The N.C. Transportation Museum Foundation and the Watauga Valley Railroad Historical Society and Museum are again sponsoring Autumn Train Excursions, day trips by rail to two great destinations.
This year’s excursions will return to some of the most popular past destinations. The “Virginia Autumn Special” departs for Charlottesville, Va., Saturday, Oct. 12. The “Blue Ridge Special” will head to Asheville, N.C., Sunday, Oct. 13. Providing amazing views of the changing leaves and a rare journey by rail, getting there is truly half the fun.
Departing Spencer at 7 a.m., Saturday’s “Virginia Autumn Special” will offer a second passenger pick-up at the Greensboro Amtrak Station at 8 a.m., allowing those living in the Triad a more convenient boarding opportunity.
Passing through the North Carolina cities of Thomasville, High Point and Reidsville, and the Virginia cities of Danville, Lynchburg and Oak Ridge, passengers will experience beautiful views of the Piedmont and rolling hills of North Carolina and the western part of Central Virginia.
In Charlottesville, travelers will have nearly three hours to explore the historic downtown area. It is a short walk to the downtown outdoor mall, considered one of the finest urban parks in the country. Unique shopping and dining opportunities can be found in boutiques, specialty wine, coffee and tea shops and outdoor dining spots. Travelers may also enjoy relaxing walks under a lush, leafy tree canopy.
Departing Charlottesville at 3 p.m., the train will arrive back in Greensboro at 7 p.m. and in Spencer at 8 p.m.
The “Blue Ridge Special” will travel through the western North Carolina Piedmont, into the foothills and on to the Blue Ridge Mountains. Departing Spencer at 7 a.m., the train will roll through the cities of Statesville, Hickory, Morganton, Marion, Black Mountain and Swannanoa before climbing the famed “loops” of the Blue Ridge Mountains. The train will pass through several tunnels and pass by the Andrews Geyser, a spectacular sight, before arriving in Asheville at noon.
Passengers will have nearly three hours for an outing at Biltmore Village. Established in the late 1890s as a planned community near the entrance of the Biltmore estate, Biltmore Village offers shopping in unique, locally-owned boutiques. Passengers can dine in restaurants and walk along brick sidewalks that parallel tree-lined streets. All of this will be enjoyed alongside spectacular views of the North Carolina mountains.
Departing Asheville at 3 p.m., the “Blue Ridge Special” will return to Spencer at 8 p.m.
Four seating classes are offered for these Autumn Train Excursions. Tourist class features the convenience and comforts of modern Amtrak cars. Each car has a center aisle with two adjustable seats and a wide window on each side. This seating area provides convenient access to the souvenir and cafe cars. Tourist class seating is $150 per person.
Deluxe coach seating will be offered in vintage and Amtrak cars, featuring spacious seating with adjustable seat backs and leg rests, as well as large windows for better viewing. Lunch will be served in classic table and dining cars. Light snacks and beverages are also provided. Deluxe coach seating is $190 per person
First class passengers will be seated in restored, vintage lounge or parlor cars. Each car is configured differently with a variety of seating options. Compartment seating may be requested for small groups but is not guaranteed. Fare includes continental breakfast, newspapers, light snacks and dinner. First Class seating is $265 per person.
Dome cars, featuring two levels, offer the best views of the passing scenery. Windows stretch across the walls and ceiling on the second level, providing a panoramic view of the entire ride. A continental breakfast and newspapers are included on the journey to our destination, plus dinner on the return trip in vintage table and dining cars. Dome car seating is $295 per person.
Additional amenities available to travelers include a gourmet boxed lunch. Delivered to your seat, passengers can save time for shopping and sightseeing. Served in a souvenir tote, the meal includes a half turkey wrap, pasta salad, tortilla chips and salsa, a cookie and drink. This option is $15 per person and available only in advance with ticket purchase.
Travelers can also take home a souvenir T-shirt. Featuring the “Autumn Rails” logo, these T-shirts will be distributed with passenger boarding passes. T-shirts are $20 each and are available in green or rust. Photos of the T-shirt design are available at www.nctrans.org.
Travelers wishing to expand their journey into an entire weekend can also take advantage of packages that include the Autumn Train Excursion and Historic Salisbury Foundation’s Annual OctoberTour of Historic Homes. OctoberTour, taking place in Salisbury, just three miles from the N.C. Transportation Museum, provides a close up look at Salisbury’s private, historic buildings and allows visitors to experience the city’s charm in a few of the ten districts listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
Trolley rides, living history encampments, food, artists and music make this an event not to miss. As an added bonus, the first 200 people to purchase OctoberTour and Excursion tickets will receive free Downtown Dollars to spend at participating downtown Salisbury stores.
Excursion passengers can experience OctoberTour at a special rate of $18 per person, when adding OctoberTour to their Excursion ticket purchase.
OctoberTour and the Autumn Train Excursions, due to scheduling, cannot be experienced on the same day. Those traveling on the Charlottesville excursion can purchase tickets to the Sunday, Oct 13 OctoberTour, while those traveling on the Asheville excursion will purchase tickets to the Saturday, Oct. 12 OctoberTour. Please note that those buying ticket packages will be responsible for their own overnight accommodations.
Tickets are on sale and now can be purchased by calling 704-636-2889 ext. 237 or visiting online at www.nctrans.org.