Tickets are available now for the Watauga Valley Railroad Historical Society and Museum’s 2018 Spring Excursion.

The ride through the Great Smoky Mountains and countryside of Western North Carolina is Saturday, March 24.

The route follows the former Southern Railway’s Murphy Branch Line, established in 1891, with a 5 percent grade and many bridges, a news release says. Much of the route follows the banks of the Tuckasegee, Little Tennessee and Nantahala rivers, and it crosses Fontana Lake on a trestle 100 feet above the lake, spanning 780 feet. The track also travels through the Cowee Tunnel en route to Bryson City, and enters the Nantahala Gorge.

This trip marks the first time the society has offered a train ride on the entire, completed operating trackage of the Great Smoky Mountains Railroad.

First class tickets are $156 for adults 21 and over, and include a diner meal. Crown class tickets are $97 for adults and $79 for children 2-12. Coach class tickets are $85 for adults and $69 for children 2-12.

A variety of meal options are available, along with a concessions car for purchases on the train. Guests may also bring their own small coolers.

Tickets and pre-purchased meals may be ordered online at www.wataugavalleynrhs.org by clicking the “Excursion” link. Printable tickets and meal order forms are also available online.

Passengers may also send a check or money order, along with the number of tickets, class of service and pre-paid meal choices, to Spring 2018 GSMR Excursion, Watauga Valley RHS&M, P.O. Box 432, Johnson City, TN, 37605.

The excursion departs Johnson City from the parking lot of Liberty Bell Middle School by motor coach at 9:15 a.m. March 24. There will be passenger pick-up at 9:45 a.m. in the Asheville/Weaverville, North Carolina, area.

Passengers will be picked up in Greeneville at 9:45 a.m. and in Morristown at 10:15 a.m.

En route to Dillsboro there will be a stop-over for passengers to purchase lunch if desired, the news release says.

At Dillsboro, passengers will be able to see the Jarrett House, a landmark hotel built in 1884, and visit shops before boarding the excursion train at 1:45 p.m. for the 4.5-hour trip.

Leaving Dillsboro, passengers will see Great Smoky Mountains Railroad shops and pass the filming location of “The Fugitive,” a 1993 film starring Harrison Ford and Tommy Lee Jones that featured a train wreck scene filmed on the Great Smoky Mountains Railroad.

The news release says wreckage of the set is visible on the outbound train excursion.

The railroad was also used in the 1996 comedy “My Fellow Americans” and 1998 film “Forces of Nature.”

At the end of the line, the train will return to Nantahala Outdoor Center, where busses will meet passengers. Passengers are expected to arrive in Weaverville and Morristown by 7:30 p.m., Greeneville by 8 p.m. and Johnson City by 8:30 p.m., the news release says.

For more information, see www.wataugavalleynrhs.org, call 423-753-5797 or email wataugavalley@embarqmail.com.

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