The Tweetsie Railroad, Keeping Alive The History Of The ET&WNC
The Tweetsie Railroad, based in Blowing Rock, North Carolina
has been in continuous operation since 1957. Today, the railroad
operates on a three-mile section of narrow-gauge, which was constructed
for the Tweetsie's star locomotive, 4-6-0 #12, to operate on. The
locomotive is the last operating steamer of the East Tennessee and
Western North Carolina Railroad and the tourist line actually takes its
name from the nickname which was given to the ET&WNC by locals who,
becoming used to the steam locomotives'
high-pitched "tweet, tweet" whistle, dubbed the railroad the
"Tweetsie". Surprisingly, despite the fact that the little railroad
operates only three miles of track it
sees thousands of visitors annually (which can likely be partly
explained by the fact that the cities of Asheville, Winston-Salem, and
Charlotte are each only about 2 hours away).
While the ET&WNC operated a railroad of some 66 miles connecting Johnson City, Tennessee with Boone, North Carolina
the tourist line actually operates on no original ET&WNC trackage,
which was actually constructed from scratch. The ET&WNC gave up on
railroading in 1950 after increased competition by trucks and
automobiles and severe flooding in the 1940s eventually forced the
railroad into bankruptcy. However, the Tweetsie Railroad
tourist line continues to carry on the tradition of the long-gone
ET&WNC and today is a very popular tourist attraction in western North Carolina. Along with the train the railroad features an entire western town theme with plays and mock train robberies very common!
Today's Tweetsie Railroad is in a large part thanks to Grover
Robbins, Jr. who wished to see the East Tennessee & Western North
Carolina Railroad's #12 saved and preserved. Robbins had the locomotive
shipped to his hometown of Blowing Rock, North Carolina and received so
much fanfare upon returning home that then North Carolina Governor
Luther Hodges declared May 20, 1956 "Tweetsie Homecoming Day". After much work, a year later #12 was operating again by the
summer of 1957 in Blowing Rock, just a short drive from her old haunts
at Boone. North Carolina
railroading offers a wide variety of operations, found in few other
Southeastern states; from coastal and mountainous operations to
high-speed main line freight and passenger trains, including plenty of
local shortline services.
And, as Southern states typically go, North Carolina offers
spectacular scenery as a backdrop to railroading operations, whether you
are along the coast, in flatlands of the Piedmont or high in the Smoky Mountains.
The Tar Heel State also has a rich railroading heritage dating back to
the early 1830s and during its peak was home to no fewer than four
eastern Class I railroads with the highly profitable and respected
Atlantic Coast Line headquartered in its coastal and port city of
Wilmington until 1960. The Tweestie Railroad, of course, allows you to
see western North Carolina's mountain splendor behind one of two historic steam locomotives.
While the steam locomotives and railroad are certainly the main
attraction at the Tweetsie, they do offer other activities as well. The
train itself offers the "Wild West Train Adventure", which means that
you should plan to be robbed "Old West" style while on the train! However, the railroad also features live entertainment,
kids shows (feature Hopper and Porter™), magic shows, and the "Tweetsie
Country Clogging Jamboree"). As you have probably figured out, the
railroad is themed around the old west and is very much a family affair
so if you have kids it is a great venue for them. While #12 remains the star on the railroad it has since gained a
sister in White Pass & Yukon Railway #190, a 2-8-2.
For more information about the Tweetsie Railroad pleaseclick hereto visit their website. There, you can find everything they currently have to offer such as activities for the kids, pricing, when they are open and even things you can find nearby such as shopping and restaurants. If you would like to learn more about the history of the actual East Tennessee & Western North Carolina Railroad please click here. For more information about excursion trains like the Tweetsie Railroad you might want to consider the book Tourist Trains Guidebook, which is put together by the editors of Kalmbach Publishing's Trains
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