Sept. 3, 2014. For one weekend only, North Carolina’s first theme park will pull out all the stops as it celebrates the golden age of steam railroading, featuring Tweetsie’s historic coal-fired steam locomotives. Tweetsie Railroad’s Railroad Heritage Weekend will take place on Sept. 6-7. All Railroad Heritage Weekend activities are included in Tweetsie’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 will go toward supporting the East Tennessee and Western North Carolina Historical Society’s restoration projects.
The highlight of the weekend for many guests will be when the original locomotive No. 12 pulls the 1870s vintage coach car on nonstop trips around the mountain, recreating the historic trains of the narrow-gauge East Tennessee and Western North Carolina Railroad. This exclusive train trip will run Sept. 7-8 only, while the No. 190 locomotive pulls a separate train, taking riders on Tweetsie’s famous Wild West adventure. On Sunday morning, Tweetsie will showcase a doubleheader, the only day of the year when locomotives No. 12 and No. 190 work together to pull the train on the Wild West train ride.
Guests will also have the opportunity to tour the famous Tweetsie Railroad Train Shop, where steam locomotives from across the nation are repaired and restored. Tweetsie’s skilled staff is among the best in the business and prides itself on helping keep historic locomotives in pristine condition. Other special activities taking place as part of the Railroad Heritage Weekend include historic documentaries, a memorabilia display and photo sessions. Also highlighting the weekend are Cherokee dancers and crafts from the Tsalagi Touring Program. The Cherokee performances will take place at 11 a.m., 1 p.m. and 3 p.m. in the Tweetsie Pavillion and are open to all park guests.
Tweetsie’s history goes back well beyond 1957, when the theme park opened to the public. The original Tweetsie was the nickname of the East Tennessee and the Western North Carolina (ET&WNC) Railroad. The line began service in 1881 from Johnson City, Tenn. to Cranberry, North Carolina. The railroad eventually expanded the line to Boone in 1919. Service to Boone continued until a flood in 1940 destroyed most of the tracks, By 1950, the remaining narrow-gauge portion of the line was abandoned. The railroad gained its familiar nickname, Tweetsie, from the sound of the whistles as they echoed off the mountains. The railroad’s sole surviving steam locomotive, engine No. 12, was purchased by Tweetsie Railroad in 1956 and North Carolina’s first theme park was opened on July 4, 1957. Engine No. 190, the Yukon Queen, joined No. 12 in 1960 after being purchased from the White Pass and Yukon Railway in Alaska, where it had served the U.S. Army’s 770th Railway Operating Battalion during World War II.
Tennessee Railroad is open Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays Aug. 18 through Nov. 2. The 2014 season ends Sunday, Nov. 3. The park’s regular hours are fro 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. and from 7:30 – 11:30 p.m. during the Ghost Train Halloween Festival. Daily admission to Tweetsie Railroad is $39 for adults and $26 for children ages 3-12. Children two and under are admitted free. Tweetsie’s Ghost Train Halloween Festival will take place Friday and Saturday nights, Sept. 16-Nov. 1 when admission is $31 for adults and children. Children under two are admitted free. Tickets and Golden Rail Season Passes are available at Tweetsie.
Tweetsie Railroad is located in the Blue Ridge Mountains on U.S. 321 between Boone and Blowing Rock, North Carolina. For more information about the 2014 season at Tweetsie Railroad visit tweetsie.com or call 877-TWEETSIE.