1911 marks the year that plans began on a new railroad line, which would be known as the Mt. Mitchell Railroad, running from Black Mountain to Mt. Mitchell.
Construction began in 1912 and the railroad officially opened on July 22, 1913. In 1915 the railroad fully opened for passengers to take the trip from Black Mountain to Mt. Mitchell for a ticket cost of $2.50 round trip.
The railroad stretched 21 miles beginning at the Mt. Mitchell Station—one mile east of downtown Black Mountain—and passed over both Rainbow and Lookout Mountain to Graybeard and Pinnacle mountains. This route resulted in a change of elevation of more than 3,500 feet.
C.A. Dickey and J.C. Campbell, owners of Dickey, Campbell & Company, one of the largest lumber producers in Western North Carolina, orchestrated the planning and construction of the railroad.
Dickey and Campbell owned the railroad until they sold it in 1915 in the largest lumber deal in NC history. The railway included nine switchbacks, three trestle bridges, extremely sharp curves, and steep grades—some over 5.25%.
The railroad was used primarily to harvest spruce and balsam timber off of Mt. Mitchell and the surrounding mountains. The Black Mountain Lumber Mill, one of the largest lumber mills in the state, could handle up to 110,000 feet of lumber a day.
Passenger railroad service ended in 1918 as more lumber was required for airplane construction during The Great War (WWI). It is estimated that the logging mill processed close to 300 million board feet of timber during its decade of operation. The railroad closed its operations in 1921.
The Trains, Timbers, & Tourists: The Story of the Mt. Mitchell Railroad exhibit is currently open at the PHC. The exhibit includes a N-scale model railroad (1:160), complete with model Shays to haul logging and passenger cars, showing the journey from Black Mountain to Mt. Mitchell. Come experience the journey of Black Mountain passengers and learn more facts about the history of the Mt. Mitchell Railroad at the PHC!