Riding the Blue Ridge Scenic Railway, an excursion train that runs between Blue Ridge, Georgia, and McCaysville, Georgia / Copperhill, Tennessee
One of the best things about being grandparents is taking trips with the grandchildren. Short trips, long trips, day trips, international trips… any excuse to be together is fine with us!
One of the things we really enjoy is exploring our part of Georgia. There are so many beautiful sights to see and fun things to do. One of the most fun trips we’ve done was a day trip to ride the Blue Ridge Scenic Railway.
On the day of our trip, we got up early and headed out to Blue Ridge, Georgia for our adventure. The Blue Ridge Scenic Railway is an excursion train that runs from Blue Ridge to McCaysville, Ga – Copperhill, Tn. It’s a 13-mile, one-hour ride each way with a two-hour stop in McCaysville-Copperhill.
Our train was leaving at 11:00 a.m. and we arrived in plenty of time to board.
Everyone on the railway except the engineer and concessions staff are volunteers. They’re an exceptionally nice, helpful group of folks.
While everyone was settling in for the ride, our car host, Lynn, talked to us about safety and a few things we might expect during our ride. Lynn was very entertaining and extremely knowledgeable about the railway’s history and all the sights along the way. We couldn’t have asked for a better host! Thanks, Lynn!
Open Air or Closed Cars – Your Choice
The railway offers a choice of either open-air or climate-controlled cars. We chose the open-air car and, even though it was a hot day, I think that was the best way to travel. We wouldn’t have seen nearly as much in one of the closed cars and I couldn’t have gotten photos through those windows!
The cars are comfortable and all the seats face outward so everyone gets a good view. Lynn pointed out to us the wallpaper on the ceiling of our car which was covered with the seal of the state of New York. That’s because our car used to belong to the Long Island Rail Road. The Blue Ridge Scenic Railway purchased the car and refitted it but they kept the wallpaper intact.
Our A was still just slightly skeptical that it wouldn’t be boring at this point, so the video games came out. That lasted until the train started rolling and we never saw the games again for the rest of the day.
Mag is ready to roll!
All That Beautiful Countryside
One of the first sights we saw as we departed from Blue Ridge was a large horse farm. The lush pastures and traditional white fencing were quite beautiful.
The train quickly passes from rolling pastures into more rugged territory. You find yourself surrounded by rocky mountainsides covered in thick foliage on one side of the train and the beautiful Toccoa River on the other side. I was surprised to see rhododendron still blooming so late in the year. Ours have been out of bloom for several months.
A Very Relaxing Way to Travel
This is the old junction that formerly led to Murphy, North Carolina. All along the way, I kept thinking how our ancestors must have felt traveling these rails back in their day. They didn’t have the option of driving anywhere they wanted like we do now and depended on the trains to get them from place to place. I honestly can’t say that it would have been a bad way to live.
The Gorgeous Toccoa/Ocoee River
All along the route, the tracks follow the lovely Toccoa River. When the river reaches the Tennessee state line it becomes the Ocoee River. The Georgia part of the river is shallow and slow running.
We saw lots of people fishing from boats or just wading in the river to fly fish. In most places, the water was just about to an adult’s knee.
The view of the serene river is one of the most pleasurable aspects of the entire trip. There’s always something different to see around the next bend in the tracks.
Ancient History Along the Way
About halfway through the trip is one of the most interesting historical points – the fish trap. The fish trap was constructed more than 500 years ago by Native Americans who pre-dated the Cherokee. After all this time it is still in pristine condition. The trap is formed by rocks laid in the shape of a “V” with an opening at the narrow end. The children would be sent upstream to splash and stomp and scare the fish into swimming toward the V where the women would scoop them up in baskets. Ingenious!
As the tracks twist and turn along the way, there are several curves where you can see the entire train from your car.
Along the tracks you occasionally see another relic of days gone by – telegraph poles!
As we were nearing McCaysville, our car host asked everyone to be sure their heads and hands were inside the car. We soon found out why! There is very little clearance between the train and the trestle while crossing the final bridge!
Standing in Two States – Literally
After a very pleasant hour of riding, we arrived in McCaysville, Ga – Copperhill, Tn. McCaysville-Copperhill is divided right through by the Georgia-Tennessee state line. You can literally stand with one foot in Georgia and one in Tennessee.
McCaysville-Copperhill is a pretty little town and we had a two-hour stop there. Since it was noon, we headed out to find some lunch first. All the restaurants and shops in town are listed on a nice walking tour map provided by the railway. We were looking over our choices and settled on El Rio Mexican Restaurant. I tried to steer our crew in a different direction as I was thinking, “Mexican food in the north Georgia mountains? Really?” But, let me tell you, it was delicious!
While we were eating, I gave A a 5-minute lesson on photography and he snapped the photos below at the table.
Pretty good for his first try, huh?
Shopping in McCaysville/Copperhill
After lunch, we did a little shopping at Nature’s Collectables. Lots of interesting things to explore there, but what we left with was this handmade fudge.
We brought home a quarter-pound each of plain chocolate, cookies and cream, butterfinger and coconut cream. That coconut cream is outstanding! I tried to get the candy maker to tell me how she makes it, but she just kept shaking her head and saying no. Oh, well, I gave it my best try. I did leave her one of my blog cards so maybe she’ll see this post and leave me a comment.
Heading Back to Blue Ridge
When we heard the train whistle at 1:50 we knew it was time to head back to re-board. Our car host had made a point to tell us several times that the train leaves on time with or without everyone on board. After all, it’s 13 miles back to our car and no public transportation between us and there.
On the ride back you get a little different perspective on the sights you saw on the first leg of the trip. Just outside McCaysville, there’s a tubing place. We stopped to let several people leave the train to go tubing on the river. The tubing people would transport them back to Blue Ridge later in the day.
All along the way cars and trucks wait for the train to pass at gated crossings. Everybody waves to the train’s passengers.
A Little Railroad History
This is one of the original mile markers for the railroad. This one told the engineer that they were 390 miles from the origin of the railroad in Louisville, Kentucky. Many of the markers have been destroyed or vandalized. This is one of the few remaining.
The train winds its way back along the same route toward Blue Ridge.
Nearly back to Blue Ridge, you get a good view of the homestead of one of the early workers on the railway. The man raised eleven children working on the railroad and two of them still live on the old homestead. It was one of the neatest, most well-kept properties I’ve seen in a long while.
Such a Fun Filled Day
We all had such a great time riding the train. The sights and sounds make you think back to simpler times. I kept thinking about my grandparents and great-grandparents and whether they’d traveled like this. I feel sure they probably did. And they probably enjoyed as much as we did!
There were at least two tuckered-out passengers on this train yesterday.
What a fantastic day full of memories that we’ll keep forever! If you’re ever near Blue Ridge in north Georgia, take a while to ride the railway. You’ll love it!
More Travels on Lana’s Cooking:
- Family Vacation to Northern Arizona and the Grand Canyon
- Angel Oak
- Drayton Hall
- Myrtle Beach
- A Day Trip to New Echota Cherokee Capital
- Right in Your Own Backyard
More Information on the Blue Ridge Scenic Railway:
- Everything You Need to Know About the Blue Ridge Scenic Railway
- Blue Ridge Scenic Railway GA
- Blue Ridge Higlander
- Train Ride for Kids