Blue Ridge Scenic Railway takes a trip back in time through North Georgia mountains

A Blue Ridge Scenic Railway train pulls into McCaysville, Ga. (Photo by Todd DeFeo)

COPPERHILL, Tenn. — The train creaked its way into town and ground to a halt, straddling the Tennessee-Georgia state line.

With that, passengers disembarked and quickly made their way to the shops and eateries sprinkled throughout the sister cities of Copperhill and McCaysville, Ga.

The charming communities grew up after copper was first discovered in the area in 1843. Today, tourism has replaced copper as the economic engine of the two cities, which combined have a population of fewer than 1,500 residents.

Visitors by the thousands come to Copperhill/McCaysville each year. Many are whitewater rafters who want to ride the rapids of the Toccoa River as it’s known in Georgia and the Oconee River as it’s named in Tennessee.

The Blue Ridge Scenic Railway has been ferrying tourists and railfans between Blue Ridge, Ga., and the Georgia-Tennessee state line since 1998. The heritage railroad train departs from the historic 1906 Louisville & Nashville Railroad depot in downtown Blue Ridge and treks northward for an hour, providing riders with a beautiful view of the scenic North Georgia landscape.

Once at the state line, passengers have two hours to explore the small, but quaint twin cities before the return trip south.

In town, be sure to check out the steel bridge spanning the Toccoa/Oconee —  it’s at this point where the river changes its name. Opened in 1911, the bridge eliminated the need for a ferry to cross the river.

Another landmark for tourists is a dotted blue line painted in the IGA parking lot. Tourists who straddle the line can have one foot in Georgia and the other in Tennessee.

Railroad History

The railroad operates over a portion of the famed Hook and Eye line, so named because of switchbacks near Tate Mountain in Talking Rock, Ga., and a loop in the tracks at Bald Mountain near Farner, Tenn.

The Knoxville Southern Railway Co. built tracks from Knoxville to the state line. The Marietta & North Georgia Railway built the trackage from Marietta to the state line.

In the first decade of the 20th century, the Louisville & Nashville Railroad built a new route between Cartersville, Ga., and Etowah, Tenn., to bypass the Hook and Eye line. At that time, the line took on a new nickname: The Old Line.

Back in Blue Ridge

The small, picturesque town of Blue Ridge draws tourists from around the country (and world) who are heading to the Blue Ridge Mountains. Long known for its outdoor activities, downtown Blue Ridge is equally worthy of exploration.

For starters, consider:

  • Blue Ridge Olive Oil Co.: This delightful shop offers a wide selection of olive oils from around the country.
  • Blue Ridge Cellars: North Georgia’s chops as a wine-producing region have grown in recent years. Blue Ridge Cellars’ tasting room in downtown Blue Ridge offers a nice selection of its wines and wines from other local vineyards. Enjoy a selection of artisan cheeses as well.
  • Blue Ridge Brewery: The charming brewpub opened after the formerly dry Fannin County opted to allow alcohol sales a few years ago. As its name implies, the brewery brews beer on site, but the restaurant also offers a nice selection of craft brews from around the region and country.
  • Harvest on Main:

For more information, visit www.brscenic.com.

 

About Todd DeFeo 739 Articles
Todd DeFeo loves to travel anywhere, anytime, taking pictures and notes. An award-winning reporter, Todd revels in the experience and the fact that every place has a story to tell. He is the owner of The DeFeo Groupe and also edits Express Telegraph and Railfanning.org.