By Bailey Faulkner
In celebration of a landmark year for the region, the Blowing Rock Art & History Museum (BRAHM) is offering a unique opportunity to learn about one of the most transformative forces in the history of the High Country: the East Tennessee and Western North Carolina Railroad now lovingly known by visitors and locals as the Tweetsie Railroad. No. 12, the famous original engine nicknamed “Tweetsie” after its signature steam whistle call, will turn 100 years old this year, and BRAHM wants to commemorate the event by taking guests on a trip back through the 100 years that have changed and shaped the High Country.
BRAHM kicked off its “History of Tweetsie Railroad” series on April 8, opening a exhibition that traces the railroad’s history back to its opening in 1881. Although it halted narrow-gauge rail service in 1950, the railroad continued to be a site of importance in the High Country with the opening of its western theme park in 1957, making Tweetsie the Carolina’s first-ever theme park.
Since the exhibit’s opening, BRAHM curator Diana Cameron has given guests a behind-the-scenes look at Tweetsie’s over-century-long importance to the High Country. On April 18, Cameron lead a walkthrough of the Tweetsie exhibit, guiding guests through the museum’s galleries and afterwards hosting a conversation and Q&A session on the railroad.
This week, BRAHM will host “The Steel Rails that Opened the High Country,” a talk on the railroad led by speaker Johnny Graybeal, author of seven books on the East Tennessee and Western North Carolina Railroad. Completing a BS in history from Appalachian State University in 1985, Graybeal served as vice president of the East Tennessee & Western North Carolina Railroad Historical Society from 1992 – 1998 and as president from 1998 – 2014. The High Country native has also published the group’s bi-annual magazine, Every Time with No Complaint, each year since 2008. Now living in Lenior, Graybeal works as a historical advisor to Tweetsie Railroad and the Southeast Narrow Gauge & Short Line Museum in Newton, NC.
Graybeal’s “The Steel Rails that Opened the High Country” talk will take place at BRAHM on Thursday, April 27 from 11 p.m. to noon. There will be a $5 suggested donation, and locally-baked goods and coffee will be served by Boone’s Hatchet Coffee Company.
BRAHM’s Tweetsie exhibit will continue through July 23. If you would like more information on the Tweetsie exhibit and BRAHM, click here.
The Tweetsie exhibit will also be included in BRAHM’s upcoming Summer Exhibition Celebration on Thursday, May 4 from 5 – 7:30 p.m. The event will celebrate the opening of five summer exhibits at BRAHM, which include “Fire & Form: North Carolina Glass,” “History of Tweetsie Railroad,” “Inside Looking Out / Outside Looking In: Paintings by Ronna S. Harris,” “In the Evening West: Boone’s Revolutionary Drama” and The Alexander Community Gallery.
The Summer Exhibition Celebration will be free to guests and will provide hors d’oeuvres and live music. Sponsored by Bistro Roca of Blowing Rock, the event will also host a special beer tasting by Blowing Rock Brewing Company. A cash bar will also be available to guests during the event.
Don’t miss out on this chance to learn how Tweetsie and the East Tennessee and Western North Carolina Railroad shaped the High Country into what we know and love today!