AN AUTUMN RETURN TO TWEETSIE RAILROAD by Jack Turner
AN AUTUMN RETURN TO TWEETSIE RAILROAD By Jack M. Turner
The lure of
autumn leaves and crisp temperatures enticed my family to schedule our
almost annual visit to the Blue Ridge Mountains in October 2014 instead
of our usual summertime routine. A drive along the southern
stretch of the Blue Ridge Parkway would provide three hours of viewing
the changing leaves and our visit to the Boone, North Carolina area
would allow us to ride Tweetsie Railroad in a different time of year. Tweetsie
operates on autumn weekends as opposed to its daily summer schedule so
we had to coordinate our travels accordingly. Business was good
on the day of our visit and we enjoyed riding the steam powered train
on its three mile run three times while photographing several other
arrivals and departures throughout the day. Below is a photo essay showing engine # 12 and the Tweetsie train during our day-long visit.
Tweetsie Railroad engine # 12 is serviced between runs by its engine crew in late October 2014.
4-6-0 # 12 was built by Baldwin
Locomotive Works in 1917 and served the East Tennessee and Western
North Carolina Railroad for 33 years. During those years the
narrow gauge railroad linked Boone, NC and Johnson City, TN.
# 12 stands beside the water tank at the edge of the frontier town.
Departing town on a 3 mile journey around Miner’s Mountain.
Locomotive # 12 made its first
trip at Tweetsie Railroad in 1957. In 1961 former White Pass
& Yukon engine # 190 joined the Tweetsie family. Today # 12
generally can be found heading the train in cooler, less busy months
while # 190 normally operates during the summer season.
This view of the train starting its trip
with a steep grade can be enjoyed from the fence beside the show hall
near Tweetsie village.
The opposite side of the tracks offers this view of the train leaving town.
The rear of the train seen through the smoke as it begins another run.
On our second
ride around Miner’s Mountain, we discovered that the western show
featuring outlaws and lawmen used a different storyline than on our
prior ride. The same was true during the stop at Fort Boone where
more action took place at train side. After the trip we spoke
with one of the performers and we learned that the shows differ
throughout the day so that guests can enjoy a different storyline if
they ride the train more than once. We also learned that the
performers switch roles so that one of the bad guys in one show may be
a hero in another. Likewise there is some degree of improvisation
in the show which indeed does make it entertaining. Of course the
star of the show is the steam engine and we were delighted to ride
behind # 12, the lone surviving member of the East Tennessee &
Western North Carolina steam fleet. During our summer visits we
usually ride behind # 190 which came to Tweetsie off the White Pass
& Yukon in Alaska. On October weekend nights # 190 was
scheduled to pull the Tweetsie Ghost Train, a popular Halloween themed
ride. Alas # 190 was tucked away in the engine shop out of sight
of daytime visitors, its ghost-like decoration revealed only after dark.
Outlaws battle lawmen at an interlude during Tweetsie’s journey.
A rock cut is one of the scenic highlights of the three mile trip.
This vintage wooden coach, shown here at Tweetsie’s shops, still operates occasionally.
The frontier town is busy on a Friday in
late October. The park is open daily during the summer and on
weekends in autumn. A ski lift, ferris wheel, miniature race cars
and several other rides are located above the train in this picture
Number 12 begins another Tweetsie run in October 2014 as it has done for 57 years.
The towns of
Boone and Blowing Rock are separated by 7 miles with Tweetsie Railroad
located midway between the two. This is an excellent area to
spend a few days with ample things to see and do and a relaxed
The Holiday Inn Express hotel in Boone, NC is a five minute drive from
Tweetsie and offers comfortable rooms, spacious suites, and a relaxing
Mast General Store in Boone is popular for its selection of candies, clothing, and housewares.
An Andy Griffith Show automobile graces Main Street in Blowing Rock, NC in October 2014.
Driving the Blue
Ridge Parkway is a must during a visit to the area. The stretch
from Asheville to Boone is our favorite part and on this visit we drove
eastbound from Asheville to Linville then made separate drives between
Boone and Linville via the Linn Cove Viaduct as well as one foray to
the east to hike to The Cascades, a long steady waterfall known as a
“slide”. The 45 mph (maximum) speed limit and numerous scenic
overlooks invite visitors to enjoy a leisurely pace and we certainly
Autumn vistas along the Blue Ridge Parkway between Asheville and Boone
are magnificent at numerous overlooks along the winding Parkway.
This waterfall near Graybeard Mountain is easily spotted during a clear autumn day.
Continuing east we caught this colorful scene along the Blue Ridge Parkway west of Boone.
Heavy rains the week before our visit created this reflecting pond in Linville, NC.
Autumn leaves dot the scenery around Grandfather Mountain as seen from Highway 105 south of Boone.
The Cascades, an impressive long waterfall that slides downhill, is located off the Blue Ridge Parkway east of Boone.
The starting point for Boone Fork is this spot visible from the Parkway at Price Lake.
A scenic valley view along the Parkway approaching Grandfather Mountain.
Linn Cove viaduct is visible from numerous turnouts between Blowing Rock and Grandfather Mountain.
The morning sun gives perfect lighting for viewing autumn leaves near Linn Cove Viaduct.
A close up of Linn Cove Viaduct.
This bridge was the last segment of the Blue Ridge Parkway to open as
it required special engineering to close this gap along the side of
Grandfather Mountain. Driving over the viaduct gives the
impression of hanging over the side of the mountain, which basically is
exactly what occurs.