9:35 a.m. May 26, 2012
Experience a train ride into river gorges, through historic tunnels, and along some of the most beautiful landscapes in America
By Jeaneane Payne
The Great Smoky Mountains Railroad will take you on a memorable journey through a remote and beautiful corner of North Carolina. Ride into river gorges, across valleys, and through tunnels carved out of majestic mountains. Image courtesy of Great Smoky Mountains Railroad.
From Bryson City, North Carolina
With 53 miles of track, two tunnels and 25 bridges, the Great Smoky Mountains Railroad will take you on a memorable journey through a remote and beautiful corner of North Carolina. Ride into river gorges, across valleys, and through tunnels carved out of majestic mountains.
The Railroad offers a variety of scenic, round-trip excursions departing from Bryson City. Trips range from 3-1/2 hours to a full day of fun and adventure.
The Nantahala Gorge Excursion carries you 44 miles to the Nantahala Gorge and back again. Travel the Little Tennessee and Nantahala Rivers across Fontana Lake and into the magic of the Nantahala Gorge.
The Tuckasegee River Excursion travels 32-mile roundtrip along the Tuckasegee River through old railroad towns and scenic meadows. Specialty excursions include Special Event Dinner Trains, Peanuts™ The Easter Beagle Express, The Lone Ranger™, Railfest, Peanuts™ The Great Pumpkin Patch Express, and The Polar Express™.
The Great Smoky Mountains Railroad will take you on a journey through the Carolina Mountains and some of the most beautiful landscapes in America. The Carolina Mountains border the entire western edge of North Carolina, comprising some 52 percent of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. The region also includes the southern crest of the Blue Ridge Mountains, Pisgah, Cherokee, and Nantahala National Forests. Hundreds of years ago, glacial and volcanic movement left etchings still visible on the land. In more recent times, roads and flood controls have opened the area to commerce and tourism. Early in the 20th century, the railway played a major part of the story of the development of the region.
As you ride through the mountains, keep your eyes open! There are 125 varieties of trees in Western North Carolina, including hemlock, yellow buckeye, umbrella magnolia, oak, birch, sugar maple, mountain ash, Fraser fir, and short needle pine. Wild blackberries and blueberries are abundant in their seasons. In spring the mountains are alive with dogwood, redbud, flame azaleas, and mountain laurel blooms. The coming of summer features rosebay rhododendron and an almost endless variety of wildflowers.
All excursions depart from Bryson City at 226 Everett Street, Bryson City, NC 28713.
For more information on Great Smoky Mountains Railroad, please visit www.gsmr.com or
From Chattanooga, Tennessee
If you have been waiting to ride a train behind a century-old steam locomotive, here is your chance. From Chattanooga, TN, Tennessee Valley Railroad offers Missionary Ridge local trips which take passengers along one of the original railroad lines in Chattanooga, crossing four bridges and passing through pre-Civil War Missionary Ridge Tunnel, which was completed in 1858 and on the National Register of Historic Places.
The train stops at East Chattanooga, allowing riders to see the locomotive rotating on a turntable and participate in a tour into the railroad restoration shop before re-boarding for the return trip. Round trip time is slightly less than an hour.
Tickets are $16 for adults and $10 for children age 3-12. There is no charge for children age 2 and under. Tickets are purchased as walk-up only on the day of the trip. The boarding location is Grand Junction Station, 4119 Cromwell Rd, Chattanooga, TN 37421. Missionary Ridge trips are daily through October except on Mondays.
Prefer a dinner train ride?
On the second Saturday of most months (May through September), the Tennessee Valley Railroad offers a trip which includes a three-course dining experience on board a restored 1924 dining car. Excursion trains depart from Chattanooga's Grand Junction Station in the evening, traveling at a leisurely pace through portions of urban East Chattanooga before reversing direction and retuning to Grand Junction. (Depart times vary from 5:30 to 8:00 depending on trip selected.)
The travel time is just right for the complete meal on a vintage dining car. You may select, for example, an entrée of carved English roast of beef topped in a Madeira sauce, herb roasted stuffed breast of chicken with a Cumberland sauce, or crusted filet of salmon with a lemon caper butter sauce. Other savory items include tomato bisque with creme fraiche and chives, homemade mashed potatoes, medley of vegetables, and assorted bread and butter. Beverages include water, coffee, or iced tea. Choice of dessert includes triple chocolate cake with ice cream and fudge sauce, apple pie with ice cream and caramel sauce, or cheesecake with strawberries.
Tickets for the excursion and dinner start at $56 per person.
For more information on Tennessee Valley Railroad, please visit www.tvrail.com or call