WVRHS will sponsor spring train excursion

Published 3:17 pm Friday, March 26, 2021

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The Watauga Valley Railroad Historical Society and Museum on May 16 will sponsor its Spring Excursion — a ride on the Great Smoky Mountains Railroad through the majestic mountains and beautiful countryside of western North Carolina from Bryson City, N.C. to Nantahala Gorge, N.C. The ride is a chance to enjoy a beautiful Spring train excursion after a long cold winter.
This one-day trip will cover a lot of the operating trackage of the Great Smoky Mountains Railroad.
The track follows the route of the former Southern Railway’s Murphy Branch Line, established in 1891, with its five percent grade and many bridges. Much of the route hugs the banks of the Little Tennessee and Nantahala Rivers. It crosses Fontana Lake on a trestle spanning 780 feet, 100 feet above the lake.
The Great Smoky Mountains Railroad has become a favorite of film producers over the years. The train wreck scene in the 1993 movie, The Fugitive, starring Harrison Ford and Tommy Lee Jones, was filmed along the Great Smoky Mountain Railroad. The railroad was used in the filming of the 1996 comedy, My Fellow Americans, starring Jack Lemmon and James Garner, when they stumble onto a charter train full of UNC-Chapel Hill fans headed for the NCAA Final Four. Train scenes in the 1998 movie, Forces of Nature, starring Ben Affleck and Sandra Bullock, were also filmed on the Great Smoky Mountains Railroad.
The scenic rail excursion will take passengers from the historic depot in Bryson City, N.C., through the countryside of Western North Carolina and the Smokies.
Upon arrival in Bryson City, N.C., passengers will have time to choose from several restaurants in town and visit the many shops. Bryson City is a laid back, non-touristy town of 1,300 with more stop signs than stoplights. It’s an easily strollable town with local bookstores and arts and crafts galleries with working artisans, a bike shop, two fly-fishing shops, a historical museum, a fly-fishing museum, an aquarium, a scenic train, two breweries, and a surprising variety of restaurants. Bryson City is only 10 miles from the famous Cherokee Indian Reservation.
All excursion ticket holders get complimentary admission to the Smoky Mountain Lionel Train Museum before boarding the train. The museum boasts a collection of 7,000 Lionel engines, cars and accessories, and an impressive operating layout and children’s activity center.
Once the train leaves Bryson City, passengers will see the Great Smoky Mountains to the right of the train. The track travels through Bryson City. Rising to Fontana Lake the train will follow the Little Tennessee River, cross the Fontana Lake Trestle, pass the Nantahala Outdoor Center, and enter the breathtaking Nantahala Gorge, following the shore line of the exciting Nantahala River. At the end of the gorge, we will trace the tracks back to Bryson City.
Passengers may choose to ride in comfort in Tourist Coach and Open-Air Coach. All classes offer seating in vintage, restored passenger cars. Tourist Coach Class cars feature ceiling fans and windows that open and close for fresh air viewing and is heated. Open Coach Class is great for taking pictures and seeing the beautiful scenery.
Passengers have several options for meals aboard the train, including a box lunch, or bring your own.
Tickets and pre-purchased meals may be ordered online by credit card at wataugavalleynrhs.org. Ticket purchases must be made no later than Thursday, May 6, at 6 p.m.

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