TrainWeb.org Facebook Page
Tweetsie RR, NC Trans Museum

Adventurers in the Appalachia


My First trip on the Southwest Chief going to the 2018 NRHS Convention in Cumberland, Maryland


Chapter Eight

Tweetsie RR

Southeastern Narrow Gauge Museum

 North Carolina Transportation Museum


 July 29, 2018

Sunday

by

Robin Bowers


Text and Photos by Author

The author retains all rights. No reproductions are allowed without the author's consent.


Comments are appreciated at...yr.mmxx@gmail.com








9668


    We left the Elkhorn Inn just before the crack of dawn. We had checked out last night so as to let people sleep. Both Chris and I greatly enjoyed our stay. I have seen their ad in Trains Magazine for ages. This is an isolated location with no food or eating facilities for a long way. Your last town to get supplies would be Bluefield. So bring your vittles and enjoy an evening picnic on the balcony overlooking the Norfolk Southern main line with a some passing freight trains. Truly one of a kind experience. Both of us are looking for a return stay.



9670

I-77 tunnel under the Appalachian Mountains near Big Walker Mountain north of I-81 in Virginia.


    From the Inn we drove US 52 to I-77 to Hillsville VA were we stopped to refuel and I called Chris' local friend David Pressley, told him our location and he said he would meet us at the Tweetsie Railroad parking lot.

    We then made the trip on US 221 to Boone, NC then a quick trip down US 321 and we were pulling into the upper parking lot of the Tweetsie Railroad. After parking, we were approached by David bearing gifts for both of us in the form of two Tweetsie plastic soda cups. These are good for unlimited discounted refills and are valid for return visits. Mine now sets on the kitchen counter as a reminder. Thanks for the thoughtful gift David. We went inside the ticketing area and picked up our guest ticket then walked out to board the next train of the day which was out on the railroad.

9671

Steam Locomotive Shop and Repair Yard on left.

Tweetsie Railroad

Tweetsie Railroad is a family oriented Wild West theme park located between Boone and Blowing Rock, North Carolina, United States. The centerpiece of the park is a 3-mile ride on a train pulled by one of Tweetsie Railroad's historic narrow-gauge steam locomotives. The park also features a variety of amusement rides, live shows, a zoo and other attractions geared towards families with children. The park also hosts a variety of special events throughout the year.

Tweetsie Railroad History

Opened in 1957, Tweetsie Railroad began as an excursion train ride pulled by steam locomotive 12, the only surviving narrow gauge engine of the East Tennessee and Western North Carolina Railroad (ET&WNC). Built in 1917 by the Baldwin Locomotive Works, 12 is a 3 foot narrow gauge 4-6-0 coal-fired locomotive that was used from 1918 to 1940 to haul passengers and freight over the ET&WNC's 66-mile line running through the Appalachian Mountains from Johnson City to Boone, North Carolina. The name "Tweetsie" was given to the original East Tennessee and Western North Carolina Railroad by area residents who became accustomed to the shrill "tweet, tweet" of the train whistles that echoed through the mountains. The nickname stuck with the railroad and its trains, and became more identifiable than the railroad's original name.

Two years after the 3 foot narrow gauge portion of the ET&WNC ceased operations in 1950, the locomotive was purchased by a group of railroad enthusiasts and taken to Penn Laird, Virginia to operate as the Shenandoah Central Railroad, opened in May 1953. Rains from Hurricane Hazel washed out the Shenandoah Central in October 1954, and Locomotive 12 was once again put up for sale. Cowboy actor and singer Gene Autry optioned the locomotive with the intent to move it to California for use in motion pictures. However, Autry ultimately determined that the transportation and restoration costs made his plan impractical.

Instead, Grover Robbins, an entrepreneur from Blowing Rock, North Carolina, purchased Autry's option and bought the locomotive in August, 1955. Robbins moved the 12 locomotive back to its native Blue Ridge Mountains as the centerpiece of a new "Tweetsie Railroad" tourist attraction. One mile of track was constructed near Blowing Rock, North Carolina for the train to run on, and on July 4, 1957, the locomotive made its first public trip over the line. In 1958, the track was extended to a 3-mile loop around the mountain, and the trains at Tweetsie have traveled that loop ever since. Grover Robbins' brothers, Harry and Spencer, were also involved with the operation of Tweetsie Railroad, and the park is still operated by the Robbins family.

Tweetsie Railroad became a popular tourist attraction, and quickly evolved into the first theme park in North Carolina -- and one of the first in the nation. A western town and saloon were built around the original depot area. A train robbery and cowboy-and-Indian show were added to the train ride, playing off the Wild West theme that was very popular at the time on television and in movies. The theme was enhanced by regular visits from Charlotte's WBTV television personality/singing cowboy Fred Kirby, who hosted a popular children's show. In 1961, a chairlift and amusement ride area was constructed on the central mountain inside the rail loop, and over the decades the park has been expanded with additional rides, attractions, shops, zoo, and restaurants.

The Tweetsie Railroad theme park is open from early April through October of each year. In addition to the Wild West train adventure and the amusement rides, Tweetsie Railroad has a variety of live entertainment shows featuring talented performers selected from the immediate area and from the Southeast. The park hosts numerous special events each season, including Letterland-themed days in May for school groups, visits by Thomas the Tank Engine and a very popular nighttime "Ghost Train" Halloween event in October. Beginning in 2017, the park's 60th anniversary season, Tweetsie Railroad announced plans to start a Holiday themed event to be called "Tweetsie Christmas".

In 1960, Tweetsie acquired another coal-fired steam locomotive, USATC S118 Class 2-8-2 190, the "Yukon Queen" from Alaska's White Pass and Yukon Route. Also built by Baldwin Locomotive Works in 1943 for the US Army, the engine was part of an 11-locomotive fleet of "MacArthur" 2-8-2s originally purchased for use overseas. During World War II, the locomotives were sent to Alaska for use on the White Pass and Yukon.

In 1961, Grover and Harry Robbins built another train ride and tourist attraction called "Rebel Railroad" in the Smoky Mountains near Pigeon Forge, Tennessee. Originally featuring a Civil War theme, the park was renamed "Goldrush Junction" in 1966 and re-themed to a Wild West concept very similar to Tweetsie Railroad. The Robbins brothers sold Goldrush Junction in the late 1960s, and it subsequently went through various owners. In 1976, Jack and Pete Herschend of Branson, Missouri bought the Pigeon Forge facility and redeveloped it as "Silver Dollar City". In 1986, country music star Dolly Parton became a part owner with the Herschends, and the theme park became today's Dollywood.

On February 9, 2017, Locomotive 12 celebrated it's 100th Birthday. An official ceremony was held for the locomotive during Tweetsie's Railroad Heritage Weekend.

Tweetsie Railroad's operating season is from the 1st Friday in April to the last weekend in October, then from Thanksgiving Weekend to the end of December for Tweetsie Christmas. The park is open weekends in the spring and autumn, and daily from the weekend after Memorial Day weekend until Mid August. In addition, the park is open on Friday and Saturday nights in from Late September through October for the very popular "Ghost Train" event. The park is also open for "Tweetsie Christmas" on Friday and Saturday Nights from Black Friday to late December. Other special events are held throughout the season, including Railroad Heritage Weekend in August, that focuses on the history of the narrow gauge locomotives, and a large firework display on the Independence Day Fourth of July.

Tweetsie Railroad is located on US 321 between Boone and Blowing Rock, North Carolina.

Our Visit

We waited for the train to return to the station area.



9672


9673

    The train pulled into the station. The people get off at the back end of their cars and once they are all off, we boarded the last car of the train and took the last two seats of seats on the left side of the train.

9674

The Adventurers making their first trip aboard the Tweetsie Railroad.

9667


9668


9670

Frontier Outpost.    This is the first stop on the Wild West Show they do on every trip.

At this one the cowboys meet the outlaw and then the fun begins for kids of all ages.

9672


9673

The train takes another curve before we arrived at Fort Boone. More fun here with the cowboys, army soldiers, and outlaws and the Indians all get to do their things in this show.

9674



9668

Wild animals on the frontier.

9670


9671


9672


9699

Scenes from the Fort Show, once it was done, we headed back to the boarding area.

9674

The train took this curve with no view of the engine.

9702

View of park and parking lot.
9703

We walked down to the engine.

9705


9706


9707

    Tweetsie Railroad 4-6-0 12 the only surviving narrow gauge engine of the East Tennessee and Western North Carolina Railroad. We then went to the refreshment stand and filled our cups with soda pop.


9708


9709


9710


9711


David told us to get a picture from the platform, so we did. Then we set up on a porch out of the sun. Now we will watch the train leave.



9712


9714



9717


9718


9725


9727


##

    Tweetsie Railroad 4-6-0 12 pulls the trains around the park today. At this point we then walked out of the exit, Chris put our cups in our rental car then David drove Chris and I over to a vantage point to take pictures of the train crossing the high trestle.


9707


9708

The crew and actors.

9709


9710


9711


9712


9714


9738

    The train crossed the high trestle at the Tweetsie Railroad Park. We thanked David for bringing us out to get the pictures on the high trestle.


9739t


9725


9727


    We would like to thank the Tweetsie Railroad for having us visit today and a very special thank you to the entire train crew of the Tweetsie Railroad Park. Next, David will follow us to Newton, North Carolina.

##


9707


9708

    We left the Tweetsie Railroad Park then took a hour plus drive through the hills and mountains of North Carolina of about 55 miles to Newton, NC. David followed us to Newton.

Southeastern Narrow Gauge & Shortline Museum

    Newton was served by the narrow gauge Chester & Lenoir, which arrived in 1882. It was folded into Southern subsidiary Carolina & North Western and standard gauged in 1902.

    The Newton Depot Authority was created in 1995 to save the depot. It was on the property of Norfolk Southern, and they had plans to demolish it due to liability issues. Originally located at the junction of the C&NW and the Western North Carolina Railroads, in 1997 it was moved half a mile down the tracks. The restoration was funded through the Depot Authority with help from donors, grants, and the City of Newton. It was completed in the Summer of 2005.

    Next came the Alexander Railroad Pavilion, located across the still active NS tracks. It was started in Fall of 2012 and opened to the public in October of 2016. It was funded entirely by the Alexander Railroad.

    The depot authority's partner is the Alexander Chapter NRHS, which owns a majority of the equipment and museum artifacts, and performs the restorations. Under the pavilion is a mixture of local standard gauge and southern narrow gauge rolling stock.

The Collection

    Lawndale Railway 311- This narrow gauge boxcar was built around 1902 by the Lawndale Railway, a 9-mile pike located 30 miles southwest of Newton. It was retired in 1943 when the railroad quit running. This one is still under restoration.

    Virginia-Carolina 50- The newest acquistion of the Southeastern Narrow Gauge & Shortline Museum is Virginia-Carolina standard gauge 2-6-0 50 (Alco 1922). It was originally one of three engines of this class built for Cuban sugar plantations, but the order was cancelled. It saw service for a timber company, and then spent the bulk of its operating life at V-C company. In 1960, the engine was placed in the city park of Lakeland, Florida.

    Carolina & North-Western 401 This wooden narrow gauge boxcar was built circa 1875 and ran through Newton on the original narrow gauge. It is believed to be the oldest narrow gauge boxcar on the east coast and oldest piece of Southern Railway equipment. It finished its service life on the Lawndale Railway. from 1910 to 1940. At 37 feet long, it is a member of the longest class of narrow gauge boxcars ever built.

    Yadkin Railroad railbus 100

    West Virginia Midland baggage car 1. This car is the only known narrow gauge baggage car with a southeastern heritage still in existence.

    West Virginia Midland office car "Holly" (Jackson & Sharpe 1902). This car is the only known narrow gauge office car with a southeastern heritage still in existence.

    Unrestored equipment is kept at the museum's shops a few miles west up the railroad between Conover and Hickory, NC, and in the field across the street from the Museum. Recently several Rio Grande cars from the Lindsay Ashby collection have been purchased to provide trucks and other parts for the restorations.

Newton, NC


9777

 
9709

The museum was closed but the grounds were open for us to look around.

9776


9710


9711


9712

The Newton station. We then walked over to the covered part of the museum.

9714



9717

Unknown wooden caboose and ET&WNC box car 434.


9718

Virginia-Carolina 2-6-0  50.

9725


9727

Carolina & North-Western box car 401.

##


9707


9708


9709


9710


9773

ET&WNC gang motorcar/railbus 2.

9711

Clinchfield Caboose 1023.


9714

Looking up the tracks in the Depot's neighborhood.

9717


    One last view of the Newton Depot. We said our goodbyes to David and then followed him back to Interstate 40 with him heading to Winston-Salem and us heading to Spencer, North Carolina and the next stop on the trip.

North Carolina Transportation Museum

Spencer, North Carolina


9727

The museum's Visitor's Center and first point of contact for visitors. The museum's on-site train ride departs from this building.

9926

    We pulled into the parking lot at just before three and would have until 5:00 PM to look around this unique museum.Chris is making his third trip here and I am making my first visit to the North Carolina Transportation Museum.

History of the North Carolina Transportation Museum

    The museum was founded in 1977, when the Southern Railway deeded 4 acres of land to the state of North Carolina for a transportation museum. Two years later, another 53 acres was added to the original donation; the entirety of the railway's largest former steam locomotive repair shops. The museum's first exhibit opened in 1983, called People, Places and Time. The museum grew over the years, most notably in 1996, with the opening of Barber Junction, a relocated railroad depot from some 30 miles away, and the newly renovated Bob Julian Roundhouse. Barber Junction serves the museum's Visitor's Center and departure point for the on-site train ride. The Bob Julian Roundhouse serves as the hub for most of the museum's railroad exhibits, but also includes aviation exhibits and site history.

    Several bays of the Spencer Shops roundhouse are devoted to volunteered restorations of locomotives and rolling stock in the museum collection. It was here that the 542 was worked on and steam locomotives from 1896-1953 were repaired. In the first 16 stalls, visitors can walk among the massive locomotives and rail cars on display. Moving into the Elmer Lam gallery, aviation exhibits dominate, with a full size replica Wright Flyer, Piedmont Airlines exhibits, and more. Moving into the restoration bays, visitors may also see volunteers working on various railroad pieces, and even manufacturing their own parts, as steam engines have been out of date so long it is impossible to obtain replacement parts from any manufacturer.

    The Flue Shop, where all of the flues for steam engines were formerly produced, as become the Bumper To Bumper exhibit, featuring vintage and antique cars. These include several Model Ts, a Model A and even a Ford Model R (the 1907 predecessor to the Model T). A Highway Patrol car from 1935, a Divco Milk Truck, a Lincoln Continental and others are also part of the museum's collection.

    In 2005, the museum's Back Shop underwent a massive renovation, which included repairs to the roof, re-pointing of the brick, and a stabilization of the building's floor. This building, where the full overhaul of steam locomotives once took place, is most notable for its size and scope. Nearly three stories tall and two football fields long, it was once the largest industrial building in the state. It may be most notable, however, for the words "Be Careful," standing some three feet tall, visible from nearly anywhere on the north end of the site. In 2009, the museum opened the Back Shop to the public for the first time, with an access ramp on the south end. "Behind the Scenes" tours and special events often featuring a full Back Shop tour.

Heritage railroad

    The museum has a heritage railroad, which operates passenger excursion trains several times per day, year round, but on a seasonal schedule. Trains are usually powered by the Norfolk and Western 620, however, at times it is substituted by the Southern 6133 or Southern 2601. The Southern 6133 and Southern 2601 also assist in special events where two or more trains are operating. Though the museum has no operating steam locomotives of its own, it has used the Lehigh Valley Coal 0-6-0 126 for trips, along with Flag Coal Co. 0-4-0 75, the American 4-4-0 "Leviathan" locomotive, as well as the Tennessee Valley Railroad Museum's Southern 2-8-0 630. For Caboose trips and at-the-throttle trips, the museum has leased engines from the Grambling Locomotive Works; the Virginia Museum of Transportation and Norfolk Southern previously allowed the museum to use their Norfolk and Western #611 during its two stays. Cab rides to the normal excursion can be purchased at Barber Junction.

    Visitors may also purchase tickets to ride the roundhouse turntable every day.

Events

    The museum hosts a number of events annually and some one-time railroading events that bring rail fans from across the country. In 2012, the Bob Julian Roundhouse was the stage for all 20 of Norfolk Southern's Heritage locomotives during a two-day photographic event. In 2014, the museum hosted Streamliners at Spencer, with notable 1930s - 1950s era locomotives gathered around the Bob Julian Roundhouse turntable for a four-day event. Streamliners at Spencer included the Class J 611 Steam Passenger locomotive, visiting from the Virginia Museum of Transportation. This notable locomotive remained in Spencer for repair and restoration work to allow it to once again pull passenger excursions across the southeast.

    The Museum has also operated 21st century steam trips from its grounds over its property and Norfolk Southern using the Tennessee Valley Railroad Museum's Southern 630 and rolling stock as well as the NS steam rolling stock fleet in 2012 and 2013. In 2015, the museum was used as the boarding destination for some the Virginia Museum of Transportation's Norfolk and Western 611 trips.

     Other annual events include Day Out With Thomas, the Polar Express, Fire Truck Show, Automobile shows, the Harvest Festival, the Easter Bunny Express, and Spring and Autumn (Southern leaf specials) excursions that take visitors to destination cities.

    The NCTM is also host to Boy Scout Rail Camp, which allows for Boy Scouts and Leaders to camp out on the historic facility and earn the railroading merit badge. It is the largest railroad related scouting event in the nation. There are plans to implement Girl and Cub Scout events at the museum in 2017.

Our visit

    We walked into the Barber Depot and introduced ourselves as being from Trainweb.com and were given wrist bands to wear to show that we had permission to look around the grounds. Chris was guaranteeing me he can show me everything within two hours of time.



##

Platform for train rides.

page4

Beaufort and Morehead H-12-44 1860.
9707


9708


9709

Signal display.
9710

NC Ports Authority L-3. The exhibit train was closed for repairs with Cone box car 16 and the NS 27 Exhibit Car.

9711

A collection of cabooses from various railroads.
9712

The Back Shop with the safety message.

9714

The Spencer water tank with the Southern Railway emblem on it.
9717

With the grass growing under it, I don't think it has moved much.

9790

The first building we will visit is the newly opened to public, Back Shop.

    The immense Back Shop structure was built in 1905 and served as the major overhaul facility for steam locomotives. The largest structure on the site and once the largest industrial building in North Carolina, two to three locomotives per week emerged as new from the Back Shop during its peak.


9725


9727

Too much to see here.

9793


##


page4

The North Carolina Merci Car P.L.M. J54906.

    This is the fifth Merci wagon I've seen.  "The Merci Train was a train of 49 French railroad box cars filled with tens of thousands of gifts of gratitude from at least that many individual French citizens. They were showing their appreciation for the more than 700 American box cars of relief goods sent to them by (primarily) individual Americans in 1948. The Merci Train arrived in New York harbor on February 3rd, 1949 and each of the 48 American states at that time received one of the gift laden box cars. The 49th box car was shared by Washington D.C. and the Territory of Hawaii. Parades and ceremonies of welcome were conducted in the state capitols and major cities of almost all the states. The largest and most attended was in New York City where more than 200,000 people turned out to welcome that state's assigned box car."  Next we went into the roundhouse.

9707

Charlotte Electric Railway Company 1.

9708

Charlotte trolley 85

9709

Southern 2-8-0 542.

9710

Engine 542.

9711

Atlantic Coast Line  4-6-0  1031

9712


9714

Piedmont & Northern Railway box cab 5103.

9717

Atlantic Coast Line E3A 501.

9718

Southern Railway E-8A 6900.

9725

Norfolk Southern AS-416 1616.

9727

Southern Sleeper Catawba River.

##


page4

Seaboard wooden caboose  5458.


9707

Raleigh and Gaston Railway 0-4-0 Raleigh.

9708

A life size model of the Wright Brothers first airplane.

9709


9710


9711

N&W 4-8-4 611 in the Spencer Roundhouse.

9712


9714



9717


9718


9725

Machine shop for the 611.

9727

Chicago and North Western coach 4953.

##

Southern FP-7 6133.

page4


9708

Graham County Railroad Company Shay 1925.

9709

Inside a private car.

9710


9717


9718


9725


9727

U.S. Army 45 ton switcher 7497

9826

Inside United States Postal Car 800700.

9827

nrhs one

nrhs two


9825


##


page4



9708


And now outside.

round

Roundhouse (1924)

    The 37-stall Bob Julian Roundhouse, one of the largest remaining such structures, is one of the few preserved roundhouses remaining in the country. Home to some 40 restored locomotives  rail cars, in 2011, the Roundhouse was named a Historic Mechanical Engineering Landmark by the American Society of Mechanical Engineers. Exhibits at the Roundhouse focus on the lives of the men who made Spencer Shops run and the history of railroads in North Carolina. Rides on the 100-foot turntable are offered.
 
9838


9714



9717

N & W GP-9 620 and Southern GP-30 2601.


9718


9725

The Spirit of Roanoke.

9727


##


page4

A favorite locomotive of many.

9708


9709

VMTX baggage car 9647.




9711

Norfolk Southern Coach  44 Florida.

9712

Southern coach 1081.

9714



9717

N & W 611 tender and water car.
9718


9725

9859


9727


##

Norfolk Southern Powhatan Arrow coach 29.

page4

Southern coach 1081.


9708





9710


9711

Amtrak F40PH 307.


9712


9714



9717


9718


9725


9727


##


9868


9708


9872

"Former Illinois Central heavyweight business car "Cripple Creek", ex. IC 8, exx. IC 18, exxx. USRA 4, nee IC 3. "


9709





9711

Willetts Railcar Service caboose 199642, nee Illinois Central.

9712


9714



9717


9718


9725


9727

The NCTM excursion train on its last run of the day.

9708


9709


9710


9711


9712


9714



9717

Charlotte Trolley 85 getting a little sun.



9718

    The Doris observation car.  It was owned by James B. Duke of the American Tobacco Company and Southern Power Company. He named it after his daughter, Doris. It was once owned by steel magnate Charles M. Schwab

9890

Norfolk Southern Diner 14.

9727

New Haven Railroad Pine Tree State.

##

Norfolk Southern 42 Tennessee.


page4

The NCTM excursion train heads to the barn for the night.

9708


9709


9710



9714

Today, the building houses temporary and traveling exhibits, hosting rentals, providing programming and special event activity space. 

9717

Currently they were having a guitar exhibit. 

9718


9725


9727

A model railroad display.

##

Next was the automobiles and other vehicles on display.

page4

9708


9709


9710


9711


9712


9714



9717


9718

The Edsel. I think half of its problem was the name.

9725

I really liked my Corvair.

9727


##


page4


9708


9709

Leaving the exhibits in the Master Mechanic's Office we walked over the display train passing the Southern water tank and so that meant our visit was almost over.

9710

Box car on display.

9711

Covered rest and picnic area adjacent the display train. Back Shop on left, Master Mechanic's on right.

9712


9714

NC Ports Authority L3.

9717

    We went back to the visitor's center and thanked them for having us visit today. Since it was well over 90 degrees for the first time on this trip, we had to open all the doors before we could leave. Our AC worked fine and soon we were at the Super 8 in Salisbury for the night. We had dinner at Applebee's which was really good and then I went for a swim in the motel's indoor pool.



Thanks for reading.


Next chapter 9 - Tomorrow: Local NC train stations >>

<< Return to last chapter 7 - Durbin Rocket 07/28/2018 ***

Return to Table of Contents

Return to Home Page

Very Fast Return to Top

Text and Photos by Author

The author retains all rights. No reproductions are allowed without the author's consent.

Comments appreciated at .... yr.mmxx@gmail.com