All Aboard: Tickets On Sale Now for Spring Rail Tour | Sunday stories
BRYSON CITY, NC — If you love trains and mountain scenery, it’s time to book your ticket for this spring’s Great Smoky Mountains Rail Tour. Tickets for the April 30 adventure are expected to sell out quickly.
The Watauga Valley Railroad Historical Society and Museum sponsors the Great Smoky Mountains Railroad Day Trip, offering train enthusiasts the opportunity to celebrate and enjoy the beauty of spring while riding on the tracks in vintage passenger carriages.
The scenic train tour takes passengers from the historic Bryson City, NC depot through the beautiful western NC countryside to the breathtaking Nantahala Gorge surrounded by the majestic Smoky Mountains , and back to Bryson City. The tour covers most of the operating routes of the Great Smoky Mountains Railroad. The track follows the route of the old Southern Railway Murphy Branch Line, established in 1891, with its 5% grade and many bridges. Much of the route runs along the banks of the Little Tennessee and Nantahala rivers. It crosses Lake Fontana on a trestle spanning 780 feet 100 feet above the lake.
Passengers can choose from first-class carriages, crown carriages, tour coaches, or open-top carriages. All classes offer seating in restored classic antique passenger cars. There are toilets throughout the train. First class carriages are air conditioned and have large windows and lounge car seats. Crown class cars also offer large windows and air conditioning for passenger comfort. Sightseeing coaches have ceiling fans and windows that open and close for fresh air views, while open-air coaches are great for taking photos and “experiencing” the ride and scenery.
The Great Smoky Mountains Railroad has become a favorite of movie producers over the years. The train wreckage scene in the 1993 film “The Fugitive,” starring Harrison Ford and Tommy Lee Jones, was filmed along the Great Smoky Mountain Railroad. The railroad was also used in the 1996 comedy, “My Fellow Americans,” when stars Jack Lemmon and James Garner stumbled upon a charter train full of UNC-Chapel Hill fans heading to the Final Four of the NCAA.
Transportation and parking
Bryson City is a town of 1,300 with more stop signs than red lights. It’s an easily walkable town with local bookstores, arts and crafts galleries with working artisans, a bike shop, two fly fishing shops, a fly fishing museum , a historical museum, an aquarium, a panoramic train, two brasseries and a surprising variety of restaurants.
Passengers have two options for arriving at the Bryson City train depot: they can take a tourist charter bus from Johnson City or go directly to Bryson City. Customers will need to select their departure point on the order form when purchasing tickets. Free parking is available in Johnson City and Bryson City.
Passengers who choose to travel to Bryson City by car will need to claim tickets and packed lunches, and visit the shops and Lionel Museum, between 10 a.m. and 11 a.m. and be ready to board the train at the Bryson depot City at 11 a.m. Passengers who choose to board the coach from Johnson City will need to board the tourist bus in Johnson City between 7:00am and 7:25am. It will depart for Bryson City at 7:30 a.m. Once there around 10 a.m., passengers will have approximately one hour to claim packed lunches (if pre-ordered), shop and visit the Lionel Railroad Museum before boarding the train at Bryson City Depot at 11 a.m.
The train leaves Bryson City at 12:01 p.m. and returns between 4:15 p.m. and 4:45 p.m. The Watauga Valley Railroad Historical Society & Museum assumes no responsibility for passengers who do not arrive at the Bryson depot on time. City.
After passengers have disembarked, those who have taken the coach will board their buses for the return trip. The group is expected to return to Johnson City around 7:30 p.m.
Ticket prices range from $94 for adults and $77 for children (ages 2-12) in the open-air coach to $170 for adults (21+ only) in first class, which includes a meal. Other passengers can pre-purchase packed lunches for trackside pickup, buy food from the car from onboard concessions, or pack a small cooler.
All pre-purchased tickets and meals must be ordered online by credit card at http://www.wataugavalleynrhs.org. Click on the excursions link. The excursion takes place rain or shine; every effort will be made to stay on time.
The Watauga Valley Railroad Museum is a non-profit educational organization. All proceeds from the events go to the Railway Museum and the Chuckey Depot Museum in Jonesborough. To learn more, visit the website or email [email protected].