The preservation of history is an endeavor no less important to the future of this nation than the preservation of life itself. History defines and documents the very character of our country. It portrays our greatest social and technological triumphs. It also reminds us of our failures so that they may not be repeated. Most important, history absolutely points out to us the true source of America’s greatness: the ideas, inventions, courage, ethics, and morality of the men and women living in our atmosphere of freedom.
American Heritage Railways (AHR) is a heritage tourism company based on the preservation of history. Its current operations reach nearly 1.5 million guests annually through directly owned railroads, attractions, and the licensing of special events at over 50 additional properties.
American Heritage Railways is a unique company with a tremendous future grounded in the historic past. Its assets include American railroad treasures, extensive land holdings, and valuable intellectual properties. We care deeply about the customers we serve and look forward to sharing our passion with you and your family.
The Great Smoky Mountains Railroad
With 53 miles of track, two tunnels and 25 bridges, the Great Smoky Mountains Railroad will take you on a memorable journey through a remote and beautiful corner of North Carolina. Ride with us into river gorges, across valleys and through tunnels carved out of majestic mountains.
The Railroad offers a variety of scenic, round-trip excursions departing from Bryson City. Trips range from 3 ½ hours to a full day of fun and adventure.
The Nantahala Gorge Excursion carries you 44 miles to the Nantahala Gorge and back again. Travel the Little Tennessee and Nantahala Rivers across Fontana Lake and into the magic of the Nantahala Gorge.
The Tuckasegee River Excursion
travels 32-mile round-trip along the Tuckasegee River through old railroad
towns and scenic meadows.
Additionally, we have special events throughout the year. Discover them here.
A scenic trip through time
The Great Smoky Mountains Railroad will take you on a journey through the Carolina Mountains and some of the most beautiful landscapes in America. The Carolina Mountains border the entire western edge of North Carolina, comprising some 52 percent of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. The region also includes the southern crest of the Blue Ridge Mountains, Pisgah, Cherokee, and Nantahala National Forests. Hundreds of years ago, glacial and volcanic movement left etchings still visible on the land. In more recent times, roads and flood controls have opened the area to commerce and tourism. Early in the 20th century, the railway played a major part of the story of the development of the region.
As you ride through the mountains, keep your eyes open! There are 125 varieties of trees in Western North Carolina, including hemlock, yellow buckeye, umbrella magnolia, oak, birch, sugar maple, mountain ash, Fraser fir, and short needle pine. Wild blackberries and blueberries are abundant in their seasons. In spring the mountains are alive with dogwood, redbud, flame azaleas, and mountain laurel blooms.
The coming of summer heralds rosebay rhododendron and an almost endless variety of wildflowers. In the fall, many of these plants show their bright berries, while the trees glow in all shades of red, russet, yellow, and orange. A nature lover can enjoy more than 1,000 species of flowering plants, 200 birds, and more than100 species of fish and animals.
This delightful mountain vacationland is like a nature conservancy dotted with small towns. Old railroad depots are located in three historic towns; Dillsboro (no current departures), a village of shops and crafts; Bryson City, located on the edge of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park; and Andrews (no current departures), a scenic valley town in the Snowbird Mountains. All were founded in the 1800s and have retained some of their original character, adding to their historic charm.
When you come to ride the train, we hope you’ll plan to stay awhile. You’ll enjoy the country inns, lodges, resorts, quaint shops, places to dine, historic sites, museums, and amenities. This is America as it used to be; a treasury of friendly people, a restful environment, and the beauty of nature everywhere.
We’re in the movies
The Great Smoky Mountains Railroad has appeared in the following productions and publications:
The Fugitive – Warner Brothers (1993)
My Fellow Americans – Warner Brothers (1996)
Digging To China – DTC Productions, LLC (1996)
Forces of Nature – Dream Works Productions (1998)
Good Eats – Food Network (2002)
Outdoor Channel – HDTV Productions – 2 GSMR Episodes
Voice of America – GSMR Polar Express™ Episode
Rhonda Vincent – Video for “I Gotta Start Somewhere” at
Commercial and Still Photography
Quest Productions – Harold’s Catalog (1994)
Melody Records – Music Video (1995)
Nordstrom Company – Catalog
Roaring Tiger Films – First Union Commercial (1997)