Is This Passenger Train Ride Worth the Cost?

“On a Warm Summer’s Eve; on A Train Bound for Nowhere…”

Ok, it wasn’t evenin’ and the train was headed to McCayesville, GA but you get the idea right? Shane said he kept humming “The Gambler” in his head the entire trip on the Blue Ridge Scenic Railway. He even went as far to say that the only thing to have made it better if they had folk dressed up in wild west period clothing and held a shoot-em-up. I couldn’t bear to tell him that this train was not originally from late 1800’s Midwest. But then again the mountain hillbillies of North Georgia were no joke either. Just visit the Tilley and Stanley Settlements cemeteries and you will see just how bad ass they were, but that is another story for another time. Today we are going on a train ride.

BRSR

The Blue Ridge Scenic Railway embarks on its journey from the historic 1905 train depot in downtown Blue Ridge and makes a slow, relaxing 13-mile ride along the Toccoa River as it heads for a layover in the sister towns of McCaysville, Georgia, and Copperhill, Tennessee.

Before I tell you about our trip let me tell you some cool events that are hosted by BRSR.

  • April – Easter Eggs-press – Take a ride to a Farmer Brown’s field where eggs are hidden.
  • October – Pumpkin Express – Visit Farmer Brown’s field, pick out a souvenir pumpkin and then return to Blue Ridge.
  • October/November – Fall foliage rail rides offer beautiful glimpses of autumn trees.
  • December – Santa Express – take a ride with old Saint Nick
  • New Year’s Eve Excursion – ring in the new year onboard while sipping on wine and tasting hors d’oeuvres.

Our visit was the third weekend in September, the leaves were just beginning to change and the weather was starting to cool to a brisk (not so much) 88 degrees. (oh how I wish for real fall temperatures.) We opted to sit in the climate controlled car because it felt more authentic. They have open air cars but you sit along a bench that doesn’t look like a traditional train car seat. They allow moving about the train and it is safe to walk between cars, so I just popped into an open air for a few photos and then took my happy butt back to the comfy seats.

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Julia pondering life while looking outside the train window
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Country barn sits in a lonely field along the train tracks

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Here is what we found:

    • The train leaves precisely at its scheduled time, don’t be late.
    • The entire trip consists of 1-hour ride to McCaysville/Copperhill, 2-hour layover, 1-hour return trip to Blue Ridge. Plan on a full half a day for this excursion.
    • Tickets are not cheap, but if you are military or first responder they offer a discount.
    • It was worth it to cross Ride a Train off our bucket list.
    • When purchasing tickets, ask for a car in the very back of the train, so that you can get a great shot of entire train as it rounds bends.2017-09-18 11.27.28
    • Your ticket reserves your car, but not your seat.
    • The Toccoa River is on the right side of the train going and if you are taking the 3 P.M. ride make sure you are on the right, otherwise it may be dark on the ride back to Blue Ridge. When boarding, ask your car guide if the sun is already set on the return trip. If it is after Daylight Savings you may not get those pictures you wanted.
    • Get to your car early, people start lining up for the choice “right side of train” seats.
    • The car guides ask that if you sat on the right side of the train going, trade seats with those on the left so everyone gets to see the Toccoa River.
    • The Moose Caboose has rail-side food and drinks, if you purchase a ticket at the depot, you may get a coupon for a free coffee while you wait to board the train. The hot chocolate was pretty darn good too.
    • 2017-09-18 14.39.24-1Ask your car guide questions, you will find they are quite knowledgeable, ask about the ceiling paper stamped with your cars original train line.
    • If you are in the climate controlled car, move to an open-air car as the conductor announces that they are approaching the cornfield where you can see the entire train front to end. This is about the only time they will allow you to stick your entire torso out the window for a great photo op.
    • There is a concessions car aboard the train if you get hungry on the 1-hour trip
    • If you get sore sitting a spell, walk the entire length of the train and back. It is acceptable.
  • Keep an eye out for the old telegraph poles that are over 100 years old.100 year old telegraph pole
  • Be sure to see the 500-year-old Native American Fish trap

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    The only thing this fish trap is catching these days is a large limb!
  • MaCayesville/Copperhill – leaves a lot to be desired.  Want my honest opinion of the town(s)? Tourist Trap.
    • Interesting sites in town:
      • Old Steel bridge (as seen in photo peaking of the tops of the buildings
      • Georgia/Tennesee line- Stand one foot in GA the other in TN
  • Hold on to your train ticket – you will need to get it “stamped” by the conductor (ask him for a photo op, he will more than oblige) and you will need it to board the train for your return trip. (truthfully, the first is for show and they didn’t ask to see our tickets on the return trip because our car guide remembered us. )
  • The Old Steel bridge – right before you enter McCaysville/Copperton you will cross an old steel bridge. There is very little space between the train and the bridge. I am talking a few inches at best. This bridge is in Horseshoe Bend Park if you want a different perspective of it.

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  • The return train trip: If you missed something going, you get a second chance to see it on the way back. I walked to the next train car which was open air and shot a few photos without the glass between me and the outdoors. Depending on how crowded the train is, this is acceptable. When I returned to our car I found Shane fast asleep, lulled by the slow steady movement of the train. You see the same thing coming as you do going, so he didn’t miss anything.
  • Bonus tip: if you ask nicely, you may get a tour of the train engine. Ask after the trip is over not before, they are too busy getting the train ready before.  Usually, you won’t be denied this bonus that many people don’t know about.

In the end I feel like taking a ride along the Toccoa River in a antique train is worth the cost of the trip. It gives kids an idea of how life used to be when their grands lived, you learn a bit of history while relaxing and unwinding. However, the towns you visit are lacking.

Want more info? visit http://www.brscenic.com/

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Keep the Lust for Wandering, Y’all!

Shane and Fran

All Aboard!

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