SPENCER, N.C. — For the past 10 years, the N.C. Transportation Museum has offered scenic day trips that combine railroading, history, travel, shopping, dining and fun. Traveling by train, excursion passengers can experience one of the finest pedestrian malls in the country with a trip to Charlottesville, Va. Oct. 29, or harvest festival delights during the Oct. 30 trip to Toccoa, Ga. Both trips feature sights only seen when traveling by rail, at a time when the vibrant colors of fall are at their peak.
Tickets are already on sale. Trip options include vintage rail cars, Amtrak coaches, and dining options aboard the train. Trips typically sell out, so those wishing to purchase are urged to act quickly. These one-day trips are presented by the N.C. Transportation Museum Foundation and the Watauga Valley Railroad Historical Society and Museum, and act as fundraisers for both organizations.
Unique shopping, dining and sightseeing opportunities await those traveling aboard the Virginia Autumn Special to Charlottesville, Va. Departing from the N.C. Transportation Museum in Spencer with additional pick-up at the Greensboro Amtrak Station, passengers will experience beautiful views of the Piedmont, the rolling hills of the Carolinas and the western part of Central Virginia. Spectacular views of the Dan, Roanoke and James Rivers will be seen as the train crosses above.
At noon, the “Virginia Autumn Special” will arrive in Charlottesville, home of the University of Virginia. Here, travelers will have nearly three hours to explore the historic downtown area. A short walk takes you to the downtown outdoor mall, considered one of the most beautiful and successful pedestrian malls in the nation. Unique shopping and dining opportunities can be found in boutiques, specialty wine, coffee and tea shops and outdoor dining spots. Departing Charlottesville at 3 p.m., the train will arrive back in Greensboro at 6:45 p.m. and Spencer at 8 p.m.
The Georgia Autumn Special will depart from Spencer, with additional passenger pick up at the Spartanburg, S.C. Amtrak Station. Nestled in the foothills of the Southern Appalachian Mountains, the historic town will be bustling with activity during the 40th Annual Harvest Festival. Passengers will have approximately three hours to enjoy the festival, which features handmade, handcrafted and home-grown items from more than 200 vendors, as well as delicious regional foods, entertainment on two stages, children and youth activities, buggy rides and much more.
Toccoa Falls, named for the Cherokee word “Toccoah,” meaning beautiful, is a must see. Located on the campus of Toccoa College, the 186-foot falls are 26 feet taller than Niagara Falls. Shuttle buses will be making a continuous loop between downtown Toccoa and Toccoa Falls.
Numerous seating options are offered for excursion passengers as part of the ticket purchase. Each seating class offers different amenities.
Tourist Class seating features the comfort and convenience of modern Amtrak passenger cars. Two seats, featuring adjustable backs, are on each side of the center aisle, with windows at each row. The Souvenir and Cafe cars are located at the rear of the Tourist Class section, while passengers also have the option to purchase a boxed lunch. Tourist Class seating is $160 per person.
Heritage Coach Class seating includes travel in refurbished “heritage” cars that feature more spacious seating. This option also includes a boxed lunch served in a reusable tote. Heritage Coach Class tickets are $185 per person.
Deluxe Coach passengers ride in comfort with spacious seating, adjustable seat backs, leg rests and large windows to view the scenery. This seating class includes lunch on a vintage dining car, as well as complimentary light snacks and beverages onboard. Deluxe Coach seating is $195 per person.
First Class seating is available onboard a selection of beautifully restored vintage parlor, lounge or business cars. Seating configurations vary between cars and may include table seating, club or compartment seating. This seating class includes breakfast and dinner on the dining car. Amenities include morning newspaper, light snacks and beverages onboard. First Class seating is $270 per person.
Dome Class passengers are seated in the upper level of a glass dome-topped car and enjoy outstanding panoramic views. This seating class includes breakfast and dinner served at each seat or table, snacks, beverages and a morning newspaper. Guests will have to climb a short flight of stairs to reach their seating. Dome Class tickets are $299 per person.
A final option is the Business Class compartment seating aboard a vintage sleeper car. Business Class includes a hot breakfast and hot dinner in the dining car, plus snacks and beverages. As this is a compartment configuration, prices are $1120 for seating for up to four people.
All ticket purchases will include handling fees and taxes.
Additional trip options include a $15 gourmet boxed lunch that passengers can enjoy on the train to save time for shopping and sightseeing during the trip. Commemorative T-shirts feature the Autumn Rails trip logo, and are available in slate blue or pistachio green. T-shirts are $20 each and available from Adult Small to XXXL sizes.
Additional information regarding seating and amenities and online purchase options are available at www.nctrans.org. Those wishing to reserve seats can also call 704-636-2889 ext. 257 or 224.