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Monday, January 23, 2006

Georgia’s Blue Ridge Scenic Railway in Danger of Closing

Will the Blue Ridge Scenic Railway in Blue Ridge, Georgia shut down? According to this article on the Blue Ridge, GA, USA site they may have no choice but to close their operation.

This from the Blue Ridge, GA, USA blog:

Showdown at the Train Depot: a line has been drawn in the gravel between the Blue Ridge Scenic Railway and the city. Basically, in addition to raising the rent, the city wants to slap a $1 franchise fee on every ticket sold, and the railway has stated that if forced to pay the tax, it cannot afford to continue operations and has no choice but to shut down the railroad.

Blue Ridge Scenic Railway: Train History

The original main line was built to Murphy, North Carolina, which was reached in late 1886. The builders intended to continue until they reached Knoxville, Tennessee, but in 1887, the plans were changed as Knoxville and Blue Ridge were ultimately connected via a slightly different but much more exciting route via the Hiawassee River gorge.

At Talking Rock, Georgia, the line originally made an unusual 180-degreechange in direction through a very sharp horseshoe-shaped curve dubbed "the hook" by train crews. The curve was so sharp that crews claimed that if the conductor's cigar went out in the caboose, he had only to wait until the train got to the "hook", because he could merely lean out and get a light from the engineer.

Railroads played a significant role in the development of this area between the 1800's and the early 1900's, in that they determined the routes of local roads, saved an ailing mining industry, contributed to the growth of small towns as resort communities, and made it possible to log the last remaining virgin timber in the area.

In 1896, the Marietta & North Georgia Railroad was purchased and renamed the Atlanta, Knoxville & Northern, and in 1902 was sold yet again, taking on the new owner's name, the Louisville & Nashville Railroad, in 1905. Name changes came fast and furious after the 1960's; "Family Lines", "Seaboard System", and finally "CSX" in the 1980's. But by this time, passenger service had long since been terminated, with the line continuing on as a freight carrier.

In 1990, the line was put up for sale, and a group of local investors stepped in to preserve rail service into north Georgia. As a result, passenger trains are operating once again into the beautiful north Georgia Mountains.

Train Route:

The train route consists of a 26-mile round trip through historic Murphy Junction along the beautiful Toccoa River. This railroad was built over 100 years ago and is the only mainline railroad excursion service based in Georgia.

Each trip begins at the depot in Blue Ridge, Georgia and includes a stop in McCaysville which permits passengers to disembark and stretch their legs while exploring the downtown communities of McCaysville, Georgia and Copperhill, Tennessee. Each round trip takes approximately 3 1/2 hours.

The last passenger train to operate over this line was a one-time special trip that ran in the 1960's. The route was originally built as the narrow-gauge Marietta & North Georgia Railroad. Construction began in Marietta in 1877 and reached Blue Ridge in 1886.

241 Depot StreetBlue Ridge, Georgia 30513

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