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Train excursions showcase fall colors

staff report • Aug 29, 2011 at 3:21 AM

The North Carolina Transportation Museum Foundation and the Watauga Valley Chapter of the National Railway Historical Society will host excursions to Roanoke, Va., on Oct. 29, and Toccoa, Ga., on Oct. 30. These trips will allow passengers great views of the fall colors combined with the romance of riding the rails. The Virginia Autumn Special is in its fifth year, while the Georgia Autumn Special is new. The Virginia Autumn Special will depart from the North Carolina Transportation Museum in Spencer, N.C., at 7 a.m., with additional passenger pick up at the Greensboro Amtrak Station at 8 a.m. The train will travel through the northern portion of the North Carolina Piedmont, including the cities of High Point and Reidsville, before crossing into Virginia. The western part of central Virginia offers spectacular views of the fall foliage, crossing the Dan and Roanoke rivers. Moving onto the old Virginian Railway line, the train will pass through the towns of Huddleston, Moneda and Goodview, traveling through four tunnels. Passengers will also enjoy traveling over trestles that provide views of the tributaries into Smith Mountain Lake. Arriving in Roanoke, the “Star City of the South,” at noon, the train will pass by the historic Roanoke Shops, where Norfolk Southern built its classic steam engines. Passengers will debark at the restored Norfolk & Western Passenger station, home to the O. Winston Link Museum. They can enjoy downtown Roanoke or visit the museum, home to Link’s beautiful photography of 1950s-era steam locomotives. Advance tickets to the museum are available to excursion passengers for $4 each. Departing at 2:45 p.m., the Virginia Autumn Special will return to Greensboro at 6:30 p.m. and Spencer at 8 p.m. The Georgia Autumn Special will also depart from the North Carolina Transportation Museum at 7 a.m., with an additional stop/pickup at the Spartanburg, S.C., Amtrak station at 9 a.m., and will traverse what was once Southern Railway’s main line, running from Washington, D.C., to Atlanta. Passengers will enjoy the gala fall colors of the Carolinas’ rolling foothills before crossing the 100-foot Seneca River trestle spanning Lake Hartwell to arrive at Toccoa. Nestled in the foothills of the Southern Appalachian Mountains, the historic town will be bustling with activity during the 29th annual Harvest Festival. Passengers will have approximately three hours to enjoy the festival, which features handmade, handcrafted and homegrown items from more than 200 vendors, as well as delicious regional foods, great entertainment on two stages, children and youth activities, buggy rides and more. Departing Toccoa at 3 p.m., the Georgia Autumn Special will return to Spartanburg at 5:45 p.m. and Spencer at 8 p.m. Four classes of tickets are available: dome class, first class premium, deluxe coach and tourist class. Dome class seating features two levels and the best views of the passing scenery. Windows stretch across the walls and ceiling of the second level, providing a panoramic view. Tickets include a continental breakfast and newspapers on the journey both to Roanoke and Toccoa, plus dinner on the return trip served in vintage dining cars. Dome tickets are $280. Premium first class fare features travel in vintage lounge or parlor cars. The ride includes continental breakfast and newspapers on the journey to both Roanoke and Toccoa, plus dinner on the return trip served in a vintage dining car. Tickets are $245. Deluxe coach riders will travel in vintage passenger cars with adjustable seat backs and leg rests, as well as large windows for better viewing. Lunch will be served in lounge and dining cars. There will be access to the commissary car. Tickets are $145 each. Tourist class seating features the convenience and comforts of modern Amtrak travel. Each car has a center aisle with two adjustable seats and a wide window on each side. The seating area provides access to the souvenir and café cars. Tourist class tickets are $145 each. All rail cars feature air conditioning, heat and rest rooms. For those wishing to eat on the train to provide more time for sightseeing, an optional boxed lunch will be offered. Delivered to your seat, the $15 meal will be served in a souvenir lunch tote and include chicken salad on a croissant, pasta salad, fresh fruit, homemade pound cake and a drink. This option is only available in advance and can be purchased with your ticket. Tickets are available online at www.nctrans.org or by calling (704) 636-2889.

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