B. J. and I are veteran train riders. We have ridden the exciting Dollywood Express at Pigeon Forge a number of times. The thrilling two-day trip on the awesome Alaska Railway from Fairbanks to Anchorage with a layover in the spectacular Denali National Park was indeed an extraordinary experience worth repeating. I rode a train in Mexico from Creel to Chihuahua City while on a mission trip there (B. J. wasn’t with me on that one). Our most recent train excursion was aboard the Smokey Mountain Train in the Great Smokey Mountains of Western North Carolina.
We were at the Bryson City Depot waiting on the train but we had time to meander around the area. To spend our free time wisely, we visited the train museum. The train museum houses probably the biggest collection of model trains in the world and contains a comprehensive history of the railroad in North America. The train museum is stimulating and educational.
B. J. was a little restless. She was anxious to get to the gift shop before boarding the train. So, we hustled to the gift shop where we learned that if we purchased some large tumblers we would get free refills during the entire trip. She bought the tumblers and we immediately moved over to the concession stand where they filled them with hot chocolate for us free of charge.
The train departs from the historic Bryson City Depot. With 53 miles of track, two tunnels and 25 bridges, the Great Smokey Mountain Railroad Offers a variety of scenic excursions that traverse the majestic valleys and breathtaking river gorges. Shortly, an announcement was made for us to go to the boarding area. B. J. and I were instructed to move to Boarding Station Number 4 where we would board our passenger car for the four-and-one-half hour tour into the mountains featuring the Nantahala Gorge, the Nantahala River and Lake Fontana—all surrounded by gorgeous mountains.
Soon, we heard the loud blast of the train whistle. The Smokey Mountain Train was coming down the tracks. The train was big, long, colorful and magnificent.
We were ready when the train rolled to a stop. Momentarily, the attendants put the steps in place and we were given the word to go aboard and find a seat.
We were eager as we climbed aboard. We were among the first to board so we could easily pick the seats we wanted. B. J. was ahead of me so she got the seat next to the window. This might be a once-in-a-lifetime experience so we wanted to do it up right while we were here.
In autumn, the mountains of Western North Carolina are a dramatic display of fiery sugar maples, buttery poplars and crimson oaks. Outside our window the fall foliage was ablaze with a canvas of colors and there was a breath of crisp fresh air, it was the Great Smokey Mountains and we were going to see it from a train.
Soon, everyone was aboard and we were ready to ride. The engineer revved the engine and we were under way. We could sense the elation among the other passengers as the trained moved away from the station. B. J. ran her arm through mine and grasped my hand tightly. I liked that.
We kept our eyes focused on the awe-inspiring landscape we were passing through; it was spellbinding.
Well, by and by along the track, although B. J. and I had had a whopping lunch back in Bryson City, we decided that a hotdog would be fitting so B. J. was elected to go to the Conductor’s Café and round us up some hotdogs and chips.
We have flown in jumbo jets, cruised on giant ocean liners and we are not strangers to the rocking and rolling sensation one gets. However, when B. J. got up from her seat to go to the Conductor’s Café, the train rocked causing B. J. to almost set down in some guy’s lap. I wanted to laugh but I was afraid that she might make me go get the dogs. Later, the train would jolt again and cause a pretty young miss to drape her arms around my shoulders to steady her. I kind of liked that too. B. J. gave me a serious look.
One of the high points of the tour was an hour’s stopover at the famous Nantahala Outdoor Center. We got off the train and went for a long relaxing stroll along the picturesque Nantahala River—it was awe-inspiring. B. J. and I vowed to return. We want to go during the Christmas Season when the place and the train are decorated in Christmas regalia.
We indeed had a fun time on the Smokey Mountain Train. And, although we haven’t told them yet, we discussed trading Big Red and Little Red for a motor home.