The Tar Heel State has a history with trains that dates back to the
1830s and during the industry's heyday featured everything from coal
branch operations in the mountains (notably the Clinchfield Railroad) to
coastal operations to the east between Elizabeth City and the port city
of Wilmington. While all of North Carolina's excursion trains are
worth seeing if there was one tourist railroad in particular you should
visit it would be the Great Smoky Mountain Railroad (GMSR). The
railroad not only offer great scenery but guests also have the option of
choosing between several different excursions and packages, all in
climate-controlled and matching cars (their equipment is painted in a
beautiful dark maroon and yellow/orange livery. In any event, to learn
about all North Carolina train rides please read the information below
highlighting each operation.
The Charlotte Trolley looks to preserve the history of Charlotte's former interurban operations. The trolley operates on the weekend, Saturday and Sunday, and current has two cars operational.
Cherryville Model Railroad Club/Museum
This small organization is based inside the town of Cherryville's restored Seaboard Air Line depot. There is no cost to view their layouts housed inside although they do accept donations. The club normally operates on select days of the week.
Great Smoky Mountain Railroad
The Great Smoky Mountain Railroad based in Bryson City has been in operation since 1988 and uses tracks once owned by the venerable Southern Railway, which the company called its Murphy Branch. You can a train throughout the year although they also offer special events and trains as well, such as Thomas The Train and holiday festivities. The railroad is covered in more detail at the site.
National Railroad Museum And Hall Of Fame
This small museum is located at Hamlet inside the Seaboard Air Line's beautifully restored depot which dates back to 1900. It has been open since 1976 and tells the local railroad history via numerous exhibits, displays, and various other artifacts. The facility is normally open each weekend.
New Hope Valley Railway
The New Hope Valley Railway based in New Hill, North Carolina
operates on trackage originally built by the New Hope Valley Railroad,
later part of the Seaboard Air Line system. They currently have a
multitude of various diesel locomotive switchers they use to power their
trains along with one operable 0-4-0T steam locomotive.
North Carolina Transportation Museum
The North Carolina
Transportation Museum, located in Spencer, NC, is situated on the
former Southern Railway’s largest steam locomotive repair shops. Today
the museum sees tens of thousands annually and is housed in three of
the former shop buildings (currently); the Bob Julian Roundhouse, the
Flue Shop, and the Master Mechanics Shop. As part of the museum they
operate excursion trains on the museum grounds and is one of just two
locations in the United States to feature the live steam locomotive
version of Thomas the tank engine.
Old Rock School Railway Museum
This museum is located in Valdese and operated by the Piedmont & Western Railroad Club. They offer tours during the weekend of their extensive model layouts, by appointment only.
Smoky Mountain Trains
This small organization is located in Bryson City in the western part of the state, which is also home to the Great Smoky Mountain Railroad. The museum features an impressive collection of Lionel model trains and is open during select days of each week.
Wilmington Railroad Museum
The Wilmington Railroad Museum is located in the port of Wilmington near the coast. It first began in 1979 and in 1983 acquired the former Atlantic Coast Line freight depot, in which the organization is still housed today. They have several artifacts on-hand, a model train layout, as well as a small collection of rolling stock (this includes ACL 4-6-0 #250 built by Baldwin in 1910).
The Tweetsie Railroad, based in Blowing Rock, North Carolina
has been operating since 1957 and is based from the
historic East Tennessee & Western North Carolina Railroad, a classic narrow-gauge system which once served both its namesake states. Today,
they use three miles of narrow-gauge most often employing their, 4-6-0
"Ten wheeler", #12 to pull excursions. A further history of the railroad
can be found here at the site. Finally, for more reading about the original ET&WNC system please click here.
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Tourist Train Information