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Famous Fall Train Excursion Offered Through Smoky Mountains

On Saturday, September 17, 2022 the Watauga Valley Railroad Historical Society and Museum will sponsor a train excursion on the Great Smoky Mountains Railroad. This is a wonderful opportunity to celebrate and enjoy the beauty of the fall season while riding the rails in vintage passenger railroad cars.                                                                                                                                                                                                                The one-day excursion will cover most of the operating trackage of 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. Our scenic rail excursion takes us from the historic depot in Bryson City, NC, through the beautiful countryside of Western North Carolina, into the breath-taking Nantahala Gorge surrounded by the majestic Smoky Mountains, and back to Bryson City.  Much of the route hugs the banks of the Little Tennessee and Nantahala Rivers.  It crosses Fontana Lake on a trestle spanning 780 feet 100 feet above the lake.

[Video clip online at]

Passengers ride in comfort in First Class, Crown Class, Tourist Coach, or Open-Air cars.  All classes offer seating in classic antique restored passenger cars.  There are restrooms throughout the train.

First Class cars are climate-controlled and feature large windows and lounge-car seating.

Crown Class cars offer large windows and climate control for passenger comfort.

Tourist Coach Class cars have ceiling fans and windows that open and close for fresh-air viewing.

Open-Air Coach cars are great for picture-taking and “experiencing” the ride and scenery.

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 along the Great Smoky Mountain Railroad.  The railroad was 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, were also filmed on the Great Smoky Mountains Railroad.


Bryson City is a laid-back, non-touristy town of 1,300 with more stop signs than stoplights. It is an easily stroll-able town with local bookstores, arts and crafts galleries with working artisans, a bike shop, two fly fishing shops, a fly-fishing museum, an historical museum, an aquarium, a scenic train, two breweries, and a surprising variety of restaurants.  Bryson City is only 10 miles from the famous Cherokee Indian Reservation.  [Information re lodging in the Bryson City area is available on-line.]

Passengers have two options for arrival at the Bryson City Train Depot:  they may either ride a chartered tour bus out of Johnson City, TN, or drive directly to Bryson City, NC, if that is more convenient.  Please select point of departure location on the order form when purchasing tickets.  NOTE:  Free parking is provided both in Johnson City and Bryson City. 

Schedule for passengers driving directly to Bryson City, NC

Claim tickets and box lunches, visit shops and Lionel Museum            10:00 a.m. to 11:00 a.m.

Board train at Bryson City Depot                                                                       11:00 a.m. – 11:35 a.m.

Train departs Bryson City                                                                                 12:01 p.m.

De-board in Bryson City                                                                                       4:15 p.m. – 4:45 p.m.

Schedule for passengers riding motor coach from Johnson City, TN

Board chartered tour bus in Johnson City                                                      7:00 a.m. to 7:25 a.m.

Motor coach departs                                                                                               7:30 a.m.

Arrive in Bryson City, NC                                                                                               10:00 a.m.

Claim box lunches, visit shops and Lionel Railroad Museum                             10:00 a.m. – 11:00 a.m.

Board train at Bryson City Depot                                                                               11:00 a.m. – 11:35 a.m.

Train departs Bryson City                                                                                           12:01 p.m.

De-board in Bryson City                                                                                                    4:15 p.m. – 4:45 p.m.

Board bus and depart for return to Johnson City                                                   4:45 p.m. – 5:00 p.m.

Arrive back in Johnson City                                                                                                 7:30 p.m.


       First Class ticket price is $170 and includes a meal.  No passengers under age 21

       Crown Class ticket price is $110/adult and $87/child [2 -12]

       Tourist Coach or Open-Air Coach Class ticket price is $94/adult and $77/child [2-12]

       Open-Air Coach Class ticket price is $96/adult $76/child [2-12]

All classes of excursion tickets include free admission to the Smoky Mountain Lionel Train Museum before boarding the train. The museum boasts a collection of 7,000 Lionel engines, cars and accessories, and an impressive operating layout and children’s activity center.


       First Class tickets include a meal.  [Indicate entrée selection on ticket order form.]

       Box Lunch – includes sandwich, chips, cookie, and drink. [Make selection on ticket order form.]

Box lunches must be pre-purchased with ticket order and will be available track-side for  pick-up before boarding

       Concessions Car – sandwiches, drinks, chips, and snacks will be available for purchase on board 

       Bring Your Own – a small cooler is acceptable if you wish to bring food with you

Tickets and pre-purchased meals must be ordered online by credit card at  Click on the EXCURSIONS link

The excursion runs rain or shine. Every effort will be made to maintain an on-time schedule.  The Watauga Valley Railroad Historical Society & Museum assumes no liability due to passengers not arriving on time at the Bryson City Depot.

Questions about the trip? Go to, or email [email protected]

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