Plan Your Spring Train Excursion on the Great Smoky Mountains Railroad

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If you are experiencing the winter doldrums, shake off the gloomy days looking forward to a nice, refreshing and scenic train ride through the mountains of the Southern Appalachian region.

Plan an enjoyable spring train with us aboard the Great Smoky Mountains Railroad!

The track follows the route of the former Southern Railway’s Murphy Branch Line, established in 1891, with its five percent grade and many bridges. Much of the route hugs the banks of the Tuckasegee, Little Tennessee, and Nantahala Rivers, and it crosses Fontana Lake on a trestle standing 100 feet above the lake, spanning 780 feet.

The Great Smoky Mountains Railroad has become a favorite of film producers over the years. The train wreck scene in the 1993 movie, The Fugitive, starring Harrison Ford and Tommy Lee Jones, was filmed in Dillsboro along the Great Smoky Mountain Railroad. [The wreckage of the set can still be viewed on the outbound train excursion from Dillsboro.] The railroad was also used in the filming of the 1996 comedy, My Fellow Americans, starring Jack Lemmon and James Gardner, 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, March 24, the Watauga Valley Railroad Historical Society and Museum will sponsor its Spring Excursion – a ride on the Great Smoky Mountains Railroad through the majestic mountains and beautiful countryside of western North Carolina from Dillsboro through Bryson City and the Nantahala Gorge. This trip will be the first time we have offered a train ride on all the completed operating trackage of the Great Smoky Mountains Railroad.

Our excursion will depart Johnson City, Tenn., by motor coach at 9:15 a.m. from the parking lot of Liberty Bell Middle School. We will have a passenger pick-up at 9:45 a.m. in the Asheville/Weaverville area for passengers who find that location more convenient. We will also pick up passengers in Greeneville, Tenn., at 9:45 a.m. and in Morristown, Tenn., at 10:15 a.m. En route to Dillsboro there will be a stop-over at Ryan’s Steak House in Sylva, where passengers may purchase lunch if desired. [Passengers may choose to drive on their own to Dillsboro but at the same ticket cost.]

Upon arriving in Dillsboro, passengers will have time to see the Jarrett House, a hotel landmark built in 1884, and visit shops before boarding the excursion train at 1:45 p.m. for the 4.5-hour trip. As we leave Dillsboro, we will see the Great Smoky Mountains Railroad shops and pass the filming location of The Fugitive. The track follows along the Tuckasegee River and travels through the famous Cowee Tunnel on its way to Bryson City. Rising to Fontana Lake we follow the Little Tennessee River, cross the Fontana Lake Trestle, pass the Nantahala Outdoor Center, and enter the breathtaking Nantahala Gorge, following the shore line of the exciting Nantahala River. Play the video clip online at our web site to see the natural beauty that awaits you.

Upon reaching the end of the line, the train will return to the Nantahala Outdoor Center, where our busses will meet us. We expect to arrive back in Weaverville and Morristown by 7:30 p.m., Greeneville by 8:00 p.m., and Johnson City by 8:30 p.m.

Tickets and pre-purchased meals may be ordered online by credit card at