Ghost Train Rolls on Sept. 23 and through October

NC Ghost Train. Source: Tweetsie Railroad, tweetsie.com.
NC Ghost Train. Source: Tweetsie Railroad, tweetsie.com.

The Ghost Train© will soon be rolling in Blowing Rock, North Carolina. Each weekend, the frightful train will be coupled with a Halloween Festival, with multiple scary attractions including a Haunted House.

The Ghost Train is open for six weekends. Ghost Train Halloween weekends cover Friday-Saturday on these dates:

  • September 23-24, 2016
  • September 30-October 1, 2016
  • October 7-8, 2016
  • October 14-15, 2016
  • October 21-22, 2016
  • October 28-29, 2016

Gates are open from 7:30pm to 10pm. The park remains open until 11:30pm. Tweetsie Railroad is located at 300 Tweetsie Railroad Lane, in Blowing Rock NC, in Watauga County.

If you’re planning to head to the NC mountains for this Halloween-themed venue, consider the scare factor. Some children (or adults) may be frightened by the dark, loud train sounds, and ghostly “explosions.” For children under 8 or those of any age who are easily frightened, avoid the Ghost Train, the Haunted House, and the Freaky Forest. Tweetsie’s nighttime is Halloween oriented and designed for fright! Daytime shows and attractions are Wild West themed, for those who want to come in daylight and avoid a scary time. Once the daytime park closes (6pm), the nighttime scare fest is set up and the Ghost Train brought from its darkened, daytime hiding place onto the tracks for nighttime rides.

A bonus, though less visible at night, is that the Fall foliage should be turning colors as Fall progresses.

Advance tickets are required, as the train can sell out. Admission covers the train and nighttime attractions for $36 per person, with children 2 and under riding along on the train for free. To ensure you and your friends, family, can enjoy the ride, be sure to purchase tickets in advance from the ticket office (877.893.3874) or online at www.tweetsie.com. Reserve the time and date you wish to ride the Ghost Train.  Tickets must be ordered at least ten days in advance in order to be mailed; otherwise, tickets may be held for pickup at the ticket office. Festival weekends will be here soon, and reservations may be made now.

Nighttime admission includes a ride on the Ghost Train, trick-or-treating for the kids, the Haunted House, the Tweetsie Palace Spooktacular (black light show), rides in the Creepy Carnival, and attractions in “The Boneyard” section — the Black Hole™, 3-D maze, and “Freaky Forest.”

Note that the Miner’s Mountain and Turnpike Cruisers in the Creepy Carnival are closed at night, during Ghost Train.

Tweetsie Railroad attractions also include Halloween shows on Main Street and the Warp Tunnel.

Tweetsie Railroad is set in the Blue Ridge Mountains on Hwy 321 between Boone and Blowing Rock, NC, in the northwest corner of the state.

More information on the Ghost Train and tickets may be found at tweetsie.com.

Tweetsie Railroad: A Little Bit of History

According to the railway’s website:

Tweetsie’s history dates back to 1866, when the Tennessee legislature granted the East Tennessee & Western North Carolina Railroad company permission for the construction of a railroad. At the outset, the ET&WNC line was to operate from Johnson City, Tenn., to the iron mines just over the state line at Cranberry NC.

Gene Autry with Engine No. 12 at Tweetsie. Source: Tweetsie Railroad, Blowing Rock NC.
Gene Autry with Engine No. 12 at Tweetsie. Source: Tweetsie Railroad, Blowing Rock NC.

The narrow-gauge railroad began operations in 1882 after 50 miles of track was laid through the rugged Blue Ridge chain of the Appalachian Mountains that divide the two southern states. Later, additional tracks were laid to Boone, N.C., and in 1919 rail service extended to that mountain community. The new line added passenger service to the formerly isolated area, and brought lumber out of the mountains.

As automobiles became the norm, and roadways and highways were built across the nation, railways felt the economic hurt. By mid-1950, the ET&WNC Railroad had ceased operations.

Tweetsie Locomotive No. 12 – the only survivor of the original 13 narrowgauge ET &WNC steam engines – was purchased by railroad enthusiasts and moved to Harrisonburg, Virginia, to operate as the Shenandoah Central Railroad.  Just a few years later, the owners sold No. 12 to Gene Autry, who wanted to take the locomotive to California to use in movies.

For those who don’t know who Gene Autry is, Mr. Autry was an American actor and singer known as the Singing Cowboy.  From the 1930s through the 1950s, Gene Autry performed on radio, in close to 100 movies, and had his own TV series (The Gene Autry Show). He was a Freemason, and for several decades was owner of the California-based Angels Major League Baseball team.

Blowing Rock native Grover Robbins Jr. purchased the rights to Tweetsie from Gene Autry for $1 and in 1956 returned No. 12 to NC.

In the summer of 1957, Tweetsie Railroad opened at her new location just a couple of miles away from the old railroad station in Boone. People came from all over the South to welcome her famous whistle back to the mountains, and to take a one-mile trip to a picnic area and then back up to the station. The following year, the final section of the three-mile rail loop was completed.

In 1960, Tweetsie Railroad acquired another steam locomotive, No. 190 “Yukon Queen” from Alaska’s White Pass & Yukon Railway. Locomotive No. 190 was built in 1943, also by the Baldwin Locomotive Works, for service during World War II.

In the following years, Tweetsie Railroad evolved from an excursion railroad into North Carolina’s first theme park. The track was expanded into a three-mile loop, and an authentic western town was built up around the station. The Wild West theme park has added attractions over the years and features live shows, amusement rides, Gem Mine, the Deer Park Zoo and numerous special events.

Meticulously maintained and now listed in the National Register of Historic Places, Tweetsie continues to delight rail fans, children and tourists who visit the beautiful Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina.

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About Kay Whatley 2217 Articles
Kay Whatley serves as Editor and Reporter with The Grey Area News. Kay is a published author with over 20 years of experience in the publishing industry. Kay Whatley is wife to Frank Whatley, founder of The Grey Area™ newspaper and The Grey Area News online news website.