The train lines that wind through the hills, valleys, and mountains of North Carolina are among the most beautiful ways to travel through the state. Riding these railways offers visitors the opportunity to be transported back to the peak time of the train, when millions of people depended on them to move across the country.

1.Great Smoky Mountain Railroad

Great Smoky Mountain Railroad
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Bryson City sits right along the Smoky Mountains and the national park that protects them and is the perfect place for a train station and many miles of track, which take visitors through the mountains on a historical steam engine train. The train has been outfitted inside with modern facilities and the heart and soul of North Carolina: BBQ and good beer. The local breweries take part in supplying the train with some of the best tasting beer in the nation. Visitors may also rent a spot on the first-class cabin, which gives riders a personal attendant and the best views on the rails. Visitors are welcome to reserve event times, group events, and exploration packages.

45 Mitchell Street, Bryson City, NC 28713, Phone: 800-872-4681

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2.The Craggy Mountain Line

The Craggy Mountain Line
© The Craggy Mountain Line

This little not-for-profit organization succeeded in acquiring the final 3.5 miles of the Craggy Mountain Line and has restored it to a fully functional state, allowing antique trains to take visitors to see the beautiful mountains in Buncombe County, NC, since 2001. The entire operation is funded by donations and is run solely by volunteers, who work hard every week to restore the vintage railway equipment, train cars, and locomotives. Visitors enjoy the rides along the Craggy Mountain Line through the countryside and all the events the organization holds each year during holidays and other times.

111 north Woodfin Ave., Asheville, NC 28804, Phone: 828-808-4877

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3.North Carolina Railway Museum

North Carolina Railway Museum
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This museum is owned by an organization that has been re-creating the history of the train systems in North Carolina since 1983 with an all-volunteer team. The 8 miles of track the museum cares for has been around since 1904, when trains first carried trees and other agricultural freight through the state. Now, the museum houses artifacts, memorabilia, historical items, real train cars, and a gift shop with unique railway items for purchase, all offering information for all the years the lines operated. Visitors often board the Triangle Train, which runs along 8 miles of track, for an excursion, event, or party, and they can even drive the train.

3900 Bonsal Rd., New Hill, NC 27562, Phone: 919-396-5833

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4.N.C. Transportation Museum

N.C. Transportation Museum
© N.C. Transportation Museum

This museum showcases something from every part of North Carolina’s history of trains. The plot of land the museum sits once belonged to the Southern Railway Company and was where the company used to bring all their locomotives for repair. The huge 60-acre facility gives the museum a whole lot of track and land to display all the antique trains and train cars as well as a roundhouse that can store up to 37 trains in their respective bays. Visitors will also find ever-changing exhibits, rides on the trains, tours, events, group events, and special occasion events for holidays and other special days.

411 South Salisbury Avenue, Spencer, NC 28159, Phone: 704-636-2889

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5.Tweetsie Railroad

Tweetsie Railroad
© Tweetsie Railroad

This railroad isn’t merely a few miles of line with a couple of historical locomotives. The two coal-powered steam engines that reside at the Tweetsie Railroad Theme Park are the No. 12 Tweetsie and the No. 190 Yukon Queen, which have rich histories dating back all the way to 1917 before they came to the theme park. Visitors very much enjoy taking rides on both trains during their all-day stay at the theme park doing all kinds of fun activities for the whole family. Riders get a rundown of all the history of the pristinely restored antique trains they are riding on as well as of the track and the area in which the trains were used the most.

300 Tweetsie Railroad Lane Blowing Rock, NC 28605, Phone: 800-526-5740

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5 Best North Carolina Train Trips & Railway Museums

The period of the steam engine and coal-powered trains was noted for its modern marvels and helped usher in the American Industrial Revolution after the American Civil War, which had ravaged most of the country by that time. There is so much history connected to the railways, and on these trains, people can experience it, relive it, and feel what their ancestors did while riding the rails through the state of North Carolina.