Freight and Heritage – Smoky Mountain Railroad

Becky WiseNantahala

The Smoky Mountain Railroad started construction in the late 1800’s after other rail lines reached Asheville, North Carolina.  As you can imagine, building a railroad across the mountains was no easy task.  Luckily, the engineer Capt. J. W. Wilson was up to the challenge.  He faced two daunting tasks, the first to conquer the western side of the Balsam Mountains with the railroad grade topping out at 3,100 ft. above sea level.  The second task was completion of the 836 foot Cowee Tunnel.

The railways  in western North Carolina changed the way of life for rural residents.  It allowed salesmen to come and bring in the new innovations of the time.  It also allowed area businesses to travel and set up a network of trade with surrounding areas.  The boom for the Murphy Branch of the Southern Railway was during World War II when Fontana Dam was being constructed.  The use of the railroad lessened as the use of the automobile became common place.  The railroad now runs excursions from Bryson City, NC for passengers who want to see the scenic views of the Smoky Mountains and Nantahala Gorge.

Wildwater has partnered with the Smoky Mountain Railroad to bring Rafting, Ziplines and Jeep rides together.  Find out more about Wildwater’s Raft and Rail packages.

Or more about the Great Smoky Mountain Railroad here: