Steam train excursion coming back to Bulls Gap

Posted on Thursday, January 23, 2014 at 11:36 am

Norfolk Southern Corp. partnering with Watauga Valley Railroad Historical Society and Museum and Tennessee Valley Railroad Museum is offering a spring rail excursion to Bulls Gap.

Norfolk Southern Corp. partnering with Watauga Valley Railroad Historical Society and Museum and Tennessee Valley Railroad Museum is offering a spring rail excursion to Bulls Gap.

Scenery, history and nostalgia are just around the bend in two spring steam train excursions, including a trip to Bulls Gap, offered by Norfolk Southern Corp. partnering with Watauga Valley Railroad Historical Society and Museum and Tennessee Valley Railroad Museum.

Bulls Gap Mayor Michael Solomon said last year more than 1,000 came to the town just to view the train, but this year tickets have been added to ride the train.

“The Watauga Valley Railroad Historical Society and Museum has been given a rare opportunity again this year for two steam train excursions through Southwest Virginia and East Tennessee,” Solomon said. “Since the citizens of our area do not have the opportunity to ride a train in our region, this will be a chance for the young and old to ride behind a steam locomotive which was recently restored.”

On Saturday, April 5, the Bristol to Radford, Va. Special will bring out the glories of the spring season through the rolling Southwest Virginia hills while celebrating the grand return of 21st Century Steam with historic steam locomotive Southern Railway No. 630 from Tennessee Valley Railway Museum in Chattanooga.

This rare opportunity is being offered to communities along Norfolk Southern lines for display and periodic excursions.

The Saturday trip to Radford will leave the Bristol, Va. train station at 8 a.m.

The train will arrive in Radford at noon. The train will depart Radford at 2:30 p.m. and arrive back in Bristol at 7 p.m.

On Sunday, April 6, the excursion train will operate from Bristol, Va to Bulls Gap, and return.

There will be a station stop at the Elm St. Norfolk Southern Elm Street Station in Johnson City.

After leaving Johnson City, the train will pass through historic Jonesborough, the oldest town in Tennessee.

It will pass Washington College Academy, founded by Samuel Doak in 1780, the oldest school “west of the Alleghenies and south of the Ohio River.”

Next on the route is Limestone, birthplace of Davy Crockett, then Greeneville, the home of Andrew Johnson, 17th president of the United States.

After descending into the lowlands, the train will arrive in Bulls Gap.

In Bulls Gap, passengers will have time to visit the small town with a chance to visit the Archie Campbell Birthplace along with the railroad museum and hotel.

The Sunday Bulls Gap excursion will also begin at the Bristol, Va. Train Station.

The train will depart at 9 a.m. then arrive in Johnson City to board passengers at 9:50 a.m. and depart at 10 a.m.

The train will arrive in Bulls Gap at noon. The train will depart Bulls Gap at 2 p.m., arriving at Johnson City at 4 p.m. then Bristol at 5 p.m.

Motive power for the Radford and Bulls Gap excursions will be steam locomotive Southern Railway No. 630 which also operated on the East Tennessee and Western North Carolina Railroad out of Johnson City from 1952 to 1967. Steam Engine No. 630 will be assisted by powerful NS diesels to pull the 15-car train.

For many passengers, these excursions will be a once-in-a-lifetime experience, not only to ride behind a steam locomotive, but also to see the hills and mountains from the unique perspective of the railroad while hearing the whistle echo in the hills and hollows of the beautiful Appalachian Region.

Ticket prices start at $85 per seat for passengers age 3 and up.

Everyone age 3 and up requires a ticket. There is no fee for children under age 3 if not occupying a seat.

Coach Class seating is provided in temperature controlled modern cars with fixed back seats.

Deluxe Coach seating ($100) is provided in climate controlled vintage cars with reclining back seats.

The Radford ticket does not include a meal, only the train trip. The Bulls Gap ticket does include a box lunch along with the train trip.

The train will include climate controlled heated and air conditioned cars along with rest rooms.

Tickets can be purchased by calling 423-894-8028 during the office hours of 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Monday through Friday.

More information can be found at www.wataugavalleynrhs.org.

Tickets are expected to go fast for this event.

-From Staff Reports

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