Before Thursday, I’d never taken a trip on a train. While researching what I wanted to do on my North Georgia Road Trip, I came across the Blue Ridge Scenic Railway; it sounded like a great way to remedy that while taking in some of the beauty of North Georgia. The only tickets available for when I was in the area were Premier Class tickets, which cost $82. I was somewhat reticent about the price, but since they were the only ones available, I bought one. I’m glad I did, the Premier Class car – 105 – was very comfortable and they served a light lunch on the way up, a snack on the way back, and coffee/tea/soda/water both ways. All of the staff and the car attendants were friendly and helpful, making the ride a wonderful experience. It was a four hour trip, with the trip from Blue Ridge to McCaysville on the Georgia side of the state line and Copperhill on the Tennessee side of the state line. There’s a two hour layover in McCaysville and Copperhill during which you can walk around the towns, get something to eat, and/or do some shopping. Since I’d already had a light lunch on the train, the only thing I got to eat in McCaysville was a Cuban Sandwich, see more below… The trip back to Blue Ridge is also one hour, and since the Toccoa River is only one side of the rails, they have you switch sides of the car on the return trip so everyone has a chance to get a good look at the river and scenery. It really is a wonderful way to spend the day, I highly recommend riding the Blue Ridge Scenic Railway if you visit North Georgia.
Car 105, the car I rode in, has an interesting history, which is detailed on a plaque you can read in the car. It was delivered to the New York Central Railway in 1948 as a roomette sleeper car. It was sold in 1959 to the Canadian National Rail Road and rebuilt by them in 1977 into a 54 seat Dayniter (a car that had comfortable cloth seats and lights that were dimmed at night). It was transferred to VIA Rail Canada in 1978 and retired from Canadian service in 1992. The Bangor & Aroostook Railroad bought in 1996 and numbered it 105. The Blue Ridge Scenic Railway acquired 105 in 2004 and upgraded it to Premier Class Service in 2015.
The Georgia/Tennessee state line divides McCaysville, GA and Copperhill, TN. The line is denoted by a painted blue line that runs through the sidewalks and streets. Of course, I took the obligatory photo with one foot in Georgia and one foot in Tennessee. The steel truss bridge on Georgia Highway 5 is the dividing line for the Toccoa River; on the Georgia side of the bridge, it’s the Toccoa River and on the Tennessee side of the bridge, it’s the Ocoee River. I came across an interesting historical marker in McCaysville while wandering around. It tells about the Madden Branch Massacre in Polk County, TN during the Civil War. Some North Georgians were opposed to the Confederate Government’s conscription and tax measures and would volunteer for Tennessee or Georgia US volunteer units; on 29 November 1864, six Georgians who had crossed into Tennessee to join the US Army were captured an executed by Confederate guerrillas on Madden Branch. It was a Civil War incident that I wasn’t aware of before, so it was interesting to stumble across the marker during my walk. Before leaving McCaysville for the ride back to Blue Ridge, I stopped in the Rum Cake Lady Cuban Cafe and tried one of their Cuban Sandwiches; there is now a tie for the best Cuban Sandwich I’ve ever had – theirs is just as great as the one I had at The Spanish Bakery in St. Augustine, FL a few years ago. You won’t have a problem finding the Rum Cake Lady – just follow that amazing aroma of baked goods.
The train ride from Blue Ridge to McCaysville/Copperhill and back offers a beautiful view of the Toccoa River. One of the most interesting things along the route is a Native American fish trap that was used by the Cherokee and probably other before them. If you look at the first photo below, you’ll notice a V-shape in the river that comes to an apex near where the picnic table in the foreground is. Native Americans would place baskets or nets at the apex of that V and drive fish into the V where they would swim into the basket or net.
For fellow radio geeks, if you’re interested in listening to the Blue Ridge Scenic Railway, there are two frequencies to keep an ear on: 160.560 (AAR-30) is used for rail operations and 456.525 (PL 192.8) seems to be in use by the rail car attendants.