The Great Smoky Mountains Railroad provides fun, historic attraction to WNC

April 21, 2021

When you take a ride on the Great Smoky Mountains Railroad, you’ll feel a connection to those who came before you,” says Tonya Mathis Jones, the Administrative Coordinator at the Great Smoky Mountains Railroad

The historic attraction is providing guests with an array of round trips ranging from a few hours to a full day on steam-powered or diesel-powered locomotives. Starting in Bryson City, passengers can take a unique trip through the beautiful scenery of Western North Carolina. 

Read the rest of our interview with Jones below…

Tell us about your business.

The Great Smoky Mountains Railroad historic train depot is in the heart of Bryson City and is a favorite attraction for family fun! A round trip on the train is an ideal way to see extraordinary places that you can’t get to by car. Get a front row view of Fontana lake, the historic Fontana Trestle, the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, the Nantahala National Forest, the Nantahala and Tuckasegee Rivers, historical structures, and stunning foliage.

Choose from steam-powered with the official “Steam of the Smokies” or climb onboard an excursion powered by diesel locomotive. A variety of passenger round trip train options and special event trains- including the popular Polar Express™ excursion- makes this the perfect attraction for making memories and experiencing the true form of railroading.

What experience do you strive to create for your customers?

Not only is a ride aboard the train a relaxing, beautiful way to explore the natural beauty of WNC, but it gives passengers a glimpse into the past. In the late 1800s, railroads changed the way of life in all of Western North Carolina, including the Bryson City area. When you take a ride on the Great Smoky Mountains Railroad, you’ll feel a connection to those who came before you.

What do you enjoy best about working in your industry?

What’s not to love about trains!! The Great Smoky Mountains Railroad is fun for all ages! Small children to Seniors enjoy the sights and sounds of our train. I enjoy seeing both children and adults’ faces light up with excitement when they see the train. It truly is something that everyone in the family can come out and enjoy together making memories to last a lifetime!

Is there anything else you’d like to share?

Guests love to come out and take a ride on the Steam of the Smokies, steam engine No. 1702. Built in 1942 from the Corps of Engineers and the U.S. Army War Department this engine was originally intended for war time service in Europe during WWII but remained in the US operating in Fort Bragg, NC until it was sold to a private owner in 1946. GSMR acquired the locomotive in 1991 where it operated until 2004. Removed for extensive repairs the engine sat dormant for 10 years until official plans were made for a complete restoration. After a 2-year extensive restoration, 1702 made its re-debut in the summer of 2016. The engine is one of Western North Carolina’s most historic steam locomotives with a rich history and impressive engineering. Steam service runs various dates throughout the operating year.

For more about the Great Smoky Mountains Railroad, schedule, and to book tickets, visit!