Train Excursion to Asheville, NC

October 31, 2010

As I mentioned on the 2013 excursion page, on October 31, 2010, I finally got to ride the train to Asheville. I had what they called "first class" service. The car I was on was used for the first, and presumably the last, time on this trip. The head volunteer guide in our car said he would report its unsuitability for this purpose. Even though I got parked and boarded the train before 6:30 am, all the seats in the main lounge area were taken, so I went to a compartment and found a seat opposite a couple. I believer there was a sliding wall that could have made these two smaller compartments. For overnight trips, their couch could convert to a bed, and an upper berth could swing down from above.

One of the great features of these trips is the green brochure that lists by mile marker things you can see along the way.

Part of the "first class" service was breakfast served in a dining car. We were seated around 7:30.

The Old Fort station comes just before the ascent to the Eastern Continental Divide, a route that involves seven tunnels and a series of switchbacks. From this map you can see the route of modern I-40 and compare to old US 70 that largely followed along Mill Creek. Note that the rail switchbacks made for an even gentler climb. Even so, an earlier verion of this excursion used a steam train. There had been some rain, I believe, and the engine couldn't get the train up the incline. They had to wait for hours for a diesel engine to come push them up the mountain. We passed through Old Fort at 10:45 and made the ascent with no problem.

At the start of Thomas Wolfe's novel Look Homeward Angel the train tracks stopped at "Old Stockade," as the town was called in the novel, and one then had to take a horse-drawn carriage up the mountain. The protagonist could see the construction from the window of the coach: "Below him a mountain stream foamed down its rocky bed, and he could see little dots of men laying the track that would coil across the hill toward Altamont."

As you start the ascent to the switchbacks, you can see the man-made Andrews Geyser, which was built as a tourist feature. It is also accessible by car from Old Fort.

Going through the switchbacks you can look up and see the next level you will eventually get to. As you will see in later pictures, on the way down the mountain, you can see the tracks below you.

We arrived in the rail yard near the Biltmore Village in Asheville about noon and walked over the bridge to eat lunch. I went to McDonald's as did others from the train. Some spent their time there at fancier restaurants or shops. One could also order a box lunch as part of the trip. After lunch I returned to take more pictures inside and outside the train.

Both the J. P. Henderson, shown below, and the Hollywood Beach cars can be chartered and used for your own trips over Amtrak routes. They can be furnished for day trips of larger groups, as in our excursion, or for overnight trips by three couples or a large family, along with the services of a chef.

The Buick Woody appears to be about 1952 vintage.

Interior shots of the J. P. Henderson:

The Hollywood Beach ran on the Silver Meteor route.

The Northern Pacific dome car has an upper observation deck and a lower lounge area. Compare it to the dome car I rode on the 2013 excursion.

I don't recall what car this was, but it is more like what the first-class seating was supposed to be like.

This is the car I was in. There were limited seats in the lounge observation area.

We got back underway just after 3 pm.

The next two pictures show the tracks of the switchback below us. The second picture also shows old US 70 below that.

We got back to the Andrews Geyser at 4:10 pm. The picture is so badly backlighted that it almost makes an abstract art effect.

My compartment companions posed for me near the end of the trip.

We got back down to Old Fort about 4:30 to begin the ride through the Piedmont towns back to Spencer.


2013 Asheville Train Excursion

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