History buffs and train enthusiasts are invited to unite for a weekend-long event to celebrate the golden age of the East Tennessee and Western North Carolina Railroad (ET&WNC), as well as Tweetsie Railroad’s historic, narrow gauge, steam locomotives on Saturday and Sunday, Aug. 24 and 25, 2019 at Tweetsie Railroad theme park.
“As we commemorate the 100th anniversary of the ET&WNC being extended to Boone, N.C. in 1919, locomotive No. 190 will pull an 1870s vintage coach car on non-stop trips around the mountain to recreate historic trains from the narrow-gauge ET&WNC Railroad,” said Cathy Robbins, director of marketing for Tweetsie Railroad. “Meanwhile, the No. 12 locomotive will pull a separate train taking riders on a Wild West adventure. Sunday morning is the only day each year when Tweetsie Railroad features a “doubleheader” as locomotives No. 12 and No. 190 are combined to pull the train. Railroad Heritage Weekend will also include special exhibits, demonstrations, and tours of the park’s unique on-site locomotive repair shop.”
Tweetsie Railroad’s rich history began with the creation of the ET&WNC in 1866. This line provided service from Johnson City, Tennessee, to the iron mines at Cranberry, North Carolina. This year marks a century since the tracks were extended to Boone, North Carolina, and the ET&WNC added passenger service and lumber freight. Most of the tracks to Boone were destroyed by a flood in 1940, but the railroad’s only surviving steam locomotive, Engine No. 12, which was purchased by Tweetsie Railroad in 1956. Just one year later on July 4, 1957, North Carolina’s first theme park opened. Engine No. 12 was built in 1917, celebrated its 100th birthday two years ago and is part of the National Historic Register.
Tweetsie Railroad purchased its second locomotive in 1960 from Alaska’s White Pass and Yukon Railway. At that time, Engine No. 190 was refurbished and began operating at the theme park along with No. 12. The two narrow gauge steam locomotives now take hundreds of thousands of Tweetsie Railroad visitors on a Wild West adventure each season.
During Railroad Heritage Weekend, visitors will have a rare opportunity to tour the original Tweetsie Railroad Locomotive Shop, where Engines No. 12 and No. 190 are carefully maintained for daily use. The Shop has become one of the few places in the country that restores, rebuilds and creates impossible-to-find parts for steam-powered locomotives. In the Shop, there is space large enough to house an entire engine and tender, and meticulous mechanics restore locomotives to operate better-than-new.
Railroad Heritage Weekend will also celebrate Blue Ridge Mountain culture that has survived through centuries of change. The Cherokee dancers and Tsa-La-Gi Touring Program will present shows at 11:00 a.m., 1:00 p.m. and 3:00 p.m. on Saturday, Aug. 24. Tweetsie Railroad’s Memorabilia Room will also be open so visitors can see real historic artifacts from the ET&WNC and North Carolina’s first theme park.
All Railroad Heritage Weekend activities are included in Tweetsie Railroad’s regular daily admission, with the exception of the special 1870s vintage coach car train, which will require a $5 donation per passenger to support ET&WNC Railroad restoration projects.
About Tweetsie Railroad
In 2019, Tweetsie Railroad’s daytime operations run Friday, April 5 through Sunday, October 27. Hours and dates vary; visit Tweetsie.com before planning your visit.
Daytime admission is $50 for adults, $32 for children (ages 3 to 12) and free for children 2 and under. Admission prices for Ghost Train and Tweetsie Christmas are $44 for adults and $38 for children.
Tweetsie Railroad is located on U.S. Highway 321 between Boone and Blowing Rock, North Carolina. For more information about Tweetsie Railroad, visit Tweetsie.com or call 877.TWEETSIE (877.898.3874).