfolded. I went back to Stone Mountain last September when I was in Atlanta visiting my niece. On a beautiful hot Sunday morning we, along with seemingly half of the population of the city, hiked up the mountain. (Interestingly, despite the crowds hiking the mountain, the visitor facilties facing the carved face of the mountain were near empty.)

We didn't ride the train which circles the mountain, but it did pass us by at the start of our hike. The day we were there the train carriages were being pulled by a more modern 1930s style locomotive, which I thought made a nice change from the older locomotives.

Chuck said...

Who knew Wally West had a summer job as a theme park Indian?

Hotel Ringgold is presumably named after the last town the General passed through during the Great Locomotive Chase. You can see the actual General about 300 yds away from where it was stolen at the Smithsonian-affiliated Southern Museum of Civil War and Locomotive History in Kennesaw, Georgia. The Texas is on display at the Atlanta Cyclorama. The Yonah, having been scrapped, might be part of your everyday tableware.

Thanks for this side trip, Major!

Chuck said...

Oh, and based on its age and the size of its boiler, the Texas II is coal- or oil-fired. Roughly speaking, it takes abut 5,000 lbs of wood to heat the same amount of water as 2,000 lbs of coal; the weight savings as well as the rapid deforestation of the eastern US is what drove the transition to coal and later oil. In fact, the original General was converted to burn coal in the 1870s for economic reasons (and later converted to run on oil in 1959 as American railroads experienced the last gasps of mainline coal-fired steam).

I also forgot to mention - we went to see the nighttime laser show projected on the face of the mountain in 2002. It was pretty spectacular and included a segment that animated the figures on the sculpture to make them appear as though they were riding. My then-one-year-old son was more fascinated with the bigger kids running around with knock-off light sabers than the show itself, although the galloping horse projections grabbed his attention.

I also remember when it was over it took us an hour to find the car since we had neglected to note exactly where we had parked on the winding roads through the property. A nice young man in a golf cart drove my wife, the toddler and I around until we finally found the blasted thing.


The unbuilt 1990’s DISNEY’S AMERICA was to feature a railroad around the park - like Disneyland and Walt Disney World. 5 locomotives were to be built all based on 1840’s through 1850’s prototypes . Two on the locomotives were to be based on the Rogers Locomotive Works 4-4-0 YONAH ( mentioned in today’s post). The YONAH was built in 1849 for the Western & Atlantic R.R. - the Railroad the Great Locomotive Chase occurred on. YONAH means “bear” in Cherokee. While the Yonah’s design and her sister the AMENIA ( of the Mohawk & Hudson Valley RR) would be the basis for two of DISNEYS AMERICA trains the names would have been INDEPENDENCE and FORTITUDE. Other locomotives included ENTERPRISE and FREEDOM ( based on 1850 GLOBE LOCOMOTIVE WORKS 4-4-0’s) and another 4-4-0 based on a 1850 LOWELL LOCOMOTIVE SHOP 4-4-0 engine called the Croton - who’s Disney’s America name seems to have been undetermined at the time of the park’s development. “ Oh the things that might have been”

The western town in todays images has a creepy look to it.


Ok I stand corrected: the 5th locomotive of the DISNEY’S AMERICA RR has two working names “INVENTION” and “INGENUITY” . The 4-4-0 numbers refers to the engine’s wheel arrangements 4 pilot wheels ( the small wheels behind the “cow catcher”) , 4 driver wheels ( the large wheels in the center of the loco) and 0 ( no wheels under the cab). The 4-4-0 was the most popular type locomotive in history and was developed in the late 1830’s in America and is known world-wide as an AMERICAN. The CK HOLIDAY and the EP RIPLEY at Disneyland are 4-4-0’s of 1870’s and 1880’s styles respectively.

zach said...

I'm interested in anything railroad, scenic or not. Thanks, Major, for all the effort that went into this post and everyone for the information.

After all the mayhem I'm gonna need a Coca Cola from the pharmacy.


Major Pepperidge said...

Nanook, I’m sure it actually was a lot of fun for the guests, even though some aspects haven’t dated so well over the past 50+ years.

TokyoMagic!, I remember reading one “Boxcar Children” book to my niece when she was very young. For some reason the only thing that really has stuck in my head is that there was a nearby stream where there was a little waterfall, and the kids could keep their perishables in a cool area behind the cascade. I think kids love the idea of living without having to depend on grownups!

Lou and Sue, I always enjoy finding photos of an amusement park or tourist attraction that I’m unfamiliar with; it’s kind of fun to do the research, though it can also be surprisingly difficult for some more obscure places that have been gone for decades.

Jonathan, these were just in a random box of slides, I used to buy those before the prices went crazy. You never knew what you’d find!

Andrew, oh yeah, I forgot to mention the aerial tram!

Pegleg Pete, sounds like you would have probably seen a very similar show to what is seen in today’s photos. I’m surprised so many people chose to hike up the mountain rather than take the tramway, but good for them! Get that blood pumping, those corpuscles moving. I wish you had gone for a ride on the train, I couldn’t determine if there was still some sort of “Indian Attack” show, or some other entertainment for the 2000’s. Wikipedia has a photo with a more 1930’s or 1940’s style locomotive, definitely diesel rather than steam.

Chuck, who is Wally West?! Is he James West’s no-good younger brother? I sure didn’t know that Ringgold was the last town the General passed through. I thought it was just a beer. I’ll bet that Southern Museum of Civil War (etc) is pretty cool, especially if it is affiliated with the Smithsonian. Do you have any idea how painful it is to have your Yonah scrapped?!

Chuck II, I figured it was more likely that the Texas II was filed by coal or oil, but you can see that stack of darkened wood so that it looks like they use wood. 5000 pounds of wood, holy moly. Who needs trees, anyway? Freeloaders! Very fun that you took your son to see the laser show at the mountain; I guess you can’t expect a one-year-old to have much of an attention span. I would have been distracted by the big kids with light sabers too! Speaking of laser shows, many years ago I finally decided I needed to see the “Laserium” show at the Griffith Observatory, a classic. They played “Dark Side of the Moon” by Pink Floyd while we all watched the very primitive (but still fun) laser effects on the overhead dome. But we didn’t do any controlled substances because I am a good boy.

Mike Cozart, I remember the plans for “Disney’s America” (at least the very basic plans that I was aware of at the time), and while it is always fun to think about any unbuilt Disney park, I can’t help wondering how popular it would be. After all, this was around the same time they built Disney’s California Adventure on a shoestring budget, and we all know how that went. I do love the thought of all those locomotives! Guess the days of buying a genuine antique train engine and restoring it (like the Fred Gurley and the Ernest S. Marsh) are over. I’ll have to do some research to see what else “Disney’s America” would have offered. Thank you as always for all of that amazing information!

Mike Cozart, looking on Wikipedia, it says that after the Virginia version of the park was abandoned, Disney considered buying Knott’s Berry Farm (when the Knott family had decided to sell it) and retheming it. Thank goodness that didn’t happen! I wonder if they would have torn down things like the Calico Mine Train and the Log Ride, or if they would have incorporated them into their new theme?

DKoren said...

These are awesome. I would love to have gone here and seen that show. I particularly love the pandemonium shot.

Dean Finder said...

Stone Mountain: America's most appropriately-named mountain

I don't think there are any more old steam locomotives that are available for purchase and restoration. They're either owned by a museum, park, or collector's group, or so far gone that they can't be returned to operating condition. Several tourist operations run recently-built Chinese steam locomotives, since manufacturers were still building steam locomotives through the 1990s.
I'd also guess Disney would rather build a set of new locomotives for any new projects so they'd all have the same parts and could be maintained a lot more easily.

Irene said...

I had never heard of this place! Fascinating. I discovered the Boxcar Children series when my daughter was in 2nd Grade also. We both fell in love with them and read as many as could lay our hands on! I would love to know what they are doing now at this place considering so much of it is now un PC!!!

Chuck said...

Wally West is Barry Allen's nephew.

Not ringing a bell? Sorry, I forgot your tribal name - Not A Comic Book Guy.

Wally West was Kid Flash, and later took on the mantle of the Flash when Barry Allen was killed saving the planet from an antimatter cannon in the landmark Crisis on Infinite Earths comic series in 1985. But now Barry Allen is alive again and some sort of something in a new continuity and I don't know because I lost interest in 1993. The emblem on the "Indians'" tunics looks a lot like a reversed version of the emblem on the Flash's iconic costume.

Irene, while we didn't see anything but the nighttime laser show when I visited, they did have a large, walk-through town that was themed to 19th Century Georgia, with shops and I think some living history displays like a mill - sort of a Southern version of Knott's before the coasters and without the Bud Hurlbut rides or a sea lion pool. Wish we'd had a chance to see it, too, but we'd spent the day with my dad (who was working - two weeks at a time - as an airline pilot instructor out of Marietta) seeing his workplace and visiting the Atlanta Cyclorama.

Warren Nielsen said...

"Lou and Sue" mentioned

"They both have a mountain, scenic railroad, burning building, indian camp, Chief Wavey, "small" western town, person shot with arrow, and more. No princesses, though."

No Wookies or Imperial stormtroopers either, thank goodness for that.

Neat pictures today, Major. Thanks for sharing.


Major Pepperidge said...

DKoren, I agree, a lot of these kinds of smaller regional tourist attractions look like they would have been a great thing to do!

Dean Finder, yeah, that makes sense, it’s not like in the 1940’s and 50’s when those old locomotives were only just being phased out in some parts of the U.S. (and Mexico, in the case of Walt Disney World). The Ernest S. Marsh was built in 1925, so it isn’t a relic of the 1800’s like we might imagine! I didn’t know that the Chinese still used steam locomotives as recently as the 1990’s, that’s interesting. And yes, it would probably be better in general to start with all new components if the trains are going to run day after day, mile after mile, year after year, possibly for decades.

Irene, I was aware of the monument, but not the Stone Mountain RR, or the attraction that accompanied it. I still can’t quite figure out if there is anything to see, of if visitors today just get a nice train ride. How many “Boxcar Children” books are there? I’ll have to look it up.

Chuck, ah, OK! One of my best friends grew up with comics (mostly Marvel in his case), and I was always kind of jealous that he had that experience as a child, and knowledge as an adult. Many of the Marvel characters were just names to me. Another friend who worked at Disney surprised me years ago when he said that Thor was his favorite comic character. This was long before the Chris Hemsworth version, and I thought it was just weird. “Really? Thor??”. But now I really like that character, or the movie version anyway. Your dad’s job sounds like one that would have been worthy of bragging about to schoolmates.

Warren Nielsen, funny, I thought the same thing! Although, a side thought, I’ll bet they could make that train ride extra fun for Halloween. Put in an “Aliens have landed” theme on top of the usual cowboys and Indians thing. Pump in lots of fog and play scary alien noises!

Melissa said...

I met Solon Borglum's son once. He was a bit gruff, but he seemed pleased that I was familiar with his father's work and not just his uncle's.

I also read The Boxcar Children as a kid; I hadn't thought about them in years!

Unknown said...

Mr. War-bonnet better watch out because Mr. Camera-Man is gonna shoot him!!

Really cool views, Major 🙂


Anonymous said...

Major, and all the commenters, thank you for this huge post. I learned a great deal from both the post and the comments.

My kids read the Boxcar Children in school, I had never heard of the stories. Alas, I did not read any while they were in the house. I don't know if we kept any of the books.

It's good to see that the park had Scottish food available. Nothing like a bite of haggis and a slosh of good uisge-beatha to set you up for a day sightseeing.