Sept. 3, 2013. Tweetsie Railroad will celebrate the golden age of steam locomotives and the park’s mountain heritage Sept. 7-8 during Railroad Heritage Weekend. This special event will give railroad enthusiasts and visitors of all ages the unique opportunity to get up close and personal with the operation of Tweetsie’s steam locomotives and learn about their interesting past, along with the rich history of mountain traditions and culture.
Railroad Heritage Weekend special activities include shop tours, historic documentaries, a memorabilia display, photo sessions, Cherokee dance performances and a unique opportunity to ride in the cab of one of the locomotives. Tweetsie is offering special pricing for the entire weekend: $50 for adults and $34 for children ages 3 through 12; children 2 and under are admitted free. This includes two fun-filled days at the park with train rides and access to special Heritage Weekend events.
The highlight of the weekend will be when the historic 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 exclusive train trip wil run Sept. 7-8 only, while the N0. 190 locomotive pulls a separate train taking riders on a Wild West adventure. On Sunday morning, Sept. 8, 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.
This year’s Railroad Heritage Weekend will include performances and demonstrations by Cherokee dancers from the Tsa-La-Gi Touring Program on Saturday, Sept. 7, providing a deeper glimpse into the area’s heritage. The Cherokee performances will take place at 11 a.m., 1 p.m., and 3 p.m. in the Tweetsie Pavilion and are open to all park guests.
Visitors will also have the opportunity to tour the famous Tweetsie Railroad Train Shop, where steam locomotives from across the nation are repaired and restored. The Tweetsie Train Shop staff is the best in the business and strives to keep historic locomotives in top condition. Railroad Heritage Weekend pass holders will have the opportunity to explore the special memorabilia display, which will showcase many rare artifacts and feature documentaries covering Tweetsie’s historic past. Only guests with a Railroad Heritage Weekend pass will have the opportunity to be a part of these exclusive activities.
Tweetsie’s history goes back well beyond 1957, when the theme park opened to the public. The original Tweetsie was known as the East Tennessee and 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 continued to Boone until a flood in 1940 destroyed most of the tracks. By 1960, the ramaining narrow-gauge portion of the line was abandoned. The railroad gained its familiar nickname Tweetsie from the sound of the whistles as they schoed off the mountains. The railroad’s sole surviving steam locomotive, No. 12, was purchased by Tweetsie Railroad in 1956 and North Carolina’s first theme park 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 Alasaka, where it had served the US Army’s 770th Railway Operating Battalion during World War II.
Tweetsie Railroad is open Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays Aug. 19 through Nov. 3. The 2013 season ends Sunday, Nov. 3. The park’s regular hours are 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. and from 7:30 p.m. to 11:30 p.m. during the Ghost Trail Halloween Festival. Tweetsie’s Ghost Train Halloween Festival will take place Friday and Saturday nights Sept. 27 through Nov. 2 when admission is $28 for children and adults. Children 2 and under are admitted free. Tickets and Golden Rail Season Passes are available at www.tweetsie.com.