Riding the Great Smokey Mountain Railroad
Chapter title – Traveling to Bryson City
As November, 2015 approached my wife and I discussed what we would like to do to celebrate our coming wedding anniversary. We decided upon an expedition we had often talked about before, a ride on the Great Smoky Mountains Railroad. So, we made arrangements and traveled to Bryson City on November 6, 2015 to take a ride on the rails. We stayed at the Microtel Inn on Songbird Forest Road, just off US Highway 74. Potential riders to the area will find other lodging options in Bryson City; however, we chose this one because it was convenient. The room had a microwave, refrigerator and the hotel offers a continental breakfast in the morning.
Travel Through Sevierville and Gatlinburg a Bad Idea
Our trip to Bryson City would take us through Tennessee from our home in southeast Indiana. The two best options for travel were to take I-75 to the eastern side of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, catch US 74 and drive back west towards Bryson City. The other option involved driving through Sevierville, Pigeon Forge and Gatlinburg. This would take us through Newfound Gap Road inside the National Park. My thought had been that during the off-season, the Gatlinburg/Pigeon Forge area would not be busy and we could ride through the Great Smoky Mountains during the evening hours. Wrong. The traffic was heavy and it took us well over an hour to get to the Gatlinburg bypass. My hope of getting through the Newfound Gap Road before dark melted away as the sun dropped below the horizon. We arrived at the Microtel Inn in Bryson City around 7:15, checked in and unpacked. We drove back into Bryson City, which even in the dark we could tell is a neat town. We dined at the Jimmy Macs Restaurant on Main Street. We would return to this excellent restaurant on this trip, and again on our trip a year later. Thus fortified with a wonderful dinner and some local beer, we were ready to return to the room and prime for our train ride in the morning.
The Great Smoky Mountain Railroad offers two rides, the Tuckasegee River Excursion, which runs southeast to Dillsboro, North Carolina. Nantahala Gorge Excursion the Nantahala Gorge Excursion, which travels northwest to the Nantahala Gorge. The Tuckasegee River Excursion follows the course of the Tuckasegee River for sixteen miles, to the small village of Dillsboro. The Great Smoky Mountain Railroad offers several levels of packages for the ride, including First Class, Family First Class, Family Premium Open Air Gondola, Crown Class, Coach Class and Open Air Gondola. Many of these packages include food and drink. We had elected to travel Coach, which did not include a meal. This type of travel has open seating on a car with opening windows. Because of the lateness of the season, we did not choose the Open Air Gondola. Passengers in Coach may purchase meals and drinks from the Diner Car, if desired. Restrooms are available and the cars are heated or air conditioned, as the weather dictates. We had purchased our tickets online in advance, an option I would recommend.
At the Station
We arrived at the train station on Everette Street in Bryson City around ten o’clock in the morning after parking in the large lot across the street. The morning was cool and damp with a recent light rain. Passengers dressed in light jackets milled about the ticket desk. We collected our tickets from the ticket counter and joined the waiting throng in the outdoor waiting area. Around eleven o’clock the call came to board the train. We walked to our appointed boarding station and after a brief wait, boarded the train.
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