Norfolk Southern will partner with the Watauga Valley Railroad Historical Society and Museum and the Tennessee Valley Railroad Museum for two historic steam train excursions this spring.
The first excursion will leave from the Bristol Train Station at 8 a.m., April 5 and arrive in Radford, Va., at noon. The train will depart Radford at 2:30 p.m. and arrive back in Bristol at 7 p.m.
The Bristol to Radford Special will showcase the glories of the season as it travels through the rolling Southwest Virginia hills behind the historic steam locomotive Southern Railway No. 630 from the Tennessee Valley Railway Museum in Chattanooga.
The train’s route will take passengers through historic Abingdon and the nearby Virginia Creeper, wind through the Virginia highlands, passing Emory & Henry College, Marion and Wytheville, then will travel down Pulaski Mountain through a tunnel and into the town of Pulaski.
The train will then steam into the New River Valley and on to Radford, where passengers will be able to enjoy the town with its many restaurants, shops and museums.
The following day, on Sunday, April 6, the excursion train will operate from Bristol, Va., to Bulls Gap, Tenn., and back.
The train will depart the Bristol Train Station at 9 a.m. and arrive in Johnson City to board passengers at 9:50 a.m. for a 10 a.m. departure. The train will arrive in Bulls Gap at noon and depart at 2 p.m., arriving back in Johnson City at 4 p.m. and traveling on to Bristol for a 5 p.m. arrival.
There will be a station stop at Norfolk Southern’s Elm Street Station in Johnson City. After leaving Johnson City, the train will pass through historic Jonesborough and by Washington College Academy, founded by Samuel Doak in 1780 and the oldest school west of the Alleghenies and south of River Ohio.
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 tour the small town and visit the Archie Campbell Birthplace along with the railroad museum and hotel.
Motive power for the Radford and Bulls Gap excursions will be provided by steam locomotive Southern Railway No. 630, which also operated on the East Tennessee & 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.
Tickets start at $85 per seat for passengers ages 3 and older.
Coach Class seating, in modern, temperature-controlled cars with fixed back seats, is $85 per person. Deluxe Coach seats are $100 each. Deluxe Coach seating is provided in climat- 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.
Tickets can be purchased by calling (423) 894-8028 or visiting www.wataugavalleynrhs.org.
Purchasing tickets early is encouraged as they are expected to sell out quickly.