Doodlebug Railroad Memories
My Daddy and the Doodlebug

By David E. Guyton

February 21, 1880-April 16,1964, buried Blue Mountain Cemetery

From The Southern Sentinel, March 4, 1954

Blue Mountain, Miss., February27: The sudden and unanticipated elimination of the Little Rebel on my own birthday last Sunday, February 21, brings back many vivid recollections of the Doodlebug, of my father, Capt. J.J. Guyton [11Jan1840 NC-26Apr1919, buried Blue Mountain cemetery] and of Col. W.C. Falkner. My father served under Co. Falkner in the earlier months of the War between the States, remained his close personal friend till his death and served also as executor of the Falkner estate.

 Because of the close relationships between Capt. Guyton and Col. Falkner, the Doodlebug had particular attractions for me, especially since my boyhood ambition was to be a locomotive engineer. When I lost my sight in childhood, nothing about blindness hurt me so much as the fact that I could never run a locomotive and this ardent ambition will linger with me till the end with a hope that I may yet have an engine to run somewhere in the great beyond.

 My Daddy owned and operated a big plantation and plantation supply store [at Guyton, Miss.] two miles south of Blue Mountain and when Col. Falkner completed the Doodlebug to Pontotoc, Miss., Col. Falkner saw to it that Guyton, Miss. had a regular station rating with a sizeable and comfortable depot and with my Daddy, of course, as station agent along with being postmaster, merchant and planter with a business running deep into the hinterland in all directions.

 The Doodlebug at first, ran from Ripley, Miss., to Middleton, Tenn., a distance of 24 miles, making only three round-trips a week. It was a narrow-gauge railway and the tiny locomotive and coaches and freight and flat cars could not be shifted to the tracks of the old Memphis & Charleston R.R. at Middleton, making it necessary to transfer items of shipment at Middleton and later on at New Albany, Miss., when the Doodlebug crossed the Frisco R.R. The little steel rails were likewise tiny and all the bridges along the line were far from standard size and structure.

 The first two locomotives No. 1 and No. 3 were familiarly spoken of by everybody as Dolly and Tanglefoot. Dolly was a passenger type engine and Tanglefoot was a freight type with three little driving wheels on each side, hence the name Tanglefoot. These little engines naturally lacked power to pull long and heavily loaded trains and often on the steeper grades had to back up the track and take a fresh start to get over the grade ahead. All of the equipment, of course, belonged to the Doodlebug Line. Only a few little passenger cars were in service, but now and then, when some big excursion was run, such as a public hanging in Ripley, the little flat cars were turned into temporary passenger cars by having rough plank seat added with a brush arbor roof against the sunshine and showers of cinder.

 Col. Falkner hired convicts from the State of Mississippi to do a great deal of the construction work on the roadbed of the Doodlebug. I recall vividly how one of their convicts tried to escape and how he was shot down by Walter Ray of Blue Mountain less than a mile from my Daddy’s store. The convict was brought and placed under the protecting roof of my Daddy’s old fashioned cotton gin. Later he was taken to Blue Mountain where Mother Berry admitted him to her own home and where she saw that he was carefully nursed through a long spell of typhoid fever from which he died. This convict lies buried in the edge of the Blue Mountain Cemetery.

 After a while Dolly and Tanglefoot could not take care of the growing traffic and Col. Falkner purchased two larger second-hand locomotives No. 7 and No. 40. One of these was named the Col. W.C. Falkner and the other the Gen. M.P. Lowrey, Col. Falkner and Gen. Lowrey being close personal friends.   The No. 7 was one of the passenger type but the No. 40 was long and heavy and had three big drives on each side. After the death of Col. Falkner, the family purchased a brand-new, beautiful locomotive with air brakes, the No. 9, the pride of the Doodlebug till the gauge was widened [to]the standard size.

 C. Lee Cox of Ripley used to serve as a fireman on all of these Doodlebug engines. He and I were talking Friday of the way the locomotives used to be brought to Blue Mountain to the Big Lowrey & Berry water tank on the line to be washed out and made ready for better service. We all discussed the way the little locomotives had to be supplied with wood for fuel [a few words missing, perhaps—from a stop near Blue Moun]tain and another near Brownfield just below Middleton. Once in a while, when the wood supply in the tinder became too low to finish a run, the crew would get off on the side of the right-of-way and with axes kept for the purpose would cut up enough wood for the fuel needed for the rest of the run. Later, of course, coal was substituted for wood for fuel.

 Mr. Lee Cox’s father, Mr. Tom Cox and an uncle, Mr. John Cox, used to run these Doodlebug engines. Chesley Hines of Ripley lost his life near Falkner, Miss. [in 1878], while serving as an engineer, the only locomotive engineer, I believe, to die while on duty on the Doodlebug.

 Among these who were in service on the Doodlebug should be mentioned such conductors as Walter Harris, Sam Kidd, Claude Hines, and too many others to list in this limited little sketch. Capt. C.Lee Harris of Ripley, for years superintendent of the Doodlebug, played a large part in its success as did Mr. [A.E.] Davis who married, Miss Effie Falkner, one of the daughters of Col. Falkner. Capt. Harris moved to Memphis and lived there for some years before his death.

 One of the amusing features of the Doodlebug was the ambitious names for the line. The Gulf, Ship Island, Ripley and Kentucky R.R. used to be on the way-bill, I vividly recall. Later on, the Gulf & Chicago R.R. took the name though the Doodlebug was never nearer Chicago than Middleton, Tenn., and never nearer the Gulf of Mexico than Pontotoc, Miss. It was the ambition of Col. Falkner to build the shortest and most direct rail route between the Great Lakes and the Gulf of Mexico. This dream was largely carried out by Mr. I.B. Tigrett; but the story of the Gulf, Mobile & Northern and of the Gulf, Mobile & Ohio came much later in the evolution of this great railway system which must long remain a monument to Mr. Tigrett and his brave and successful adventures.

 We who knew and loved the Doodlebug all along the line from Middleton, Tenn., to Pontotoc, Miss., still cherish fond memories of those pioneer days. We love the Little Rebel, too, and we miss its familiar whistles and attractive appearance; but Col. W.C. Falkner and my Daddy, too, kept a warm spot always in their loyal hearts for the Doodlebug and the territory it traversed and served so well.

Other links to the history of Falkner's Railroad:

The Tanglefoot Trail

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Melissa McCoy-Bell
Tippah County MSGENWEB Coordinator

©  2011,  by Melissa McCoy-Bell.  All rights reserved.