Train enthusiasts, Blue Ridge Mountain lovers and history buffs will want to mark their calendars for Railroad Heritage Weekend at Tweetsie Railroad on August 27 and 28, 2016. This unique weekend-long event celebrates the history of Tweetsie Railroad and mountain culture, including special excursions on trains pulled by Tweetsie Railroad’s historic steam locomotives, tours of the park’s unique locomotive repair shop, and exhibits and demonstrations.
The highlight of Railroad Heritage Weekend for many railfans will be when the original locomotive No. 12 pulls the 1870s vintage coach car on non-stop trips around the mountain, recreating the historic trains of the narrow-gauge East Tennessee and Western North Carolina Railroad. This trip will run Saturday and Sunday, while the No. 190 locomotive pulls a separate train on a Wild West adventure. Sunday morning is the only day of the year when Tweetsie Railroad features a special doubleheader as both locomotives No. 12 and No. 190 combine to pull the train.
Tweetsie Railroad’s history dates back to 1866, when the East Tennessee and Western North Carolina Railroad (ET&WNC) was created. The line provided service from Johnson City, Tennessee, to the iron mines at Cranberry, North Carolina. Later, tracks were extended to Boone, North Carolina, and the ET&WNC added passenger service and logging hauls. It ran to Boone until a flood destroyed most of the tracks in 1940. The railroad’s sole surviving steam locomotive, engine No. 12, was purchased by Tweetsie Railroad in 1956, and North Carolina’s first theme park opened on July 4, 1957. Built in 1917, Engine No. 12 is now part of the National Historic Register.
In 1960, Tweetsie Railroad purchased engine No. 190 from Alaska’s White Pass and Yukon Railway and brought the vintage engine to be rebuilt and placed in operation with No. 12. Together, the coal-fired steam engines take thousands of visitors on a Wild West journey at Tweetsie Railroad each season.
Visitors will also get the rare opportunity to visit the Tweetsie Railroad Train Shop. Engines No. 12 and 190 are lovingly maintained for daily use at the Shop, which has become one of the few places in the country that rebuilds, restores and provides parts for steam-powered locomotives. The Train Shop creates its own parts, as it is now nearly impossible to find replacement components for steam locomotives. There is a space large enough to paint an entire engine and tender, and the mechanics are meticulous in the process to ensure the locomotives operate better-than-new.
As part of Railroad Heritage Weekend, Tweetsie Railroad will showcase mountain culture that has survived throughout the centuries. The Cherokee dancers and crafts from the Tsa-La-Gi Touring Program will present shows at 11:00 a.m., 1:00 p.m. and 3:00 p.m. on Saturday, August 27. Tweetsie Railroad will also open its Memorabilia Room to visitors, offering an opportunity to view historic artifacts from the ET&WNC and theme park’s long history.
North Carolina’s first theme park features exciting activities throughout the season, along with special events such as Railroad Heritage Weekend. Tweetsie Railroad’s steam locomotives depart regularly throughout the day, carrying passengers on a three-mile Wild West adventure through the Blue Ridge Mountains. Visitors can enjoy amusement rides and live performances throughout the park. Animal lovers will relish visiting with all the residents at the Deer Park Zoo, and those looking to strike it rich can spend some time panning for gold or mining for gems at Miner’s Mountain.
All Railroad Heritage Weekend activities are included in Tweetsie Railroad’s regular daily admission price with one exception: a $5 per passenger donation will be required to ride the special 1870s vintage coach car train. All donations go toward supporting East Tennessee and Western North Carolina Railroad restoration projects.
Tweetsie Railroad is open seven days a week from May 27 through August 21. The park returns to the weekend schedule from August 22 through October 30, including Labor Day Monday. The 2016 season ends Sunday, October 30. The park’s Wild West themed hours are 9:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. Daily admission to Tweetsie Railroad is $44 for adults and $28 for children ages 3 through 12. Children 2 and under are admitted free. The Ghost Train® Halloween Festival will take place Friday and Saturday nights September 23 through October 29 from 7:30 p.m. to 11:30 p.m., with an admission price of $36 for adults and children. Tickets and Golden Rail Season Passes are available at Tweetsie.com.
Tweetsie Railroad is located on U.S. Highway 321 between Boone and Blowing Rock, North Carolina. For more information about the 2016 season at Tweetsie Railroad, visit Tweetsie.com or call 877.TWEETSIE (877.893.3874). Find Tweetsie Railroad on Facebook at www.facebook.com/Tweetsie and Twitter and Instagram, @TweetsieRR.
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