Mo & Terry Smedley


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Smoky Mountain Rail Tour
June, 2009

Part VII - Great Smoky Mountains Railroad, Pisgah Inn, Blue Ridge Parkway

This "O" gauge layout is located in a museum across from our boarding station for the Great Smoky Mountains Railroad, in Bryson City, NC.  In addition to several operating layouts, the museum has a collection of over 7,000 (their count) Lionel locomotives, cars, and accessories from all periods.  The museum's web page is here. This "dinosaur" has toppled the road grader, and begun chewing up the operator.  Another worker has been severely injured by the tail.  Some creative model railroading. Our car for today's ride up the Nantahala River Gorge is a club car with varied seating patterns. Carl is giving us the history of this car, which he rode in when it was in original revenue service in Florida. The opposite end of the car has a slightly different seating arrangement.
  This was a pretty long train for a tourist railroad.  I'm not sure of the exact car count - eight or ten, with two club cars, and two diners.  It's long enough you can't see the locomotive as the train heads around this curve.  I was able to use an open vestibule to take photographs. The Nantahala River Gorge is THICK with rafters and kayakers.  A steady stream of rafts float down the river right next to the tracks.  The water here is fairly gentle.
We make a stop at a recreation center where most of the rafters pull out.  Below here, there are some more challenging rapids. David is on holiday from the UK. Russ and Lonnie (from Michigan) with me watching the rapids. Some of the rapids below the pull out.
We didn't see any rafts head to the whitewater, but these kayakers were enjoying the rush.   The recreation center is a huge operation.  This shows rack after rack of rafting gear that is being dispensed to a never-ending stream of visitors. The parking lot is jammed with fun seekers on this hot day.
The train runs right past the recreation center.  The railroad offers a combination ticket where you take the train up to the Gorge, then raft back down. Our train is parked at the rec center while we explore the area.  There's about an hour layover here. Kudzu up the wazoo!  This stuff takes over everything.  Kudzu blankets both side of the tracks for much of the trip along the river. After our train ride, we drive up the Blue Ridge Parkway above Asheville for dinner at the Mount Pisgah Inn.
Mountain views from the Inn are spectacular. On the porch after dinner. An ultra wide angle view from the Inn. We make a few photo stops on our drive back down the Blue Ridge Parkway to our hotel for the night.
The pyramid shaped peak in the distance is Mt. Mitchell, which at 6684 feet is the highest peak in the US East of the Rockies.