ArtsAutosBooksBusinessEducationEntertainmentFamilyFashionFoodGamesGenderHealthHolidaysHomeHubPagesPersonal FinancePetsPoliticsReligionSportsTechnologyTravel

Tweetsie-Historic Steam Railroad and Theme Park

Updated on June 20, 2012

The Railroad With A Heart


Fun At Tweetsie

Click thumbnail to view full-size

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
Kids young and old loved this part.
Kids young and old loved this part. | Source

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


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


This website uses cookies

As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at:

Show Details
HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the or domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)
ClickscoThis is a data management platform studying reader behavior (Privacy Policy)