North Carolina Train Rides

The Railroad Nation

Locations
Blowing Rock Bonsal Bryson City Charlotte Denton Dillsboro Hamlet Newton Spencer Valdese Wilmington

Scenic train rides in North Carolina include one of the states oldest railroads and most popular scenic train rides that originates out of Bryson City on the Great Smokey Mountain Railroad. The Great Smoky Mountain Railroad runs Polar Express train rides in North Carolina starting in November and running until Christmas. The GSMR also runs Day Out With Thomas train rides during the summer. You can operate a diesel-electric or steam locomotive on the New Hope Valley Railway. The Tweetsie Railroad is a unique and popular family tourist trainride and destination.
Did you know?
There are 29 steam locomotives listed in North Carolina. The North Carolina Transportation Museum has a roundhouse with a working turntable along with a large collection of locomotive engines and rolling stock. Steam locomotives on display include ACL 4-6-0 No. 1031, Seaboard Air Line 2-10-0 No. 544 and Buffalo Creek & Gauley 2-8-0 No. 4. The former White Pass & Yukon 2-8-2 No.190 and the East Tennessee & Western North Carolina 4-6-0 No. 12 operate scenic train rides on the Tweetsie Railroad. Additional steam locomotive rides can be found on the New Hope Valley Railway behind a Vulcan Iron Works 0-4-0T, No 17. Over in the Denton FarmPark, the Handy Dandy Railroad operates a former US Navy 0-4-0 coal fired steam locomotive pulling tourists around a family campground. ACL.4-6-0 No.250 is on display at the Wilmington Railroad Museum.
North Carolina is home to the largest preserved roundhouse in the U.S. at the former Southern Railway's Spencer Shops. Norfolk Southern services 1,299 miles of the state's 3,225 route miles. North Carolina also boasts of the nations longest straight rail section at 78.86 miles between Wilmington and Hamlet
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Photo courtesy of  Michael Biehn

Blowing Rock

Tweetsie Railroaad

Tweetsie Railroad is a unique attraction that allows children and families to explore their imaginations and a whole lot more. Be a cowboy, Indian or an engineer. And of course, every guest will want to take a ride on the historic steam locomotive # 12, a 1912 Baldwin works narrow gauge 4-6-0, listed on the National Register of  Historic Places. Theme train rides include a Halloween Ghost Train during October.

Bonsal

New Hope Valley Railway

The New Hope Valley Railway at the North Carolina Railroad Museum has monthly train ride days in season from May to December, with activities, themes, and events for visitors of all ages to enjoy. You can charter train rides, learn to operate-a-loco aboard the 1941 0-4-0T Vulcan built steam locomotive #17 or have a birthday party in a historic caboose. Operate-a-loco participants practice the safe operation and handling of a locomotive and will be allowed to operate the engine for one hour under the supervision of one of a qualified engineer. Children's birthday party package includes the rental of a real Atlantic Coast Line caboose (non-airconditioned - as they were on the railroad) for 1½ hours, plastic train whistles and paper engineer's caps for each child, a special surprise for the birthday child and free admission to the Museum for up to twenty-five (25) participants (children and adults).  The participants provide all the food and beverages. A G scale garden railroad covers over 6000 square feet. Visitors are welcome to bring along their own G Scale equipment, and with the approval of the Mechanical Department, and are welcome to run it on their layout. Special train rides include a Halloween Express and a Fall Steam Spectacular. Directions

Bryson City

Smoky Mountain Trains

Smoky Mountain Trains is large collection of 7,000 Lionel™ engines, cars and accessories, impressive operating layout, children’s activity center, and gift/toy shop. The Polar Express in Bryson City, NC is run by the Great Smoky Mountain Railway.

Charlotte

Charlotte Trolley

Charlotte Trolley is home to Car #85, built in 1927. It is Charlotte’s only original electric trolley car still in operation . Museum devoted to the history of streetcars in the South.

Denton

Handy Dandy Railroad

Denton Farm Park is a family owned historical park and campground with 15 restored buildings including a general store, grist mill, church, plantation house, blacksmith shop and a log cabin. The Handy Dandy Railroad operates a full-size steam locomotive, a 1942 Porter 0-4-0, No.9, that encompasses the park on a 1 1/2 mile track. Country Christmas Train operates during the holiday season. Directions.

Dillsborro & Bryson City

Great Smoky Mountains Railway

The scenic Great Smoky Mountain Railway train rides across fertile valleys, pass through tunnels and follow along river gorges in a spectacular region called The Great Smoky Mountains. This section of western North Carolina offers a wide array of ever changing vegetation and fantastic landscapes. This truly spectacular ride includes 53 miles of track, two tunnels and 25 bridges. Polar Express Trains run during season.
Ride a train and raft a river all in one day! GSMR offers a train and rafting combination that departs daily from Bryson City. Ride the Nantahala Gorge Excursion and whitewater raft the full length of the popular Nantahala River. This is a great trip for families wanting to experience the full adventure of the mountains! Four hour round-trip Tuckasegee River Excursions depart from Bryson City to Dillsboro and includes passing by the infamous movie set of The Fugitive starring Harrison Ford!
Gourmet Dinning Train Service operations from Dillsboro were suspended on Monday,
July 21, 2008. Tuckasegee River Excursions ceased operations from Dillsboro on Friday, August 8, 2008.
The Great Smoky Mountain Railway scenic train ride is listed in Parade's "Unforgettable Day Trips by Rail
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Hamlet

National Railroad Museum and Hall of Fame

Exhibits include photographs and maps, displays, a model railroad layout, four pieces of rolling stock and a gift shop for your convenience. The depot was built in 1900 and was the home of the North Carolina Division of Seaboard Air Line Railway. A prime example of Victorian architecture, it is one of the most photographed stations in the eastern United States and is representative of great American railroad stations of that era. Admission is free.

Newton

Southeastern Narrow Gauge & Shortline Museum

Southeastern Narrow Gauge & Shortline Museum is housed in a restored 1924 depot building. Currently, the building houses a museum and a future model railroad, now under construction. Museum includes a diverse collection highlighting the narrow gauge and short line history of the American southeast. Exhibits include Virginia-Carolina #50, a 2-6-0 Mogul locomotive built in 1922 by the American Locomotive Company (Alco).

Spencer

North Carolina Transportation Museum


Photo by author

Southern Railway's Historic Spencer Shops, located at the North Carolina Transportation Museum, includes a 25-minute train ride, which offers a narrated tour of the 57-acre site, and is pulled by an antique diesel engine. Trains generally run daily from Memorial Day through Labor Day on weekends and for scheduled groups the rest of the year. Become a student engineer and take an engine cab ride. Diesel cab rides available on first come first served basis are only $10 for this is a very popular experience. Built in 1924, the 37-bay Robert (Bob) Julian Roundhouse is the largest roundhouse operating today. The museum's collections include an impressive array of antique automobiles, ranging from a 1901 White Steam Stanhope to a 1978 Plymouth N.C. Highway Patrol car. Norfolk & Western 4-8-4 #611 is currently undergoing restoration at the museum's machine shop.

Valdese

Piedmont and Western Railroad Club

The Old Rock School Railway museum is operated by the Piedmont & Western model railroad club.

Wilmington

Wilmington Railroad Museum

The Wilmington Railroad Museum is housed in an authentic 1883 railroad freight warehouse. An eclectic collection of displays which you and your children will find fun and educational. There is a Thomas the Tank Train children's play area, operating HO and O scale trains, and a real life-size caboose and the 4-6-0 ACL steam engine #250. In 1840 the Wilmington & Weldon Railroad was completed and became the longest continuous rail line in the world at 161 miles long. Directions