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Tickets go on sale Wednesday for two train excursions

SPENCER ńThe N.C. Transportation Museum Foundation and the Watauga Valley Chapter of the National Railway Historical Society offer a chance to see fall foliage, visit a great destination and enjoy the romance of riding the rails this fall.
The museum is again hosting fall train excursions, with a special treat this year. In addition to the traditional Charlottesville, Va., day trip, the museum will also offer a day trip to Asheville. Ticket sales start at 10 a.m. Wednesday.
After hosting day trips through the 1990s, the museum revived rail excursions in 2007. The past two years have featured day trips to Charlottesville, Va. Sell-out crowds and satisfied passengers made those excursions a success. But a day trip to Asheville has been the most frequent request. Answering the demand, the museum will offer a choice of destinations this year.
The Virginia Autumn Special will travel to Charlottesville, Va., Oct. 31, while the Blue Ridge Special will travel to Asheville, Nov. 1. Each day’s trip will include views of fall foliage.
Departing Spencer at 7 a.m., Saturday’s Virginia Autumn Special will again offer a second passenger pick-up at the Greensboro Amtrak Station at 8 a.m., allowing those living in the Triad a more convenient boarding opportunity.
Passing through Thomasville, High Point and Reidsville, and the Virginia cities of Danville, Lynchburg and Oak Ridge, passengers will see the Piedmont and rolling hills of the Carolinas and the western part of central Virginia. Views of the Dan, Roanoke and James rivers will be seen as the train crosses above. The train will even pass by Schuyler, the mountain town fictionalized in the television show “The Waltons.”
At noon, the Virginia Autumn Special will arrive in Charlottesville, home of the University of Virginia. Here travelers will have about three hours to explore the historic downtown area. A short walk takes you to the downtown outdoor mall, considered one of the finest urban parks in the country.
Shopping and dining opportunities can be found in boutiques, specialty wine, coffee and tea shops, and outdoor dining spots. Travelers may also enjoy walks under a leafy tree canopy. Departing Charlottesville at 3 p.m., the train will arrive back in Greensboro at 6:45 p.m. and Spencer at 8 p.m.
During Sunday’s trip, the Blue Ridge Special will travel through the western Piedmont into the foothills and on to the Blue Ridge Mountains.
Departing Spencer at 7 a.m., the train will roll through Statesville, Hickory, Morganton, Marion, Black Mountain and Swannanoa. The train will climb the famed loops of the Blue Ridge Mountains and pass through several tunnels before arriving in Asheville at noon.
Passengers will have nearly three hours for an outing at Biltmore Village.
Established in the late 1890s as a planned community near the entrance of the Biltmore estate, Biltmore Village stands near the entrance to Biltmore Estate.
Shopping will be available in locally-owned boutiques. Passengers can dine in restaurants and take walks along brick sidewalks that parallel tree-lined streets. All of this will be enjoyed alongside spectacular views of the North Carolina mountains.
Departing Asheville at 3 p.m., the Blue Ridge Special will return to Spencer at 8 p.m.
Several different levels of excursion tickets are available. Ticket prices are the same each day.
Dome cars, with two levels, feature the best views of the passing scenery. Windows stretch across the walls and ceiling on the second level of the rail car, providing a panoramic view of the entire ride.Dome class passengers will have an early continental breakfast and newspaper as well as dinner in vintage lounge and dining cars. Dome tickets are $275 per person and sell out very quickly.
Premium first class tickets feature comfort seating on private rail cars restored to the height of luxury. Premium first class passengers will also have an early continental breakfast, newspaper and dinner on the return trip. Premium first class tickets are $240 per person.
A new offering this year, deluxe coach class tickets feature seating with large windows, lunch on the dining car and light snacks during the trip. Deluxe coach tickets are $170 per person.
Coach tickets feature comfortable seating, air conditioning and heat and restrooms. Coach tickets are $140 per person.
Another new feature, an optional box lunch will allow travelers to save time for shopping in Charlottesville or Asheville. The $14 box lunch, served in a souvenir lunch tote, includes include a half turkey wrap, pasta, chips and salsa, a cookie and drink.
Passengers may also take advantage of a shuttle bus at each destination for an additional $2.
Tickets will be available online at www.nctrans.org or by calling 704-636-2889, ext. 232. Tickets go on sale at 10 a.m. Wednesday.
The N.C. Transportation Museum, located in historic Spencer Shops, the former Southern Railway repair facility, is part of the Division of State Historic Sites, Department of Cultural Resources.
The N.C. Department of Cultural Resources is celebrating the 2009 theme of “Treasure N.C. Culture.” For information on the Department of Cultural Resources, call (919) 807-7385 or visit www.ncculture.com.

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