The Untold Story of Dollywood’s Third Train, Hidden in Plain Sight

No. 107 the slow and easy at the dollywood ticket center

Everyone is familiar with Dollywood's two iconic park trains: Cinderella and Klondike Kate – but few are familiar with Dollywood's lesser known third train: Engine 107 (photos by Bill Burris/TheSmokies.com)

You’ve probably driven past it a hundred times and never thought a thing about it. This is the untold story of Dollywood’s third historic train: The Slow Poke and Easy

For most people in Tennessee, the community of Vestal in South Knox County isn’t on the way to anywhere. But for me, growing up in nearby Blount County, Vestal was famous for a couple of reasons. For instance, it was the closest place where we could cross from Blount County, which was dry, to Knox County which allowed alcohol sales. So, everyone knew what a trip to Vestal meant. It was also home to the King Tut Grill, a rare Arabic eatery owned by an Egyptian couple for about 30 years.

But long before I ever set foot in what was a pretty rundown, forgotten community, Vestal had another life. It was the home base of a famous regional train called the Slow Poke and Easy. The train ferried travelers from South Knoxville to Sevierville through Boyd’s Creek Valley in a scant two hours. 

In the days before hundreds of drivers daily made the trek from South Knoxville to Sevierville via Chapman Highway, there was a train that ran a similar route. Though the tracks are long gone, you can still visit that locomotive today at the Dollywood ticket center. 

the slow and easy train at the sevierville station in the early 1900s
The Slow Poke and Easy was a valuable travel resource in the early 1900s (public domain)

The Slow Poke and Easy

Writing for the Sevier County Chamber of Commerce, Carroll McMahan tells the story of the railroad. It was approved overwhelmingly via a special election in December of 1907. Just three years later, a variety of dignitaries celebrated the completion of the project with a special train drawn by the engine S. B. Lutrell, which was met by an excited crowd of more than 600.  McMahan says stops along the route included Pitner’s, Oak City, Burnett’s Klondyke, Boyd’s Creek, McMahan’s, Ewing and Revilo. Interestingly, Revilo was the last name of the owner of the construction company, William Oliver, spelled backward. Oliver announced plans to extend the railroad up through Pigeon Forge to Gatlinburg and up to the state line.

McMahan says McCookville station – two miles south of Pigeon Forge – is as far as they got. The Slow Poke and Easy is sometimes called the Slow and Easy, which sounds like a Tina Turner Song. The train never took off the way they’d hoped in 1907.

The Dollywood Train Slow and Easy
The Slow and Easy was eventually moved for display to Rebel Railroad in Pigeon Forge (photo by Bill Burris/TheSmokies.com)

What happened to the train?

Well, it was kind of a niche service, wasn’t it? Demand for the line was barely enough to keep it afloat and the railroad changed hands several times. The McCookville line was useful for hauling timber and ore. Also, the train was helpful for the construction of Douglas Dam during World War II. But times were changing. Post-war, with the arrival of cars that could make the journey quickly whilst avoiding the hassle of transportation to and from the stations, demand for passenger rail plummeted. By 1950, the railroad ceased passenger travel. Also, in 1961, the railroad stopped hauling freight.

It also marked the opening of the Pigeon Forge theme park called Rebel Road owned by the Robbins brothers from Blowing Rock, North Carolina. The theme park would become Goldrush Junction, then Silver Dollar City and finally Dollywood. And it bought one of the locomotives, Steam Locomotive #107 to be precise, to be used for static display. 

Side View of the Dollywood Train
The train has been on display along the Parkway since the days of Rebel Railroad (photo by Bill Burris/TheSmokies.com)

Where to see the train today

Southern Railway 107 as it is known, was built in 1887. It was put into service on the East Tennessee, Virginia & Georgia Railroad as #419. When the ETV&G merged with the Southern Railway, it was renamed the 107. It made its way to what was then known as the Smoky Mountain Railroad in time to help with the TVA’s Douglas Dam project. In 1954 – at nearly 70 years old – the train was replaced by diesel and was among several sent out to pasture.

However, the arrival of Rebel Railroad saved the day and the train was put on display to advertise the park. It still serves in that job today. Though many sites claim you can see the train today at the entrance to Dollywood, that’s not quite correct. No. 107, which has its connections to the old Slow and Easy line sits just outside the park at the Dollywood Parkway Building – the old ticket center right at the intersection of the Parkway and Dollywood Lane.  

the slow and easy train at the dollywood ticket center
No. 107 now sits at the Dollywood Parkway Building – the old ticket center right at the intersection of the Parkway and Dollywood Lane, hidden in plain sight (photo by Bill Burris/TheSmokies.com)

In the days before cars were king, transportation across mountain communities could be difficult. The Slow and Easy line was designed to connect smaller communities that would be mostly lost to time – like Vestal. It served an important purpose in the construction of Douglas Dam. But it then bowed out as cars could carry passengers and truck freight much more efficiently and cost-effectively. 

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