By JEFFREY POWELL
Technological advances in the transportation of human beings have changed the way civilizations have lived and died for eons. In North America, early indigenous populations took advantage of animal trails created by vast herds of migrating animals. After the re-introduction of the horse to the continent by Europeans, American Indians were able to travel farther and faster than they ever had before. Much later, the “Iron Horse” did the same thing for American settlers headed to the great expanses of the western frontier. Today, air travel and the ever expanding Interstate system has antiquated much of the existing rail system in America and some of the rail lines have been closed and removed for scrap. Such is not the case for The Great Smoky Mountain Railroad (GSMR).
Located in the western North Carolina town of Bryson City, the GSMR is a way for the modern citizen to experience the pleasure of taking a train ride while seeing what is arguably some of the most beautiful countryside in the eastern United States. This portion of railroad was completed in the 1880s and connected the Murphy area with Asheville. This particular rail line changed the lives of the mountain people by allowing goods to be brought into this very remote portion of the country. Prior to the railway, many of the people of this region had little or no contact with the rest of the country.
Today visitors to the area can take a leisurely ride in a variety of train cars, depending on their pleasure. The choices range from an open car to a luxury car that includes fine dining. The GSMR now operates 53 miles of the original leg of railroad. The trip will take passengers past and over Lake Fontana and through the Nantahala (Cherokee for “land of the noon-day sun”) Gorge. The most popular time for the excursion is in the fall when the area’s mountains are alight with the colors of the season. Over 200,000 passengers enjoy riding through the mountains per year.
For more information concerning the GSMR see www.gsmr.com. Jeffrey Powell can be contacted at email@example.com