Tweetsie-Historic Steam Railroad and Theme Park

The Railroad With A Heart

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Fun At Tweetsie

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A Fun Time Was Had By All At The Pretend Robbery

This guy rode in to help the Sheriff save the gold.
This guy rode in to help the Sheriff save the gold. | Source
Old time practice shooting gallery
Old time practice shooting gallery | Source
Indian settlement replica
Indian settlement replica | Source
Fort Boone
Fort Boone | Source
The Yukon Queen steam engine pulled us around the mountain.
The Yukon Queen steam engine pulled us around the mountain. | Source
Taken from a moving train, please pardon the blurry look.
Taken from a moving train, please pardon the blurry look. | Source

The History of Tweetsie


Tweetsie is located in the mountains of North Carolina. It is between Blowing Rock and Boone, just a few miles off the Blue Ridge Parkway at mile marker 291. It has been an historic institution in this area since the days of the Great Depression and remains a beloved memory in the hearts of all the people who have been touched by Engine # 12.

Number twelve is the last remaining engine of the ET&WNC Railroad. That stands for East Tennessee and Western North Carolina Railroad, but my Daddy had us convinced it meant Eat Taters and Wear No Clothes when we were kids. Tweetsie, #12, was built in 1917 and is a coal fired locomotive. The ET&WNC line carried people and freight 66 miles over the mountain between Boone, North Carolina and Johnson City, Tennessee. The railroad line operated from 1882 until 1950 when the “narrow gauge” part ceased to operate.

Engine Number 12 did some traveling before returning to her home town. She worked in West Virginia for a while then was bought by the famous Singing cowboy, Gene Autry who intended to use the engine in movies out in Hollywood. But the cost to get her across country was prohibitive and he sold Tweetsie to a man named Grover Robbins for the great sum of $1 on condition it not be resold for profit.

Mr. Robbins created a three mile loop of track around the mountain and opened a tourist attraction featuring #12. People loved the idea of taking their children on a short and safe train ride and flocked to the area. Eventually a Wild West town was built and a live show designed to thrill and chill the riders. A local celebrity personality, Fred Kirby, was hired to make regular appearances as a singing cowboy. As, kids, we loved him and he became a hero to us.

In time, more was added to make a visit to the theme park more entertaining and a chair lift was constructed. As it carries the rider up, up, up the mountain, one can see the entire park and almost to town. About the same time a “country fair” ride area was built and has a Ferris wheel, tilt-a-whirl, bumper cars, and many more rides commonly found at fairs everywhere.

It became necessary to obtain another engine. Old Number 12 sometimes was in the shop for maintenance or repairs. So Number 190, the Yukon Queen, was purchased and brought to the Tweetsie Park in 1960. She had quite an exciting history and was a great addition. The Yukon Queen was built in 1943 for the United States Army and served in Alaska as part of MacArthur’s 2-8-2 platoon of eleven locomotives. The Queen worked hard on her assigned route on the White Pass and in the Yukon.

That pretty much covers a brief history. Now we can get on to the fun stuff. This is what one can expect to see and do at Tweetsie right now.

Scenes From the Train

the lil outhouse got blown up with a stick of dynamite
the lil outhouse got blown up with a stick of dynamite | Source
At Fort Boone
At Fort Boone | Source
The cowgirl was in the outhouse when it got blown up. The sides fell down while she was sitting there.
The cowgirl was in the outhouse when it got blown up. The sides fell down while she was sitting there. | Source
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Kids young and old loved this part.
Kids young and old loved this part. | Source
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What To Expect At Tweetsie


A visit to Tweetsie will never be forgotten. It is an experience that touches the heart and takes one back to a more innocent time. The Wild West theme entertains both children and adults; it is age proof and sort of old fashioned in its simplicity. The employees dress in Western wear and the gift shops are full of hats, chaps, child-sized holsters and play guns. For those who favor the other side, Indian headdresses, spears, dream catchers and the like are also available. But all of that is the material part of the Tweetsie experience.

Upon entering the Park, you will find yourself transported back to the 1800’s. There are life size statues of horses and replicas of stagecoaches, and wagons everywhere. The railroad track in just at the entrance and if one has great timing, it will be loading passengers. Go there immediately. This is THE Tweetsie experience and everything else fades next to riding the train. Sit in the back of the 2nd car or front of the 3rd car for the best view of upcoming live shows. Once loaded, the engineer tells about the engine that is pulling the train today and pulls out. Coal smoke floods the air and people in Car 1 may even get a cinder in the eye if not careful.

The train slowly chugs around the mountain and over the trestle (look down and you will be awed) as the engineer keeps us informed of the history and current conditions of Fort Boone. We pass several items of interest, a “Hanging Today” sign and an abandoned gem mine. Then we roll into the tiny settlement and the train stops. Suddenly the Sheriff is there with his sidekick and they are ambushed by bad guys who want to steal the gold on the train and to rob the passengers! A fight ensues with gunfire and wrestling. The bad guys win and decide to hold the entire train prisoner. They board and force the engineer to drive on. A bad guy is stationed on each car and “casually” checks and reloads his pistol.

The train continues the loop and we pass an Indian settlement, an old time shooting gallery, a graveyard and other strategically placed old west items of interest. Then the train approaches Fort Boone and the action starts again. The bad guys “force” the train to a stop and jump off, dragging the Sheriff with them. Unknown to them though, the Fort is under attack by Indians! The soldiers shout for the engineer to “get those train passengers to safety” but are they not allowed to move the train. Outlaws, Indians, Lawmen and Soldiers stage a fight while maintaining funny dialogue. Rifles, pistols, spears, fists and even a stick of dynamite are employed in the struggle to win control of the gold and the passengers.

The stick of dynamite is thrown after a cowboy who ran and hid behind the outhouse. It explodes and the walls fall down revealing the cowgirl sitting on the wooden rim of the hole. She is angry and comes out shooting.

When I was a kid the Indians came aboard and pretended to scalp people, but I suppose it is no longer Politically Correct. We always loved it though. sigh

Finally the bad guys are defeated, the Indians run away and the good guys take a bow. They board the train cars, verify all passengers are safe and accounted for, and give each child a gold shell from their pistol. Then we set off again to complete the journey back to the depot. There are a few more sights along the way, but they cannot compete with having survived the Great Train Robbery.

The train puffs into sight of the Depot and people wave as we wave back. We all had a great time and made a memory that will never be forgotten. As we depart, cowboys help us off and some of us immediately line up to ride again.


Other Things To Do At Tweetsie:

  • Pan for gold
  • Visit the Petting Zoo
  • Ride the rides at the Country Fair
  • Watch a live show at the theatre
  • Ride the Mouse train and Mouse Mine
  • Ride the Chair Lift
  • Visit the Saloon and watch the Can-Can Girls dance
  • Eat at several great food kiosks
  • Watch fudge being made and grab a sample bite
  • Take lots of photos-the views and flowers are gorgeous
  • Visit the shooting gallery
  • Play in the arcade
  • Sit in the Jail and see how bad guys were locked up

Interesting Tweetsie Facts


  • The nickname Tweetsie was given the train by locals who constantly heard the shrill whistle echo through the mountains as the she passed by on her route.
  • Tweetsie was called the “railroad with a heart” by people in the Great Depression because they were allowed to ride for free if they didn’t have money for a ticket.
  • Also the train employees would pick up groceries and supplies for folks and drop them off on the return trip.
  • The elevation at Tweetsie is 5506 feet above sea level.
  • Tweetsie becomes scary in October and the Ghost Train rides through “Death Mountain”
  • Contact Tweetsie at: 300 Tweetsie Railroad Lane, Blowing Rock, NC 28605


PLEASE READ THIS COPYRIGHT NOTICE


All photographs and text on this site are protected under United States and international copyright laws (© Brenda Barnes) with all rights reserved.

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Comments 29 comments

mckbirdbks profile image

mckbirdbks 5 years ago from Emerald Wells, Just off the crossroads,Texas

Hello Hyphen I see you are out having fun as Summer comes to an end and sharing that fun with the rest of us. What a nice day you have related to us.


Hyphenbird profile image

Hyphenbird 5 years ago from America-Broken But Still Beautiful Author

Hi mckbirdbks. I went last week with about 50 school kids. Thankfully, I only had 2 in my group. It was a sweet time. I hope you enjoyed the virtual visit.


Alastar Packer profile image

Alastar Packer 5 years ago from North Carolina

Just wonderful Hyph. I had this long comment on everything thing finished, went to the slide and of course it got wiped out. So, thanks for bringing back the wonderful memories and except for the beloved Fred Kirby and the train with its Warrior attacks(most of those "Indians" were college boys from Appalachian)every thing seems much the same including the magic. Merci for a great one Ms. Bee.


Hyphenbird profile image

Hyphenbird 5 years ago from America-Broken But Still Beautiful Author

Hello Alastar. I am so glad you liked this. It really is a special and sweet place, very innocent. It would have been nice to see Fred Kirby there. The magic you mention is indeed still there. It was fun to see the children's faces. My boy chewed out a bad guy for being a bad guy. He pulled his gun ans S...slid down under the seat. It was hilarious. All in all I loved it and was glad I went.


Happyboomernurse profile image

Happyboomernurse 5 years ago from South Carolina

You really brought the place to life with your vivid descriptions and cool photos. I see your Dad had a good sense of humor by the name he gave the ET&WNC and tried to fool you with: "Eat Taters and Wear No Clothes."

I agree that the indian scalpings must have been stopped out of political correctness, but can see where that would have been one of the highlights of the train ride for young kids.

Fun hub and I rated it up across the board! Thanks for taking us along on this delightful ride.


Hyphenbird profile image

Hyphenbird 5 years ago from America-Broken But Still Beautiful Author

I am so glad you found it fun HBN. Tweetsie is such a precious place and I have sweet memories of those childhood times. Yeah, Daddy was great. His sense of humor was cool and we were so innocent that we would believe anything. lol

Thanks for the votes. Hyph


Cloverleaf profile image

Cloverleaf 5 years ago from Calgary, AB, Canada

Hyph, the Wild West Town sounded like a blast, somewhere you could really get into character I think. Great hub and pics, thanks for the adventure.

Cloverleaf.


Hyphenbird profile image

Hyphenbird 5 years ago from America-Broken But Still Beautiful Author

Hi Cloverleaf. It really is a great time and being there is so sweet. And seeing the experience through the eyes of a child makes it even more amazing. I am glad you cameby for a virtual visit.


WillStarr profile image

WillStarr 5 years ago from Phoenix, Arizona

How cool is that!


always exploring profile image

always exploring 5 years ago from Southern Illinois

This is great Hyphen, reminds me of Silver Dollar City in Branson. Mo. Thank's for the Grand tour. I would love to go see it.

Cheers


Hyphenbird profile image

Hyphenbird 5 years ago from America-Broken But Still Beautiful Author

Hi there always. Isn't it wonderful that we have the internet and can take these virtual tours? I have heard about Silver Dollar City. Have you been there?


always exploring profile image

always exploring 5 years ago from Southern Illinois

Yes, I've been there many times. My Son lives in Ark. which is close by. I'm in the mood to do something before summer ends. Take care.

Cheers


Katharella profile image

Katharella 5 years ago from Lost in America

I loved Tweestie! I still have the little plate with the photo on it hanging in my dining room. Mom got it when I was about 5-ish. Watching the pretend train robbery - classic of the olden days. I'm so glad my parents traveled me to these places, they hold the fondest memories. :)


Hyphenbird profile image

Hyphenbird 5 years ago from America-Broken But Still Beautiful Author

Always, go and have a great time. Take lots of photos. Then write a Hub about it so we can armchair travel there with you.

Hi Katharella. How exciting that you remember Tweetsie. It is such an amazing place. I wish I had one of those plates. I know Mama did but don't know what happened to it.


Eiddwen profile image

Eiddwen 5 years ago from Wales

A brilliant hub and thank you so much for sharing.

I am bookmarking into my 'Armchair Traveeling'slot.

Have a great day and take care

Eiddwen.


Movie Master profile image

Movie Master 5 years ago from United Kingdom

I loved my virtual visit, it was a great day out thank you, we have the grandchildren for a few days, wish we could take them there, they would love it!


Hyphenbird profile image

Hyphenbird 5 years ago from America-Broken But Still Beautiful Author

Hello Eiddwen. This is a great one for armchair traveling. I purposely added lots of photos for people who are far, far away. I am so glad you enjoyed Tweetsie.

Hi Movie Master. I wish you could too. Every child I saw had that look of wonder on his/her precious little face. I know you will find something amazing for them to see though. Enjoy your Grands. Nothing is better than Grands. sigh


lilyfly 5 years ago

Tweetsie gave rides to people i n the depression? I'd love to go there... great job... as always sweetpea! lily


Hyphenbird profile image

Hyphenbird 5 years ago from America-Broken But Still Beautiful Author

Hi lilyfly. My boy actually said he is going to work at Tweetsie when he grows up. It would be a fun job. Lots of local college students work there. Yes, the railroad folks actually gave free rides and dropped off supplies to the mountain people back in the depression. That is why they called it The Railroad With A Heart. You don't find that kind of thing today. sigh

How are you and lovely Alaska?


prasetio30 profile image

prasetio30 5 years ago from malang-indonesia

This was so fantastic place. I just saw this on my television and it remind me about cowboy movie. Well done and very entertaining hub. Vote up and useful. Take care!

Prasetio


Hyphenbird profile image

Hyphenbird 5 years ago from America-Broken But Still Beautiful Author

Thank you very much prasetio30. It is so cool that you saw Tweetsie on TV. I am so glad you came to visit this Hub. We sure had a great time that day. Regards, Hyph.


WesternHistory profile image

WesternHistory 5 years ago from California

Sounds like a terrific place to visit. Enjoyed your hub very much.


Hyphenbird profile image

Hyphenbird 5 years ago from America-Broken But Still Beautiful Author

Hello WesternHistory. I am so glad you enjoyed this visit. Tweetsie is a wonderful place. I will drop your your Hubs and see what you are up to. Your user name has me intrigued.


Becky 5 years ago

I will put this in my "not too far, maybe" file. Looks like fun. And with train, I wouldn't have to worry about Dennis walking.


Hyphenbird profile image

Hyphenbird 5 years ago from America-Broken But Still Beautiful Author

Becky, I hope you get there. It is a wonderful place, so sweet and innocent but great fun. And most everything can is handicap accessible, the train, rides, etc.


Sharyn's Slant profile image

Sharyn's Slant 5 years ago from Northeast Ohio USA

Ha ha,

As I was reading, I was thinking the same thing Hyphen: Armchair traveling as you would say. Great, informative trip - thanks!

Sharyn


Hyphenbird profile image

Hyphenbird 5 years ago from America-Broken But Still Beautiful Author

Hi Sharyn. It is so good to see you on this armchair vacation. lol

Tweetsie is so sweet and wonderful.


thelyricwriter profile image

thelyricwriter 4 years ago from West Virginia

This looks like it would be very fun Hyp. I always have loved this time period, the 1800s. Plus, I always enjoy train rides. So this would be a win-win for me:) It just find it fascinating, what the "wild west" use to look like back in the days.


Hyphenbird profile image

Hyphenbird 4 years ago from America-Broken But Still Beautiful Author

thelyricwriter, we love going to Tweetsie. If you are ever in North Carolina, you must go. It is a sweet place to visit, very laid back and old-time. Thanks for stopping by the Hub.

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