Public's help sought for book on railroad

Friday, July 8, 2011

A Cornersville man is asking for help from Chapel Hill residents for a book he is writing.

"I don't want the book to be done and Chapel Hill not represented," said Scotty Brock, recorder for the Town of Cornersville.

He's working on a book about the history of the "Lewisburg Line," the railroad line that runs from Nashville to Brentwood, all the way through Marshall County, and on into north Alabama. Construction on the line began in 1912, he reports, adding that the first trains passed through in Cornersville on July 15, 1914.

The line passed through all the small towns: College Grove, Chapel Hill, Lewisburg, Cornersville. Up until the mid 20th century, it carried both passengers and freight. People even commuted to work in Lewisburg by train. Sometime in the '40s trains stopped picking up passengers at the small stations, The last passenger train, Amtrak's "The Floridean" passed through in October 1979. The depots fell into disrepair and many were torn down in the '60s.

"They're all gone now," Brock said sadly. He has floor plans for all of them, and photographs of many, but he needs a picture of the depot in Chapel Hill, reiterating his desire to include Chapel Hill.

The only depot in Lincoln County, the one in Dellrose, suffered an unusual fate: it was destroyed in the '50s by a train that derailed there.

The country depots were wooden structures, but the station in Lewisburg was an imposing brick and stone building. It was still standing in March 1993 when it was used -- along with interiors of Fountain Square restaurant -- in the music video of Tim McGraw's "Memory Lane."

"There was a tremendous outcry to keep the Lewisburg station," Brock said. "There was a group monitoring it on a daily basis." He's looking for a woman who was checking on the station every day. It was fine one morning when she passed on her way to work, but when she came back in the evening it was gone. If Brock finds her, he'll find out what year the demolition happened.

Growing up in Lewisburg, Brock walked by the Lewisburg station every day on his way home from Connelly School and "never cared a thing about it...

"Putting pennies on the track is as close as I got to the railroad," he laughed.

Now, he's consumed with railroad history, and wants to make his book about the "Lewisburg Line" as comprehensive as possible.

"It's to recognize the railroad for the importance it had to this area, and to recognize the people who worked on the railroad," Brock said. "I'm just trying to document history."

Bill "Blossom" Ezell and Sharon Wright Lambert gave him some unique railroad photographs, including the one of the first northbound trains, which really piqued his interest.

His wife's grandfather, Bill Stewart, worked for the railroad, and it turns out that a lot of the older people living in Cornersville had parents or grandparents who worked for the railroad.

Brock got in touch with Cornersville history when he prepared "The History of Cornersville" for Settlers' Day in 2007, the 200th anniversary of settlements in that part of the county.

"Some of the best pictures are from peoples' old albums," he said. Brock has a light table at home, and when he gets an old photo, he takes a digital image of it, and returns the original.

He's looking for anything that documents the "Lewisburg Line," including photos, articles, memories. There'll be a "Memories" section in the book for written reminiscences. Already someone in San Antonio, Texas, has sent him three or four pages, but even three or four lines are fine.

"Type it up for me and I'll put it in the book," Brock said.

Right now, Brock is on the trail of a story about a man named Richardson who was a prisoner of war in World War II and came home to Marshall County on the train and was met in Lewisburg with a huge celebration. He's been through the microfilm archives of the newspaper, but now he's going to look again, hunting for this story.

Of course, anyone who knows that story can call Brock at 931-675-0404 or e-mail him at He'll be glad to hear from you, and promises to give credit for everything he uses.

Along with memories, pictures of depots, trains, and track gangs will all be welcome, and so will timetables for the period 1941-1960. Brock is grateful for help from local historians Don Jeter and Lynda Potts, and from Charles Castner, a former L & N employee who works in the University of Louisville library archives.

"I'm eager for the public to help out," he concluded. "I think it (the book) will be pretty popular. I'm getting a lot of positive feedback. The (CSX) railroad guys are excited to see what happened before they got there."