The Steel Rails that Opened the High Country

Thursday, Apr 27, 11:00am to 12:00pm

Blowing Rock Art & History Museum

159 Chestnut St.

$5 Suggested donation


One hundred years ago the Lost Provinces of northwestern North Carolina were somewhat isolated from the rest of the country. It took steel rails coming from East Tennessee to open up the area to the outside world. The narrow gauge East Tennessee & Western North Carolina Railroad and its sister company, the Linville River Railway, eventually connected Johnson City, TN, with the North Carolina towns of Elk Park, Newland, Linville, Foscoe, Shulls Mills, and Boone. Best known by its nickname "Tweetsie", this little train wound its way along rivers and ridges, and into the hearts of the people it served. Economics and floodwater closed the railroad, but it came back as a theme park tourist attraction. Come hear the story of how a little train changed the destiny of the High Country forever.

The talk will be accompanied by locally-baked goods and coffee from Boone-based Hatchet Coffee Company.

About the Speaker

Johnny Graybeal grew up in the High Country to stories of the little train that used to run through the hills, and continued to do so at the Tweetsie Railroad Theme Park. After receiving a BS in History from Appalachian State in 1985, he began to seek out information and records on the long gone railroads. That research has resulted in seven books, Along the ET&WNC Volumes 1 - 6, and a standalone volume, The Railroads of Johnson City, published between 2001 and 2006. A member of the ET&WNCRR Historical Society since 1990, he served as Vice President from 1992-1998 and as President from 1998-2014. He has published a bi-annual magazine for that organization, Every Time with No Complaint, from 2008 to the present. He currently lives in Lenoir, NC, and advises Tweetsie Railroad and the Southeast Narrow Gauge & Short Line Museum in Newton, NC, on historical matters.