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Riding the Blue Ridge Scenic Railway

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!

Riding the Blue Ridge Scenic Railway, an excursion train that runs between Blue Ridge, Georgia, and McCaysville, Georgia / Copperhill, Tennessee https://www.lanascooking.com/riding-the-blue-ridge-scenic-railway/

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.

All Aboard!

Our train was leaving at 11:00 a.m. and we arrived in plenty of time to board.

Preparing to board
Looking for our car so we could board. A made sure to bring along a case full of video games “just in case” it was terribly boring. Hint: it wasn’t!

Everyone on the railway except the engineer and concessions staff are volunteers. They’re an exceptionally nice, helpful group of folks.

Blue Ridge Scenic Railway Car Host
Our car host, Lynn

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!

car interior
Blue Ridge Scenic Railway open-air car interior.

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.

A playing DS while waiting to depart
A playing a DS game while waiting to depart.

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 ready to go!
Mag is ready to ride!

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.

A beautiful horse farm just outside Blue Ridge.

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.

Rhododendron blooming along the Toccoa River.
Rhododendron blooming along the Toccoa River.

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.

Murphy Spur on the Blue Ridge Scenic Railway
Murphy Spur on the Blue Ridge Scenic Railway.

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.

Toccoa River
The Toccoa River seen from the Blue Ridge Scenic Railway

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.

Fishing on the Toccoa River

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.

Toccoa River
Another view of the river from the train.

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!

Fish trap
An ancient fish trap on the Toccoa River.

As the tracks twist and turn along the way, there are several curves where you can see the entire train from your car.

Rounding a curve
Rounding a curve. You can look backward and foward to see the entire train at once.

Along the tracks you occasionally see another relic of days gone by – telegraph poles!

Telegraph poles
Telegraph poles used to line the route.

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!

Close clearance on the bridge.
Close clearance on the last bridge before McCaysville.

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.

A-man and Mag standing in two states
A-man and Mag standing in two states at the same time.

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.

BeeBop - taken by A
BeeBop at lunch. Taken by our A.
Mag at lunch. Taken by A.

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.

Fudge from Nature's Collectables
Fudge from Nature’s Collectables in Copperhill, Tennessee.

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.

Reboarding the train
Re-boarding the train for the return trip to Blue Ridge.

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.

Welcome to Georgia
Just outside McCaysville. Welcome back to Georgia!

All along the way cars and trucks wait for the train to pass at gated crossings. Everybody waves to the train’s passengers.

A gated crossing on the Blue Ridge Scenic Railway
Cars and trucks waiting for the train to pass at a gated crossing.

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.

Mile marker 390.
Mile marker 390 on the Blue Ridge Scenic Railway.

The train winds its way back along the same route toward Blue Ridge.

Rounding a curve.
Making our way back to Blue Ridge.
Toccoa River
The Toccoa River on the way back to 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.

Blue Ridge homestead
Original railroad homestead near Blue Ridge.

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.

Tired out.
Mag all tired out from the train.
Sleepy A
A sleepy A snuggles up to BeeBop.

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:

More Information on the Blue Ridge Scenic Railway:

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Riding the Blue Ridge Scenic Railway, an excursion train that runs between Blue Ridge, Georgia, and McCaysville, Georgia / Copperhill, Tennessee  https://www.lanascooking.com/riding-the-blue-ridge-scenic-railway/

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  1. We are headed to do this trip tomorrow. Thanks so much for posting the great pictures and descriptions. I was a little worried about what to do with our two hours at the midway point. We already have reservations at the Mexican place your recommended. It also gets the best reviews online. My two boys are very excited for the trip. Thanks so much for sharing!

  2. Thanks for the post. We hopped on the train today and really enjoyed our afternoon ( and ate our way through it too!). We decided to ride inside sine it was in the 30’s today. Hot cider on the train did the trick to combat the chill. The El Rio recommendation was spot on- very tasty. We got fudge at Three Sisters back in Blue Ridge- yum!

    1. It has been a while since we rode the train and it was during the summer, but I’m absolutely sure it’s still a fun activity! Glad you enjoyed it.

      1. Maggie – I haven’t tried freezing it but I’m sure it would work fine. Just wrap it well and put it in a freezer bag. I would imagine it would keep for a couple of months.

  3. We went on a trip like that one year when I was younger. The Great Smoky Mountains Train Ride. I loved it. I love anything that has to do with history. No matter what kind of history, if someone in the 1800’s or Early 1900’s saw it in their everyday life I want to see it. Like old old plantation houses. I love them! I always try to imagine what it was like for someone back then to be where I’m standing now. The house we live in was built in the early 1900’s and it’s amazing to think that over 100 years ago that someone looked out my same windows and saw the same thing I’m seeing (the barns, fields and such)

    1. Me too, Angie! I love anything old or historic. My parents’ house was built in the early 1800’s and has been owned by only three families during its history. Sometimes you can almost feel the presence of those former residents.

  4. I just wanted to say hello to another fellow Georgian. I’m in north GA and I noticed an advertisement in our local paper telling about the train. I must make plans to go soon.

    I love your blog!

    1. Hi Stacy – The train is lots of fun for all ages! It’s probably really beautiful about now with the leaves changing color.

  5. THANKS, so much, for deviating slightly from your usual food & recipe posts. Your photos are beautiful and descriptions enticing — and, the mention/photo of the homemade FUDGE qualifies this as a “food” blog! The only time I remember being in GA was a confusing stop-over at the Atlanta airport many years’ ago, so that doesn’t really qualify! Thanks, again, for sharing your beautiful state and family with the rest of us.

  6. The blue ridge is such a beautiful area. Love visitng. Have seen signs for Railway but have never ridden. Now will have to add that to our next Blue Ridge Trip.

    Thanks for sharing.

  7. Our town is extremely lucky to have the Blue Ridge Scenic Railway & all the wonderful people who come to ride! It has breathed new life into a formerly sleepy town….

    Thanks so much =-)

  8. The post is really interesting Lana and the pics beautiful. What a great experience. Love how you can have one foot in Georgia and the other in Tennessee. Thanks for sharing your day out with us.

  9. Wat to go, A-man… quite the photographer.

    If J-man would see Mag, he’d want to go steady! He apparently has a thing for older, blonde women *grin*

  10. Great post, and so many of your photos look very familiar. We travel through Blue Ridge several times a year en route to our farm in NC, in the mountains about 70 miles NW of Murphy. So pretty in that whole area.

    1. Lucky you, having a farm in North Carolina! Isn’t that whole area just gorgeous? No matter the time of year there’s something beautiful everywhere you look.

  11. Aww this sounds so fun with absolutely beautiful scenery! It looks like the kids had a fabulous time too :)

  12. That looks like so much fun! Uncle John and I have talked about taking that trip many times, but we just haven’t gotten around to it yet. It looks like a combination of adventure and leisure, all rolled into one nice day.
    Thanks for sharing.
    Miss P

    1. Y’all would love it! The train leaves at 11:00 each morning, arrives in McCaysville at noon and departs at 2:00. You have plenty of time to walk around and explore the shops there before another relaxing ride back to Blue Ridge. We had a great time!

  13. I think it’s wonderful that you are sharing our beautiful part of the country with others. You could include some of our other treasures, such as the Blue Willow Inn in Social Circle GA and the various prize-winning wineries in GA, NC and TN. Keep it up!

    And if you are interested in another awesome train ride, there’s one that goes from Bryson City to the Nantahala Gorge in NC. It’s the same open-car concept, so you’ll be able to take photos. In fact, it uses the Murphy spur that you mention in this blog. Check out their website for special events at http://www.gsmr.com/

    1. Tracey, Thanks for sharing that link. It looks like a wonderful trip and one we will have to consider for a visit sometime soon!

  14. This was great even if it wasn’t strictly food related. That fudge looked pretty good though. Looked like a great day.

  15. Georgia is so beautiful…More, More! I love reading about other people’s lives and travels.
    Pics were great and grandkids are gorgeous. They look like they just adore their grandparents. A-Man’s pics were great too.
    So glad you had such a good time. I bet you all had a terrific week!

    1. Teri, we did have a great week but now we need another week to recover from the first week. Oh, well, it was definitely worth it! And thanks for the input – I’m thinking about adding an occasional post about some of the places we go exploring.

  16. The pictures are beautiful!! The recipes are great, but I don’t know if I don’t like scenery and a story line better. Thanks for sharing. Wish I could have been there. Mag and A have grown up so much. Both are beautiful.

    1. We wished you could have been with us, too, Neena! You would have loved it. You and I could have explored some of the antique shops in McCaysville.