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Steam train tours to visit famous sites in Southwest Va., Tennessee

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Virginia tour-March 9

Tennessee tour- March 10

RADFORD - Scenery, history and nostalgia are just around the bend in two spring steam train excursions offered by Norfolk Southern Corp partnering with Watauga Valley Railroad Historical Society and Museum and Tennessee Valley Railroad Museum.

On Saturday, March 9, the Bristol to Radford Special will bring out the glories of the season through the rolling Southwest Virginia hills while celebrating the grand return of 21st Century Steam with historic steam locomotive Southern Railway #630 from Tennessee Valley Railway Museum in Chattanooga. This rare opportunity is being offered to communities along Norfolk Southern lines for display and periodic excursions.

The train’s route will pass through historic Abingdon, home of the world famous Barter Theatre and the Martha Washington Inn. Nearby is the famous route of the Virginia Creeper. The excursion will wind through the Virginia highlands, passing Emory & Henry College, Marion and Wytheville, then will go 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 museum.

The Saturday trip to Radford will leave the Bristol train station at 8 a.m., making a scheduled stop at Abingdon Train Station at 8:30 a.m. to pick up additional passengers, and will arrive at Radford at noon, returning to Bristol at 7 p.m.

The Radford Visitor’s Center will be welcoming the passengers to town and will be providing maps and directions to our restaurants, shops and attractions.

On Sunday, March 10, the excursion train will go from Bristol to Bulls Gap, Tenn. and return. There will be a station stop at the Elm St. Norfolk Southern in Johnson City, Tenn. After leaving Johnson City, the train will pass through historic Jonesborough, the oldest town in Tennessee. It will pass Washington College Academy, founded by Samuel Doak in 1780, the oldest school “west of the Alleghenies and the 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, Tenn., our Sunday destination. In Bulls Gap, passengers will have time to visit the small town with a chance to visit the Archie Campbell Birthplace along with the railroad museum and hotel.

The Sunday Bulls Gap excursion will begin also at the Bristol Train Station at 9 a.m. and arrive at Johnson City to board passengers at 10 a.m., arriving at the destination at noon. The excursion will depart Bulls Gap at 2 p.m. and arrive at Johnson City at 4 p.m. and Bristol at 5 p.m.

The steam locomotive Southern Railway #630  operated on the East Tennessee & Western North Carolina Railroad out of Johnson City from 1952 to 1967. Steam Engine #630 will be assisted by powerful NS diesel to pull the 12 car train.

For many passengers, these excursions will be a once-in-a-lifetime experience, not only to ride behind a steam locomotive, but also to see the hills and mountains from the unique perspective of the railroad while hearing the whistle echo in the hills and hollows of the beautiful Appalachian Region.

Ticket cost is $65 per seat for passengers ages 3 and up for both trips, and everyone above age 3 requires a ticket. Children under 3 cannot occupy a seat. 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.

The train will include climate-controlled, heated and air-conditioned cars along with restrooms.

Tickets can be purchased by calling (423) 894-8028. Office hours are Monday through Friday from 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Tickets can also be purchased by visiting www.wataugavalleynrhs.org.

Tickets are expected to go fast for this event, so interested parties are encouraged to order ASAP.