The Watauga Valley Railroad Historical Society and Museum announces its Autumn Leaf Excursion, which will be held Saturday, Oct. 6, and will travel through the Scenic Hiawassee River Gorge in East Tennessee.
Mike Tilley, president of the WVRHS&N, noting the popularity of the train excursion said over 1,200 people were turned away for the Summer 2012 Excursion because all the seating was sold out. “Because so many people did not have a chance to take the summer trip, we are offering the autumn excursion. We found out this summer that it is unbelievable just how many people from our area want to ride a train,” Tilley said.
Tilley noted that the fall excursion will be the first opportunity to operate a train during the fall colors through one of the most colorful river gorges in the United States — along the Hiawassee River. The rail trip will take a 50-mile ride, 3-1/2-hour round trip along the beautiful to the famous Hiawassee Loop, featuring some of the most scenic autumn color in East Tennessee.
Special features of the excursion will be traveling through the Narrows, where the Hiawassee River flows through rock channels and the Bald Mountain Loop. The track actually passes over itself during a corkscrew climb up the mountain near Farner, Tn., over a high trestle. Tracks along this route parallel the river for most of its length providing views of the lower gorge.
Tilley said the excursion will provide a very unique opportunity to ride on the historic railroad on which regular scheduled passenger trains operated until 1968. The late freight train traveled over the Old Line in 2001. The railroad was originally built to haul ore from the copper mines in Copper Hill, Tenn. The Tennessee Overhill Association took over ownership of the rail line in 2004.
The train is general seating and features comfortable cushioned seats with large windows. Historic 1950’s-era diesel locomotives will pull the vintage enclosed climate controlled coaches. Passengers will be asked to move from one side of the aisle to the other before the return trip to ensure that every passenger will be able to view all the scenery in secluded areas along the line.
The trip will begin in downtown Johnson City at 7:15 a.m. on the morning of October 6 at the Big Burley parking lot at the corner of Legion and State of Franklin Road, where passengers will board a motor coach to Etowah, Tenn. Passengers will also be picked up in Greeneville and Morristown.
Lunch will be on your own before boarding the train at 12:45 p.m. with the train departing at 1:15 p.m. and arriving back in Etowah at 4:15 p.m. The motor coach will depart Etowah at 4:30 p.m., with expected arrival back into Johnson City at 8:15 p.m.
Ticket cost is $85 per person. Meals are not included. Ticket includes train ride and motor coach to and from Etowah.
To order tickets, enclose your check or money order (sorry cash or credit cards not accepted) along with the number of tickets. Send check to Autumn Leaf 2012 Rail Excursion, Watauga Valley Chapter NRHS, P.O. Box 432, Johnson City, TN 37605-0432.
You can also go online where there is a printable order form at www.wataugavalleynrhs. org — click on excursion trips. Please mark on your order form whether you’re loading in Johnson City, Greeneville or Morristown on the motor coach. For questions about the trip e-mail wataugavalley@embarqmail. com or phone the chapter ticket office at (423) 753-5797.