train rides in north carolinaDay Trips To Roanoke, Va. and Asheville, N.C. Scheduled for October 30 and 31

SPENCER –  The N.C. Transportation Museum Foundation and the Watauga Valley Chapter of the National Railroad Historical Society will host day trip train excursions to Roanoke, Va. October 30 and Asheville, N.C. October 31. These excursions, now in their fourth year, allow travelers to see beautiful fall foliage, experience a great destination and enjoy the romance of riding the rails.

The N.C. Transportation Museum and Watauga Valley NRHS revived fall excursions in 2007, offering trips to Charlottesville, Va.  Sell out crowds and satisfied passengers made those excursions incredibly popular. Last year’s addition of Asheville, N.C. as a destination created an even greater demand for tickets. The trips sold out in record time, with dome car tickets selling out in mere minutes.

This year, the “Virginia Autumn Special” will travel to Roanoke, Va. Saturday, Oct. 30.  The “Blue Ridge Special” will travel to Asheville, N.C. Sunday, Oct. 31. More dome car tickets have been added but the demand is expected to be just as strong as years past.

Departing Spencer at 7 a.m., Saturday’s Virginia Autumn Special” will offer additional passenger pick-up at the Greensboro Amtrak Station at 8 a.m., allowing those in the Triad a more convenient boarding opportunity.  The train will travel through the northern portion of the North Carolina Piedmont, including the cities of High Point and Reidsville before crossing into Virginia.  The western part of central Virginia offers spectacular views of the fall foliage, crossing the Dan and Roanoke Rivers.  Moving onto the old Virginian Railway line, passengers will travel westward, passing through several tunnels and enjoying the rolling Virginia countryside.

The train will arrive in Roanoke, the “Star City of the South,” at noon.  Passengers will have nearly three hours to enjoy the attractions offered. Downtown Roanoke offers an array of dining experiences, shopping and sightseeing opportunities.

Passengers will depart the train at the old Norfolk and Western Passenger Station, home of the O. Winston Link museum.  The museum offers a grand photographic and auditory history of 1950’s steam engine locomotive history. Advance tickets to the museum are available to excursion passengers at the discounted group rate of $4 per person.
Meals will also be available at the famous nearby Hotel Roanoke

The nearby Taubman Museum of Art features a permanent collection of 19th and early 20th Century American art, while the Historic Roanoke City Market has fresh food and handmade crafts.

Passengers can also take a drink from the historic Dogmouth Fountain, constructed in 1898.  Legend says those drinking from the fountain will always return to Roanoke.

Departing Roanoke at 3 p.m., the train will arrive back in Greensboro at 6:45 p.m. and Spencer at 8 p.m.
During Sunday’s trip, the “Blue Ridge Special” will travel through the western Piedmont into the foothills and on to the Blue Ridge Mountains.  Departing Spencer at 7 a.m., the train will roll through the cities of Statesville, Hickory, Morganton, Marion, Black Mountain and Swannanoa.  The train will climb the famed “loops” of the Blue Ridge Mountains and pass through several tunnels before arriving in Asheville at noon.  Passengers will have nearly three hours for an outing at Biltmore Village.

Established in the late 1890s as a planned community near the entrance of the Biltmore estate, Biltmore Village stands near the entrance to Biltmore Estate.  Shopping will be available in unique, locally-owned boutiques.  Passengers can dine in restaurants and take walks along brick sidewalks that parallel tree lined streets.  All of this will be enjoyed alongside spectacular views of the North Carolina mountains.

Departing Asheville at 3 p.m., the “Blue Ridge Special” will return to Spencer at 8 p.m.

Dome Tickets offer the best views of passing scenery with two levels. Windows stretch across the walls and ceiling on the second level, providing a panoramic view of the entire ride. Dome tickets are available for $280 per person.
Premium First Class fare includes continental breakfast and newspapers on the journey to both Roanoke and Asheville, plus dinner on the return trip served in vintage lounge and dining cars. Premium First Class tickets are available for $245 per person.

Deluxe Coach Class tickets feature spacious seating with large windows, lunch on the dining car and light snacks during the trip. Deluxe Coach tickets are $175 per person.

Coach seating, featuring wide windows, adjustable seats and convenient access to the commissary car, are also available for $145 per person. All cars feature air conditioning, heat and rest rooms.

For those wishing to eat on the train to provide more time for sightseeing, an optional box lunch will be offered.  The $14 meal, served in a souvenir lunch tote, includes include a half turkey wrap, pasta, chips & salsa, a cookie and drink.
Tickets will be available online at www.nctrans.org or by calling 704-636-2889 ext. 232.  Tickets go on sale at 10 a.m. Wednesday, June 24.

The N.C. Transportation Museum, located in historic Spencer Shops, the former Southern Railway repair facility is located just five minutes off I-85 at Exit 79 in Spencer, N.C., and about an hour from Charlotte, Greensboro or Winston-Salem. The museum is part of the Division of Historic Sites and the N.C. Department of Cultural Resources, the state agency with the mission to enrich lives and communities and the vision to harness the state’s cultural resources to build North Carolina’s social, cultural and economic future.  Visit www.nctrans.org for more information.

For information on the Watauga Valley Chapter of the National Railway Historical Society, visit www.wataugavalleynrhs.org.

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  1. Betty Almond says:

    Since I just took the train ride to Asheville NC on October 31, 2010, I would like to give potential riders some tips.

    This is not the trip for people who are handicapped. You must walk across railroad tracks in almost complete darkness. The first step onto the train is extremely high and very hard to access. When you return to Spencer, it is dark and you must walk a long distance to the parking lot on uneven surface, dodging cars passing very close to you as you walk. They had a couple of golf carts to transport but it will take almost a thousand train passengers a very long time to get picked up and returned to parking lot.

    The train cars that are used for the trip are privately owned and in varying degrees of upkeep, some well maintained and some in very poor condition, with malfunctioning toilets.

    Although the advertisement by the train museum advises your seats are assigned for Premium First Class, that only means you are assigned to a particular train car and on a first come, first serve basis. Loading starts at 6:00 (if you are lucky) and you stand on uneven gravel and dodge cars while you wait in the darkness.

    The train cars are all different and none look like the train car displayed as Premium First Class on website. Depending on the train car you are assigned to, your window view maybe very limited.

    The dining car for the Premium First Class is several cars away (we were 6-7 cars from the dining car). The walk to the dining car would be very difficult for people with limited mobility or those that move slowly. The doors between the cars are heavy and are hard to open and hold to enter the car.

    The people who are responsible for seat assignments, safety, all arrangements after you pay your money are volunteers. Some of the volunteers are very professional and do an excellent job and others, not so good.

    Consider carefully before you decide.