With the festive season well under way, it’s hard not to imagine the warm, coal fire burning away in a locomotive ploughing through a snow-covered wilderness. In both the USA and Europe, heritage railroads work hard to create a magical experience for young and old railfans alike and in North Carolina, it’s full steam ahead for the Tweetsie Railroad, even in a year as difficult as 2020.
Photos courtesy of Tweetsie Railroad This narrow-gauge line first ran trains back in 1882 along a 50 mile stretch of track through the Appalachian Mountains. In 1919, this was extended to the town of Boone and locals affectionately gave the railroad the nickname ‘Tweetsie’ as a result of the ‘tweet, tweet’ sound of the whistle blowing through the mountains. Eventually, competition from trucking and conventional roads saw a decline in the need for mountain railroads and the line ceased operations in 1950. After restarting its original No.12 locomotive again in 1957, the Tweetsie Railroad has gone on to become a wonderful tourist venture, taking passengers along a three-mile loop and hosting popular special events in and amongst the theme park that has grown around it. A repair shop also exists on the site to maintain and restore items for other museums and tourist attractions.
Each year, the attraction hosts a variety of events, which has included those themed around the Wild West and Hallowe’en, as well Days Out with Thomas and Heritage Weekends, which continue to inspire children to become young railfans, as we found out in a previous We Are Railfans feature. Christmas, as it is for other railroads across the country, is also a big draw for people and the Tweetsie Railroad are thrilled to invite families back after a difficult year thwarted by closure due to the global pandemic. The event, which includes a socially-distanced visit to Santa in his Gingerbread House, amusement rides like the Little Drummer Boy and an open fire pit for roasting marshmallows, also includes the highlight of riding behind the historic steam locomotive, adorned with festive lights that glow through the surrounding woodland. Visitors are advised to wrap up warm! Much of the attraction is outdoors, creating a truly authentic, festive, winter atmosphere. Further details can be found via social media or their website: Tweetsie Railroad.
Editor's note: since writing, almost all seats for this event have sold out! Limited spaces are available on selected dates only.
Funds are being raised by the CEPG to help buy and restore an AM9 EMU. They've told us a little bit about the unit and their future plans.
After introducing us to the layout in a previous article, Allen Jackson takes us through the locomotives of Brymbo East Junction.