Thursday, February 11, 2010

Jolt and Wiggle

Jamesville and Washington Railroad

Facetiously known as the "Jolt and Wiggle" or "Jolter and Wiggler" because of its bumpy ride, the Jamesville and Washington Railroad (J&W) and Lumber Co. was incorporated in 1869. When it was completed in 1885, it linked Washington (Beaufort Co., NC) on the Tar-Pamlico River and Jamesville (Martin Co., NC) on the Roanoke River, a distance of about 20 miles. The J&W was the first railroad to be built in Washington.

Built to haul lumber from Diamond City near Jamesville to the port at Washington, the small wood-burning engine, topped by a large triangular smoke stack, is said to have spent as much time off the track as on. In 1879, an Edgecombe paper wrote, "The Jamesville and Washington [Railroad] is having wrecks while the Williamston and Tarboro [Railroad] is still being argued about." In fact, no train ever ran from Williamston in Martin County to Tarboro in Edgecombe County.

After the Civil War, Jamesville made a comeback, largely due to the J&W. By 1870, the narrow gauge railroad was serving a large-scale timbering operation around the town. In 1889, Daniel Simmons' rejuvenated operation boasted of being the largest maker of wood shingles in the state, thanks in large part to the "Jolt and Wiggle."

Diamond City grew up around the logging camp and flourished for about 25 years before fading away.

This is a picture of a car and, behind it, an engine of the Jamesville and Washington Railroad. The picture was taken from the East Carolina University digital library. It is part of the Capt. Henry C. Bridgers Collection, Joyner Library, East Carolina University. []. It was dated Dec. 23, 1888.

In 1892, the J&W was sued by a customer of the railroad who was not named. According to the suit, the plaintiff, a citizen of Washington, NC, wanting to go to Edenton—which had no railroad— purchased a ticket (for $1) to travel to Jamesville on Sept. 7 and return to Washington on Sept. 9. The Plaintiff road the "Jolt and Wiggle" to Jamesville on the 7th and he went on to Edenton.

It so happened that on the 8th of September, soon after leaving Jamesville for Washington, the axle of the J&W's engine broke. When the plaintiff returned from Edenton to Jamesville on the 9th the railroad was unable to carry him on its road from Jamesville back to Washington, "as it had contracted to do." Therefore the passenger was suing the railroad for damages which he claimed were $500.

The allegation was that the railroad's " roadbed was in a bad, shackly, and ruinous condition; that defendant had but two engines, both of which were worn and in bad condition, one of them at that time being in the shops for repair, and not in a condition to be used; that the bad condition of defendant's roadbed had rattled the other one so as to cause the axle to break." The passenger claimed that this showed willful negligence by the railroad.

Of course the railroad denied the claim of negligence while admitting that the road was not in good condition. Further, the railroad claimed that "it was poor and struggling for existence, and that it was expending the whole earnings of the road, and more, in trying to keep it in good repair, and was not able to do so

The plaintiff did not received the $500 he sued for.

See for a picture of the Jamesville depot.

Washington, North Carolina By Louis Van Camp: 2000
Annual report of the Board of Railroad Commissioners of North ..., Volume 2
The Connector, Newsletter of The Tar River Connections Genealogical Society, Spring 2003

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