The Blue Ridge Scenic Railway runs from Blue Ridge to McCaysville along track owned by the Northwest Georgia Railroad Company. The trains run on Friday, Saturday, Sunday and Monday, and the 26-mile trip includes a 45 minute stop in McCaysville. In February, 2002, tickets cost $24.95 for adults and $12.45 for kids, but discounted during the off-season. The railroad follows the Toccoa River and there are numerous scenic views of the river. The Cohutta Mountains to the west and the Blue Ridge Mountains to the east are occasionally visible.
Riding the Railroad
We love a good train ride and The Blue Ridge Scenic Railway qualifies as one of the best. Although the engines are diesel (steam was never used on this portion of the track), it doesn't detract from the ride, which follows existing track along the Toccoa River from Blue Ridge, Georgia through the McCaysville Basin to the city of the same name.
Blue Ridge is a small town (1,336 people, 1990 U.S. Census) in north-central Georgia that, until 1998, was most famous for its growing antique shopping area. Then a group of north Georgia residents decided to resurrect the railroad. Using an all volunteer work force, and trains brought or leased from such well-known places as the Southeastern Railway Museum, Duluth, Georgia, and the Great Smoky Mountain Railroad, the Blue Ridge Scenic Railway opened a ticket office in the restored Blue Ridge depot in June, 1998.
An immediate success, the train carried more than 17,000 passengers during the first year of operation. Supported by the local businessmen and government, the train has dramatically increased business in the downtown areas of both Blue Ridge and McCaysville. The Historic High Country Travel Association considers it one of four "must see" attractions in the northwest corner of the state.
History of the line
Started as the Marietta and North Georgia Railroad in the 1870's, the rail line was completed to Canton in 1880 and Ellijay in 1885. After a short rest building began towards Fannin County. The railroad manipulated local officials and caused quite a furor between the county seat of Morganton and the fledgling city of Blue Ridge, eventually settling on Blue Ridge because of the more lucrative deal offered by the town. Morganton would lose its title as county seat in 1895.
The line continued through Mineral Bluff, eventually connecting to Murphy, North Carolina. Bought from receivership by the Louisville and Nashville, the Marietta and North Georgia had forsaken the mines at Copper Hill, Tennessee. The L&N moved quickly to rectify the situation by adding a spur that ran from Murphy Junction, northeast of Blue Ridge, to Knoxville.
Old timers refer to the section of railroad from Marietta, Georgia to Knoxville, Tennessee, as the "Hook and Eye division." Named for two unusual rail-building features, the Hook was a section of track built around Tate Mountain near Talking Rock, Georgia. The eye was piece of track that looped back on itself designed to permit the train to lower to the level of the Hiawassee River north of Copper Hill.
Service to Murphy, North Carolina was eventually discontinued and the track removed, however the line continued to haul freight and passengers on the lucrative Atlanta to Knoxville run. In the 1970's passenger service was discontinued, and finally the line was put up for sale in 1990.
That's when local businessmen stepped in to buy the line and launch the Blue Ridge Scenic Railroad. They felt that the downtown area, including the Blue Ridge depot, would be helped by having a local tourist attraction, although none of them foresaw success the railroad would have.
Riding the Blue Ridge Scenic Railroad
Train schedules vary depending on the day and time of season. We rode the train on a Saturday in early September and it was beautiful. A light fog covered the mountains on the trip to McCaysville, occasionally opening for a dramatic view of the nearby Toccoa River. During the trip highlights are pointed out over a speaker system that runs through all the cars. The open car's conductor enhanced the presentation with his own enjoyable narrative. You'll see the "Two Sisters," gardeners who gladly wave at the train as it passes, or the old mule who awaits his carrot as the train passes. In McCaysville, the train comes to a stop at the depot and you get 45 minutes to visit the town on the Tennessee border (you can actually see the border in the Ingle's Supermarket parking lot). Local ladies were selling snacks by the depot, and all the great local shops were open. While it is possible to eat during this break we would recommend against it. By the time we got our food we were rushed to make it back to the train on time.
On the return to Blue Ridge we had a totally different view. The fog had cleared and the Blue Ridge and Cohutta Mountains were occasionally visible. Once back in Blue Ridge we took a few minutes to explore the shops in the downtown area. There are many photographic opportunites, and some interesting shops in the area of the train depot.
Hotels in Blue Ridge, Georgia