In sharing history of road names, I recently mentioned that Roberts Drive is named for Roswell Railroad engineer Isaac Roberts, better known as Ike. Roberts was born in Gaston County, North Carolina in 1853. He began working for the Atlanta and Charlotte Air Line Railroad in 1872. The railroad would later become Southern Railway.
During the late 1870s, he helped with construction of the Roswell Railroad, which went from the south side of the Chattahoochee River near Roswell to Chamblee. A bridge to take the railroad across the river was planned but never completed. Some records show the railroad was operational from 1880 until 1920, others say 1881 until 1921, and others indicate it continued operations through 1924. Whichever is correct, Roberts was the engineer for all those years.
Sometimes, Ike Roberts would act as both engineer and conductor. Other times, Pierce Sudderth was conductor. Hub Berry, a baggage handler for the railroad, boarded with the Roberts family. In 1900, the full Roberts household consisted of Ike Roberts, Nancy (Nannie) Turley Roberts, three daughters, Ike’s sister and her two children, his mother-in-law and three boarders. Their home was just across the road from the Roswell Station, in what was then known as Oak Grove.
Let me share a recollection of the first day the engine of the Roswell Railroad made its trip from Roswell to Chamblee. It was a chilly morning in early November 1880. A young boy named William Robert Warnock, 12 years old, eagerly anticipated the first run of Dinkey. Family and friends called William Robert by the name Billy Bob.
Dinkey was not a unique name for an engine, but one often given to similar small engines. The steam-driven freight and passenger train ran on a narrow-gauge track. The engine was later known as Buck or Old Buck, probably after the track was converted from narrow gauge to standard gauge.
Billy Bob walked from his home on Lawrenceville Road (now Mount Vernon Road) to the newly built Dunwoody Depot, along Chamblee Dunwoody Road, just north of the Cheek house, and waited for the train to arrive. As the engine pulled in front of the depot, Billy Bob saw Ike Roberts wearing his striped engineers cap.
Billy Bob had purchased a ticket to board the train, but many adults were ahead of him and the passenger car began to fill up. Engineer Roberts announced there was standing room only and Billy Bob began to worry that he wasn’t going to make it on the train. However, Roberts saw the boy, and having a lifelong love for trains himself, understood how Billy Bob felt and reached out his hand to help him aboard.
Billy Bob was among those who took a ride on Dinkey, the engine of the Roswell Railroad on the first day.
This story was passed down through the Warnock family and shared by Sidney B. Horne 100 years later. Horne was a writer for the Dunwoody Crier and his article The Day of the Dinkey appeared in the October 9, 1980 issue.