Cure the winter doldrums with a steam train excursion

630 steam locomotiveBy MELINDA WILLIAMS


Norfolk Southern Corp. will join with two Tennessee organizations in April to offer a chance to cure your winter doldrums with a steam train excursion between Bristol and Radford.

The Saturday, April 5, excursion is one of two being offered by NS, in partnership with Watauga Valley Railroad Historical Society & Museum and Tennessee Valley Railroad Museum. The second excursion runs between Bristol and Bulls Gap, Tenn. on Sunday, April 6.

The 15-car train will be powered by the historic Southern Railway 630 steam locomotive, which operated on the East Tennessee & Western North Carolina Railroad out of Johnson City from 1952 to 1967. The steam engine, owned by Tennessee Valley Railway Museum in Chattanooga, will be assisted by NS diesel engines.

The Bristol-Radford excursion departs from the Bristol Train Station at 8 a.m. Saturday, April 5, and returns to Bristol around 7 p.m. The train should arrive in Radford around noon and leaves Radford City at 2:30 p.m.

Saturday’s passengers will be taken on a journey through historic Abingdon, winding through the Virginia highlands, past Emory & Henry College, Marion and Wytheville, then traveling down Pulaski Mountain through a tunnel, and into the town of Pulaski. The train will continue to Radford, where passengers will be able to enjoy the city’s restaurants, shops and museums.

Sunday’s excursion leaves from Bristol Train Station at 9 a.m. After a brief 9:50-10 a.m. stop in Johnson City to board additional passengers, the train will continue to Bulls Gap, arriving around noon. At 2 p.m., the train begins its return trip, arriving in Johnson City around 4 and Bristol, at 5.

Passengers for the Sunday trip will pass through Tennessee’s oldest town, Jonesborough. The train will pass Washington College Academy, founded by Samuel Doak in 1780 and known as the oldest school “west of the Alleghenies and south of River Ohio.” It will continue through Limestone, birthplace of Davy Crockett, and Greeneville, home of the nation’s 17th president, Andrew Johnson.

In Bulls Gap, passengers will have time to visit the Archie Campbell Birthplace, along with the railroad museum and hotel.

The train includes climate controlled heated and air conditioned cars that are equipped with rest rooms.

All passengers ages three and older require a ticket, which are $85 per seat for Coach Class (modern passenger cars with fixed back seats) and $100 for Deluxe Coach (vintage cars with reclining seats). There is no charge for children under age three as long as they are not occupying a seat.

The Radford excursion does not include a meal. The Bulls Gap trip includes a box lunch.

Tickets, which usually sell out fast, can be purchased by calling 423-894-8028 Monday through Friday, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., or online at




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