WV Railroad will sponsor fall train excursion to Smoky Mountains

Published 11:40 am Thursday, August 3, 2023

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The Watauga Valley Railroad Historical Society and Museum will sponsor a steam excursion on the Great Smoky Mountains Railroad Saturday, Sept. 16.
Those making the trip will ride the rails behind a steam engine in vintage passenger railroad cars.
The No. 1702 locomotive dates to 1943. The engine’s construction was an official commissioned WWII steam engine plan. It is one of the world’s largest engine class, and is one of two remaining in the United States. The one-day excursion will cover most 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. The excursion takes passengers from the historic depot in Bryson City, N.C., through the beautiful countryside of Western North Carolina, into the breathtaking Nantahala Gorge surrounded by the majestic Smokies, and back to Bryson City. 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.
Passengers ride in comfort in First Class, Crown Class, Tourist Coach, or open-air cars. All classes offer seating in classic antique restored passenger cars. There are restrooms throughout the train. First Class cars are climate-controlled and feature large windows and lounge-car seating. Crown Class cars offer large windows and climate control for passenger comfort, and Tourist Coach cars have ceiling fans and windows that open and close for fresh-air viewing. Open Air coach cars are great for picture-taking and experiencing the ride and scenery.
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 Gardner, 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.
Bryson City is a laid-back, non-touristy town of 1,300 with more stop signs than stoplights. It is an easily strollable town with local bookstores, arts and crafts galleries with working artisans, a bike shop, two fly fishing shops, a fly-fishing museum, an historical 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. [Information re lodging in the Bryson City area is available online.]
Passengers have two options for arrival at the Bryson City Train Depot: they may either ride a chartered tour bus out of Kingsport or Johnson City, Tenn., or drive directly to Bryson City, N.C., if that is more convenient.
The train will depart Bryson City at 12:01 p.m. and passengers will de-board in the time span of 4:15 to 4:45 p.m.
The motor coach will depart Kingsport at 6:45 a.m. and Johnson City at 7:30 a.m. and will arrive back in Kingsport at 7:30 p.m., and in Johnson City at 7:30 p.m.
Meal options include a box lunch for $14, concessions car choice, or bring your own.
Open air coach class ticket is $107 adults, $97 for children, two to 12. First Class ticket is $180 adult; Crown Class, $121 for adults and $98 for children, two to 12; Tourist Coach, $105 for adults, and $88 for children, two to 12.
More information and tickets can be obtained by visiting the website: www.wataugavalleyrnhs.org

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