Bill Eldridge grew up within the shadows of the Monterey Depot. His father worked for the Tennessee Central Railway and his mom ran a little neighborhood store about a block from the depot.
The youngest of the three Eldridge boys, Bill even played on the famed 1951 Wildcat football team that only lost and tied one game during its season. After graduation, he got a job as a fireman with the railroad. As it turned out, Bill was the last fireman the Tennessee Central hired before they switched to Diesel engines.
One day, he was serving as fireman for Robert Dunn who was the longest serving engineer when he retired in 1965. He had served for 64 years. They had just left Emery Gap, near Harriman and were headed back to Monterey, when the old engineer asked Bill if he wanted to drive.
“It’s the only way you’ll learn,” Dunn told young Eldridge. The engineer assured him that he would be sitting right beside him.
Eldridge took the throttle, applied brakes and blew the whistle when needed. Going through bigger areas like Crossville and smaller ones like Campbell Station, they made it back to Monterey. It was an exciting adventure for Eldridge and he said, “That was my first and last time of engineering a train.”
Shortly after that, Eldridge left for the army. When he came back, he couldn’t find work around Monterey. He and his wife, Sue, whom he met when she was a waitress at the Cup & Saucer, left for factories in Indiana. After raising a family, they moved to Crossville to retire.