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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 atmosphere.


The Holiday Inn Express hotel in Boone, NC is a five minute drive from Tweetsie and offers comfortable rooms, spacious suites, and a relaxing atmosphere.


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 did that.


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.

    For further information about Tweetsie Railroad’s history, see our stories at the following locations: and 

LINKS | Other Rail Travelogues | Silver Rails Country | American Passenger Rail Heritage Foundation