Just take a look at our Directory of Live Web Cams in North Carolina and you’ll see that spring has officially sprung in the High Country. Each year, the warmer weather brings new life to the mountains. Bright green leaves sprout from trees, colorful wildflowers pop up in yards and meadows, and people head outdoors to enjoy pleasant temperatures and abundant sunshine. Yet another harbinger of spring’s onset is the annual opening of Tweetsie Railroad, the most popular theme park in the High Country. This year, Tweetsie is scheduled to open on Friday, April 30, a date which is quickly approaching. The park will be celebrating is 53rd season, but the history of what we now know as Tweetsie Railroad dates back much farther than that.
Though the park itself may have opened 53 years ago, the events that would eventually lead to the existence of the beloved park began to unfold in 1866 when the Tennessee legislature granted a charter to the East Tennessee and Western North Carolina Railroad (ET&WNC). By 1881, the ET&WNC was up and running. The railroad, which spanned 32 miles, offered narrow-gauge service between Johnson City, TN, and the iron mines in Cranberry NC. The ET&WNC provided trustworthy service until 1936, when a large section of the track was washed out. Since the newly constructed modern roads made transportation easier than ever, the railroad decided that it would be most efficient to discontinue service to the mountains. By 1950, the ET&WNC put an end to all narrow-gauge rail service.
Though one era had ended, a new one was soon to begin. In 1952, Engine No. 12, which formerly belonged to the ET&WNC fleet and would come to be known as “Tweetsie,” was purchased by railroad buffs and moved to a tourist attraction in Virginia called Shenandoah Central Railroad. Shortly thereafter, Hurricane Hazel washed out most of Shenandoah Central’s tracks. With no home, Engine No. 12 was purchased by the legendary Gene Autry, who planned to move it out to California. However, once he realized what the proposed venture would cost, the singing cowboy quickly sold Tweetsie to Blowing Rock resident Grover C. Robbins, and Tweetsie was once again home in North Carolina.
In 1956, Governor Luther Hodges proclaimed May 20 “Tweetsie Homecoming Day.” In 1957, Tweetsie returned to what would become its permanent home in Blowing Rock, and by July 4, 1957, Tweetsie began carrying passengers along a one-mile track to a quaint picnic area. By 1958, the Tweetsie we recognize today began to take shape as an authentic western town was added, the track was extended, and the park adopted its signature Wild West theme. Since then, the park has flourished, attracting everyone from average citizens to major celebrities.
Today, Tweetsie is celebrated as one of the High Country’s most popular attractions. Perfect for families, the park has been providing its own unique brand of wholesome entertainment to visitors for over half a century, and there doesn’t seem to be an end in sight. Adults and children alike are captivated by the timeless spirit of Tweetsie’s authentic Wild West atmosphere and love being transported back in time. Tweetsie Railroad is the only place in North Carolina where you can get up close and personal with cowboys, train robbers, marauding renegades, and a whole cast of lively characters straight out of the Wild West. However, there is far more to do at the park than simply enjoy the world-famous train ride. Tweetsie is full of fun rides, vibrant stage shows and other live performances, fun activities like gem mining and shopping, plenty of places to refuel, and even Deer Park, a haven for friendly animals like llamas, emus, pot bellied pigs, burros, pygmy goats, miniature horses, and deer.
This year, visitors can look forward to the debut of Tweetsie’s newest additions: a pot bellied piglet and some adorable pygmy goat kids. Some exciting events are also in store for the 2010 season. In addition to the annual July 4th Fireworks Extravaganza and the ever popular Ghost Train Halloween Festival, those planning to visit Tweetsie in 2010 should take note of events like Day Out With Thomas ™, a visit from Dora the Explorer ™ and her cousin Diego ™, the K-9s in Flight Frisbee ® Dogs, and even a performance by Grammy award-winning artists Riders in the Sky. And don’t forget to check out Tweetsie in the upcoming children’s movie Mandie and the Cherokee Treasure, which was filmed at the park in early April!
The NC High Country is full of unique treasures that can’t be found anywhere else. From our scenic mountains to our cherished traditions, every aspect of life in the North Carolina High Country is special. For more information on the High Country, browse our site. Not only have we provided helpful resources about the various towns and cities that occupy this area, but we also feature an array of web cams that showcase spectacular shots of some of the most scenic locations. Our Boone Web Cams, Banner Elk Cams, and Blowing Rock Cam provide glimpses into life in the High Country, but we also have some great Asheville NC Web Cams and other Mountain Cams in communities like Black Mountain, Burnsville, West Jefferson, and Spruce Pine. We even have Ski Cams, Tennessee Web Cams, and Web Cams for North Georgia! Check HighCountryWebcams.com‘s events calendar regularly for the latest Boone NC Events, Blowing Rock Events, Banner Elk Events, Asheville NC Events, Blowing Rock Attractions, and so much more!