The New River Electric Railroad & Lighting Co was originally an electric interurban line built by a rural electric utility in 1894. Itís main line originally ran from its interchange point with Cumberland Southern Railway at Wheatstone Junction southeast thru Holeís Station, and Hill Valley, terminating at Whitfield. Box motors and steeple cabs handled freight trains over the line and large interurbans offered passenger service.
There was also a branch line built from Wheatstone Junction to Middletown. Small wooden electric street cars operated over this part of the line carrying miners from their homes in Middletown to the Calvin Coal Companyís mine in Wheatstone Junction.
The main line from Hill Valley to Whitfield was abandoned in 1914 after several bridges were lost in the 1913 flood. Fortunately, the main shops were in Hill Valley, so this was not a major impediment to operations, and in fact that part of the line had never made any money, anyway.
By 1940, the substations and related electrical infrastructure were in very bad shape, so the first diesel was ordered from Alco. It was an instant success, so an order for two more units was placed in July 1941, and the electrics were all put up for sale. By the fall of that year many of the better ones (a relative term, as by this time they were all pretty tired) had been sold and the scrap dealers were soon circling over what was left.
Everything changed in December of 1941 with the US entry into World War II. The order for the new diesels was never fulfilled, as the nationís industries soon converted to production of war priority items for the military.
Operation continued in 1941 and 1942 with the one new diesel unit, and a few remaining electrics that were pieced together from the remaining junkers out behind the shops. By late 1942, the increase in traffic, extreme age, and long overdue maintenance had pretty much done in the electrics and a deal was worked out with Cumberland Southern to borrow one of their locomotives for the duration of the war. This turned out to be an old and leaky 4-4-0, which proved to be something of a challenge to a railroad with no steam servicing facilities, and no steam experienced crews. The shop crews took care of their end of the deal by running it up to Clarksville Yard on the CSRY for coal and repairs. For watering, they initially used tanks cars, but after taking a look at Clinch Lumber Company's Shay, they soon rigged a steam driven pump and a suction hose which was dropped into the nearest creek. As far as the operating crews were concerned, they managed to survive with no major mishaps, although a lack of boiler explosions is probably attributable to a leaky boiler and incompetent firing more than anything else. Anyway, with the motive power situation improved, the overhead was removed from the mainline and the copper contributed to a scrap drive to help the war effort.
In the years after the war, additional small diesels were acquired. Among these are two S2ís from Alco, an S12 from Baldwin, two GE 70 tonners, and a baby Trainmaster from Fairbanks Morse. The branch line from Wheatstone Junction to Middletown is still under wire and small trolleys still run between the two towns, although in 1962 this is not a growth business by any means. Freight traffic makes up most of business on the main line, although some operate as mixed trains to serve what passenger business remains.