Monday, November 22, 2010

Before Kerr Lake - An Interesting History Lesson!

PenobscotPaddles post titled "The more things change..." inspired me to look into the history of Kerr Lake! And since I have a minor in history... it was a "natural" for me to do a little research into my region's history! ;-) BTW... Kerr Lake is located only a hour's drive from my house in Durham!

Twenty-nine years before the first shovel turned over dirt for the construction of the Kerr Dam and lake region in 1947...

John H. Kerr Dam and Lake in Mecklenburg County, Virginia.

... there was a train trestle that crossed Nutbush Creek in Vance County. A forest fire had scorched the bridge, but it appeared safe.

Train trestle over Nutbush Creek (circa 1918)

However, on March 27, 1918, Engine Number 2 train (Seaboard and Roanoke Railroad?) fell through the bridge. Two brothers on board were killed.

Engine Number 2 (circa 1918) So, an entire train lies submerged at Kerr Lake! It was also claimed that for years following the wreck, local picnickers would dive down and ring the submerged locomotive's bell!

I also located this posting from a Kerr Lake bulletin board...

"Our family owned a farm that had some land taken by the Corp to build the lake on Nutbush. My grandfather told me a story about that train 30 years ago. He saw it first hand. If I remember it right, what he said actually happened was the two brothers would stop the train at the bridge and one would walk across to other side then the second brother would set the train on automatic and get off and they let the train go over the bridge without anyone in it. When the train crossed the first man jumped up in and stopped it and waited for the second man to come over. He said they did this for years then a new bridge was built ( or repairs were made to the old one) and the very first time they tried going over it with both aboard it gave way. I think he also said for some years when the lake first flooded the last boxcar was very visible as it floated up some and could be seen in clear, low water conditions. I also thought it was on Little Nutbush, not Big Nutbush , but may have that part wrong."

Interesting history lesson. You never know what you may be paddling "over" in your kayak!

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  1. And I thought it was cool to see traces of old ships. Imagine looking through the water and seeing a train!

  2. I hope to paddle the Nutbush Creek area soon! Unfortunately, the submerged train wreck is in approximately 50-60 feet of muddy water that will make any glimpse of old Engine 2 very unlikely! :-(

  3. It's hard to believe they would have swum down that deep; or was the lake shallower then? My first name is Molly, I show up as Molly Parker on some sites including yours, Penobscotpaddles on others. I don't know why.
    Anyway, as always, I look forward to your next adventure!

  4. A little more on the train wreck. Historical accounts indicate that when the train crashed through the 80 foot high trestle, the locomotive, tender, and 3 cars were impaled in the mud. Portions of the train were visible under the water. I assume the water levels were much lower at the time of the accident - at least until the dam was constructed to form Kerr Lake - and that it would have been possible to swim down to the wreck. Currently, the wreck lies submerged in approximately 50 feet of water. A few years ago, two divers found the remains of the locomotive and one car. Thanks Molly!

  5. Wow. I enjoyed that story. I love learning about the historical aspects of Durham. And thats cool that you can paddle over it, haha. It reminds me of talking with the guys this summer about the history of the rock quarry.
    I hope yalls Thanksgiving was good (:
    See yah soon.

  6. Hi Monica! Yes. My family and I had a wonderful Thanksgiving! And I am sure you did too! Hopefully, I can still fit into my kayak! Thanks for stopping by Durhamblogger.

  7. My geneology quest brings me to you! I live on the land where the train once ran. Recently, the dog dug a twisted rail spike from underneath the house foundation. They say there's some weird bog that sucked that train down, too.

  8. This is the railway that is indicated in the story.


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