New Blue Ridge Heritage Trail Historical Marker Installed at Tweetsie Railroad

Published Wednesday, October 21, 2015 at 11:00 am


Tweetsie Railroad is being recognized for its contributions to the history and culture of the region with the installation of a new Blue Ridge Heritage Trail historical marker.

The historical marker is one in a collection of 69 being placed as part of a Blue Ridge National Heritage Area Partnership initiative to attract and inform visitors about the variety of cultural heritage attractions in the area. The signs tell the story of the people and places that have shaped the distinctive heritage of the 25 westernmost counties in North Carolina.

The historical marker at Tweetsie Railroad highlights the park’s railroad history, a lineage that can be traced back nearly 150 years. “Tweetsie” was the nickname of the East Tennessee and Western North Carolina (ET&WNC) Railroad, which began service in 1881 from Johnson City, Tennessee, and ran to Boone, North Carolina until 1940. After the ET&WNC’s demise, Engine No. 12 — the railroad’s sole surviving steam locomotive — was briefly owned by movie star Gene Autry. In 1956, the locomotive was purchased by Grover Robbins, Jr., of Blowing Rock to become the centerpiece of North Carolina’s first theme park, and Tweetsie Railroad 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 since World War II.

“The Blue Ridge Heritage Trail signs are a visible way to help tell the story of the special places that have shaped the cultural heritage of our area,” said Tweetsie Railroad President Chris Robbins. “This will give our visitors an easily accessible way to learn more about the park’s history, and about what has made Tweetsie Railroad such a special place for generations of visitors.”

This year marks Tweetsie Railroad’s 59th season. Locomotive No. 12 is now meticulously maintained and listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Tweetsie Railroad is also the home of one of the only steam locomotive restoration shops left in existence. Generations of families and rail fans have traveled to the park over the years for a Wild West adventure that now includes amusement rides, live entertainment, an authentic Western town, gem mining, and the Deer Park Zoo.

Other notable establishments in the area that will receive a historical marker sign include Mast Farm Inn, Mast General Store, and Horn in the West/Hickory Ridge. In addition to the signs, the Trail will be enhanced with the installation of interactive kiosks in five North Carolina Welcome Centers, plus a map brochure and website to orient them to the region and learn more about each site.

The Blue Ridge Heritage Trail is a project of the Blue Ridge National Heritage Area Partnership, and is supported by Federal Highway Transportation Enhancement funding administered through the North Carolina Department of Transportation and Haywood County, N.C.

Tweetsie Railroad is open Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays through November 1. The 2015 season ends Sunday, November 1. The park’s Wild West themed hours are 9:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. The Ghost Train® Halloween Festival takes place Friday and Saturday nights from 7:30 p.m. to 11:30 p.m. Tickets and Golden Rail Season Passes are available at Opening day for Tweetsie’s 2016 season is April 8.

Tweetsie Railroad is located on U.S. Highway 321 between Boone and Blowing Rock, North Carolina. For more information about the 2015 season at Tweetsie Railroad, visit or call 877.TWEETSIE (877.893.3874). Find Tweetsie on Facebook at and Twitter and Instagram, @TweetsieRR.



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