Tennessee, a state known for its musical roots and southern charm, has another less-known but equally enchanting allure: its scenic railway routes. Journeying through Tennessee aboard a vintage train offers travelers a unique vantage point from which to witness the state’s diverse landscapes, all the while soaking in a bit of history. If you’re looking for the perfect family adventure, get ready to embark on a railway adventure and discover the scenic train rides Tennessee has to offer!
1. Great Smoky Mountain Railway
Nestled in the heart of the renowned Smoky Mountains, this railway offers passengers panoramic views of pristine forests, verdant valleys, and glistening waterfalls. Originating from Bryson City, this 44-mile round trip is an immersion in nature. The railway frequently hosts themed events, such as the Polar Express ride during the winter season. Fun fact: parts of the 1999 film “The Fugitive” starring Harrison Ford were shot aboard this very railway.
2. Tenn Valley Railroad
As a moving museum, the Tenn Valley Railroad is dedicated to the preservation and operation of vintage trains. Originating from Chattanooga, the Missionary Ridge Local journey offers a short, 55-minute round trip with a rich history lesson about the Civil War and the area’s role in it. The Summerville Steam Special, on the other hand, is a longer expedition showcasing Southern beauty. This railroad is more than just a ride; it’s a journey back in time.
3. Hiawassee River Rail
Winding alongside the shimmering Hiawassee River, this rail adventure is often referred to as the “Hiawassee Loop”. This unique loop section allows the train to corkscrew up the mountain, providing passengers with views of the track below. Wildlife enthusiasts, keep your eyes peeled! Eagles and other native animals often grace travelers with their presence along this route.
4. Craggy Mountain Line
Located in Asheville, North Carolina, just a stone’s throw from Tennessee, this rail line covers a short but picturesque 3.5-mile track. While it might not boast the longest journey, its dedication to preserving rail equipment from bygone eras is commendable. Seasonal rides, such as the Halloween-themed journeys, add a delightful twist to the experience.
5. Three Rivers Rambler
Setting off from downtown Knoxville, this train journey is a beautiful amalgamation of urban and natural landscapes. As it meanders along the Tennessee River, passengers aboard the historic steam engine are treated to views of farmlands, forests, and the waterfront. An interesting tidbit: the train’s engine, known as the “Lindy”, is over 80 years old!
6. Tweetsie Railroad
Steeped in Wild West nostalgia, the Tweetsie Railroad offers more than just a train ride. Located between Boone and Blowing Rock, North Carolina, close to Tennessee’s border, this railroad entertains with live shows, amusement rides, and an authentic Western town. Originally opened in 1957, it stands as North Carolina’s first theme park and an enduring favorite for families.
7. Blue Ridge Scenic Railway
Straddling the line between Georgia and Tennessee, this railway promises breathtaking views of the Blue Ridge Mountains. The journey starts at the historic depot in Blue Ridge, Georgia, traveling to the twin towns of McCaysville, Georgia, and Copperhill, Tennessee. Passengers can explore these charming towns during a layover before the return journey. With vintage train cars and seasonal excursions, such as the Fall Foliage Trip, the experience is both scenic and nostalgic.
The rhythm of the rails, the allure of the landscapes, and the whispers of history make train journeys in Tennessee an unparalleled experience. Whether you’re a history buff, a nature enthusiast, or simply someone seeking a unique adventure, Tennessee’s scenic train rides offer a window to a world where the journey is just as enchanting as the destination. Pack your bags, and let Tennessee’s railways serenade you with tales of yore and sights galore. All aboard