The Steam of the Smokies is alive and well in the Great Smoky Mountains, offering a passenger excursion with the thrill of rolling through Western North Carolina's hills and valleys behind a piece of history. The #1702 locomotive dates to 1942, where the engine's construction was an official commissioned WWII Steam Engine plan. It is of the world's largest engine class and is one of two remaining in the United States. There's nothing like a ride behind steam!
The Great Smoky Mountains Railroad has become a favorite of film producers over the years. The railroad was used in the filming of the 1996 comedy, My Fellow Americans, starring Jack Lemmon and James Garner, when they stumble onto a charter train full of UNC-Chapel Hill fans headed for the NCAA Final Four. Train scenes in the 1998 movie, Forces of Nature, starring Ben Affleck and Sandra Bullock, also were filmed on the Great Smoky Mountains Railroad.
On Saturday, September 16th, 2023, the Watauga Valley Railroad Historical Society and Museum will sponsor our first-time Steam in the Smokies train excursion - a ride on the Great Smoky Mountains Railroad through the majestic mountains and beautiful countryside of western North Carolina from Bryson City, NC, through the Nantahala Gorge, and back to Bryson City.
Our scenic rail excursion covers a lot of the current operating trackage of the Great Smoky Mountains Railroad. The track follows the route of the former Southern Railway's "Murphy Branch Line". The line was established in 1891, with a maximum 5.8 percent grade and many bridges. From Bryson City we rise to Fontana Lake as we follow the Little Tennessee River and cross the Fontana Lake Trestle. We pass the Nantahala Outdoor Center, and enter the breathtaking Nantahala Gorge, following the shoreline of the exciting Nantahala River. At the end of the gorge, we trace the tracks back to Bryson City, stopping for a short break at the Nantahala Outdoor Center.
Click Below to Watch Sample Footage of Watauga Valley Railroad Historical Society & Museum Excursions
Located 10 miles from the famous Cherokee Indian Reservation, Bryson City is a laid-back, non-touristy easily stroll-able town of 1,300 with many shops, a surprising variety of restaurants, and more stop signs than stoplights. There are local bookstores and arts and crafts galleries with working artisans, a bike shop, two fly fishing shops, a historical museum, a fly-fishing museum, an aquarium, a scenic train, and two breweries. All excursion ticket holders receive complimentary admission to the Smoky Mountain Lionel Train Museum, which boasts a collection of 7,000 Lionel engines, cars and accessories, impressive operating layout, and children's activity center.
Patrons may either drive directly to Bryson City, NC, or ride a motor coach from Johnson City or Kingsport, TN. Depending on your location, it may be closer for you to drive to Bryson City. Check to determine your best option and make your selection on the order form when purchasing tickets. All locations have free parking. Maps to parking locations in Bryson City and for motor coach pick-ups in Johnson City, TN, and Kingsport, TN, will be sent with your confirmation form, along with lodging information.
[IMPORTANT NOTE: THOSE ORDERING TICKETS SEPARATELY, BUT WISHING TO BE SEATED TOGETHER, MUST SPECIFY THIS ON THE ORDER FORM]
FIRST CLASS passengers will enjoy club car (lounge car) seating in climate-controlled comfort, where large windows provide wonderful viewing [windows do not open]. A FIRST CLASS ticket includes a meal with drink and dessert.
FIRST CLASS ENTREES: [make selection on Meal Order Form]
Chicken Salad Sandwich - Autumn Berry Pecan Chicken Salad served on a golden buttery croissant plated with creamy potato salad and carrot soufflé.
Pulled Pork BBQ Sandwich - Cajun seasoned pulled pork rubbed with special spices then slow-roasted to perfection and simmered in Sweet Baby Ray’s BBQ sauce. Served on a soft Brioche bun with a side of potato salad and coleslaw.
Pot Roast - Slow-roasted, melt-in-your-mouth, seasoned pot roast with gravy. Served with carrot soufflé, creamy potato salad, and a warm roll.
Vegetarian Kale Crunch Salad - Freshly made gourmet Kale Crunch salad. A vibrant blend of kale, Arcadian blend, shaved Brussels sprouts, Napa cabbage, red cabbage, radicchio, carrots, sliced red onion, cherry tomatoes, and sliced oranges. Served with a side of Raspberry vinaigrette or Ranch dressing. Accompanied with sliced cheddar cheese and crackers.
Chicken Salad Sandwich
Pulled Pork BBQ Sandwich
Vegetarian Kale Crunch Salad
Gluten-Free Grilled Chicken plated with creamy potato salad and carrot soufflé is also available if you prefer.
CROWN CLASS cars offer climate control for passenger comfort and large windows for great viewing [windows do not open].
TOURIST COACH CLASS cars feature ceiling fans and windows that open and close for fresh–air viewing.
OPEN COACH CLASS is great for taking pictures and seeing the beautiful scenery.
BOX LUNCH OPTIONS: [make selection on Meal Order Form]
Thinly sliced Smoked Ham on a Brioche Bun. Hearty portion of sliced ham with sliced American cheese accompanied by lettuce and tomato. Mayonnaise and mustard on the side. Ms. Vickie's Kettle Chips, Chocolate Chip Grandma's cookies and a 24 oz. sport cap bottled water.
Roasted Turkey Breast on a Brioche Bun. Thinly sliced roasted turkey with sliced American cheese accompanied by lettuce and tomato. Mayonnaise and mustard on the side. Ms. Vickie's Kettle Chips, Chocolate Chip Grandma's cookies and a 24 oz. sport cap bottled water.
Autumn Berry Chicken Salad on a buttery Croissant. Tender chunks and shreds of all-natural white meat chicken mixed with mayonnaise and a touch of olive oil, hint of sweet honey, cranberry and pecan pieces, and crunchy fresh celery. Ms. Vickie's kettle chips, Chocolate Chip Grandma's cookies and a 24 oz. sport cap bottled water.
Vegetarian Kale Crunch Wrap on Oven Fired Flatbread. Hummus spread with a vibrant blend of kale spring mix, shaved Brussel sprouts, Napa cabbage, red cabbage, radicchio, sliced carrots, and red onion with creamy Italian dressing on the side. Ms. Vickie's Kettle chips, Chocolate Chip Grandma's cookies and a 24oz sport cap bottled water.
Thinly sliced Smoked Ham
Roasted Turkey Breast
Autumn Berry Chicken Salad
Vegetarian Kale Crunch Wrap
CONCESSIONS CAR – sandwiches, drinks, chips, etc., will be available for purchase on the train.
A small cooler is acceptable if you wish to bring food with you on the train.
FOR YOUR SAFETY:
The Great Smoky Mountains Railroad, in accordance with federal, state, and local government guidelines is safely operating all Passenger Scenic Rail Excursions departing from Bryson City.
Some Safety Rules:
Our train is a SMOKING/VAPOR-FREE train, which means, nowhere on the train, at all, is there a place to smoke/vapor. Once you board the train, you will not be able to smoke again to the end of the train trip back in Bryson City. Please do NOT wear any high heel, or open-toe shoes on board the train. When the train moves, high heel shoes may cause someone to lose their balance and open-toe shoes are unsafe to wear on the train due to gaps between railroad cars. Appropriate clothing is strongly suggested. Safety is our number-one concern.
**This trip will be handicap accessible. On-board restrooms may not accommodate all passengers. We will make all reasonable efforts to accommodate differently abled passengers who desire to ride this train. Please email us with your request if needed.
The Watauga Valley Railroad Historical Society and its representatives act only as agents for the passengers with respect to rail transportation, food service, and other services offered, and as such hold themselves free of any liability for any injury, delay, loss, equipment failure, substitution, or damage from any cause whatsoever. This includes schedule changes due to weather problems or any other factor. Railroad equipment may be substituted at anytime for some unforeseen reason.
The sponsoring organization is a non-profit 501(c)(3) organization and is operating the train trip to help fund restoration of railroad equipment, maintain its museum, and associated railroad historical projects. No part of the ticket cost is tax deductible. No refunds are allowed, but we will attempt to connect you with someone on the waiting list wanting to purchase tickets.