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“Great Smoky Mountains Railroad - 1st Class” 4 of 5 stars
Review of Great Smoky Mountain Railroad

Great Smoky Mountain Railroad
226 Everett Street, Bryson City, NC 28713
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Type: Scenic Railroads, Landmarks
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Attraction details
Owner description: A 52-mile rail journey through valleys, inside winding tunnels and across spectacular gorges of the Great Smoky Mountains.
Greensboro, North Carolina, United States
Senior Reviewer
7 reviews 7 reviews
4 attraction reviews
Reviews in 5 cities Reviews in 5 cities
10 helpful votes 10 helpful votes
“Great Smoky Mountains Railroad - 1st Class”
4 of 5 stars Reviewed November 23, 2012

We took a trip down the Tuckasegee River on the Great Smoky Mountains Railroad in the first-class MacNeill car. The car had been restored to be period specific. In my opinion, I feel they did a good job with the restoration. As the train began, we started to hear a little bit of the history of the railway from a storyteller at the front of the car. It seemed like an interesting story, however, but we could not help but be continuously interrupted by the waitstaff and photographer. They were all just doing their jobs, but in my opinion, they could have timed things a little bit better. By the time the story was over, we had missed well over half of it due to various interruptions such as placing our drink orders and posing for a picture. The train itself had plentiful accommodations; in fact, the bathroom was even spacious and private. The seats in our train car were comfortable, and the tables were large enough to not be crowded during the meal. The staff seemed very friendly, knowledgable and down to earth. The conductor was able to provide information about the route as we traveled through the miles. It was a bumpy train ride but that was to be expected given the line’s age. It added to the charm of the trip. Since we were in first class, we had our choice of entrees for lunch. Both of our meals were a delight for the senses. Becky had the Glazed Pork Loin with toasted pecans and honey glazed wild rice, served with green beans and a roll. I had Prime Rib Au Jus served with horseradish and au jus wild rice, green beans and a dinner roll. After lunch, we wandered through the cars toward the front of the train where the open car gondola was. We entered the car just in time to enter the hand carved tunnel and then view the wrecked engine and school bus from The Fugitive movie scenes. Shortly after, we were in the train yard and pulling into Historic Dillsboro for a 1.5 hour layover. This marks the halfway point of the trip.

Dillsboro is a charming little town full of shops and friendly people. We sampled some wine and cheese at Country Traditions - the owners were very accommodating and incredibly friendly. I would definitely go there again! From there, we walked to Monkey Toes and Cheddar Box, and perused some boutique shopping materials and did some holiday shopping. from there, we worked our way down to the Dillsboro Chocolate Factory. Walking in the door, we knew we had found a special place. They were playing hip music, the place had the aroma of heaven, and the staff was friendly and accommodating. They allowed me to sample a couple of interesting truffles (who knew that you could incorporate cayenne and jalapeno with dark chocolate and make it taste so good?!…just the right amount of heat). We ended up leaving with two boxes of decadent chocolates, truffles, and fudge, and samples of a delicious coffee drink. We did not get to cover as much ground in Dillsboro as we would have liked; the layover was an hour and a half, and it just didn’t seem long enough. Plus, many of the shops were not open, perhaps because it was Sunday. We heard the five blasts from the train whistle signaling us to return to the train (apparently people get left behind if they don’t hurry!).

Once we were seated and underway, we received a delightful slice of caramel cheesecake. The trip back was quite peaceful in the sense that we were able to hear the history of the trip without as many interruptions. There were a few times where there was total silence and we could just enjoy the scenery.

When it is all said and done, I would recommend this trip, especially in the spring, or as the leaves are changing in the fall. The river scenery along the Tuckasegee River was beautiful, and the old bridges were spectacular. However, the barren trees of mid-November exposed a lot of mobile homes, leaving unsightly marks on the beautiful landscape. One interesting thing to point out, is the use of abandoned crushed cars in the river banks to help with erosion; it might not be a sound ecological choice, but in the 40s they did the best they could with what they had. Also, the railroad does specialty trips throughout the year; during November and December they do Polar Express train rides for kids (and adults!) where the train takes the passengers to the North Pole, Santa boards the train, and the kids all hear the story of the Polar Express and sing carols.

The souvenir shop at the GSMR train station was plentiful but rather expensive. The coffee in the local coffee shop was tasty, but also expensive. We did not have time to visit the Smoky Mountain Trains Museum, although the price of admission was included with our tickets. The town of Bryson City itself seemed quite charming. Once again, upon our arrival, everything was still closed. When we returned from our train trip, it was a bustling little town. I wish we had more time to stay.

In summary, I feel that our trip was well worth our time. The train company could make some improvements, but it was still nice, entertaining, and pleasant company. I definitely want to return with the kids to experience the Polar Express train ride – I’m thinking it is best to take the ride after dark to block out the mobile trailer parks and feel more realistic like the story. Dillsboro and Bryson City were both charming historic towns, and I would revisit either at any time. All in all, a day well spent!

-Jason and Becky @ www.GSOFamilies.com

Visited November 2012
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This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
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930 reviews from our community

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Date | Rating
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English first
Charlotte, North Carolina
Senior Contributor
24 reviews 24 reviews
5 attraction reviews
Reviews in 11 cities Reviews in 11 cities
8 helpful votes 8 helpful votes
“Wonderful Memory”
5 of 5 stars Reviewed November 22, 2012

My family has loved this every year for some time. It is a wonderful experience with the kids wearing pajamas, drinking hot chocolate and getting excited for Christmas. The model train store and exhibit near the station is also fantastic. Highly recommended for all ages. Also advise to pay for first class tickets - a nicer coach and classier experience.

Visited December 2011
Was this review helpful? Yes 3
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Union Grove, North Carolina
3 reviews 3 reviews
Reviews in 3 cities Reviews in 3 cities
4 helpful votes 4 helpful votes
“Great excursion”
4 of 5 stars Reviewed November 21, 2012

Took Tuckasegee River Excursion in the Crecent Limited Crown Class Car. Views were mostly great some houses we passed by had a lot of junk in the yard. Excellent service on train. You will really enjoy if you like history. Open Air car is great for picture taking.

Visited November 2012
Was this review helpful? Yes 4
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Atlanta, Georgia
Top Contributor
58 reviews 58 reviews
13 attraction reviews
Reviews in 27 cities Reviews in 27 cities
24 helpful votes 24 helpful votes
“We had a wonderful time on the Polar Express!”
5 of 5 stars Reviewed November 20, 2012 via mobile

We really enjoyed our hour in the first class Champion car which had a large section of bench style 'living room' seats. The waitresses were friendly and energetic. My two favorite parts were the very beginning when the children marched around our train car and when Santa boarded the train. Even our 10 boys enjoyed the experience and they usually would get stir crazy but never did. We all enjoyed the delicious hot cocoa and well. Definitely a fun way to spend a weekend with friends and your kids. P.S. Everybody wears pajamas like the movie. Wish we had known that for the kids. The adults do too! Ha.

Was this review helpful? Yes 1
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
3 reviews 3 reviews
1 helpful vote 1 helpful vote
“Polar Express”
5 of 5 stars Reviewed November 19, 2012

Very good attraction. Excellent for children and adults. Wear your PJs. Santa was awesome with the children.

Visited November 2012
Was this review helpful? Yes
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.

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