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Transportation museum announces fall rail excursions

SPENCER — The N.C. Transportation Museum has announced that its fall rail excursions this year will go to Charlottesville, Va., Oct. 29 and Toccoa, Ga., Oct. 30.

Both trips feature sights only seen when traveling by rail, at a time when the vibrant colors of fall are at their peak.

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 the trip to Charlottesville or harvest festival delights during the trip to Toccoa, Ga.

Tickets go on sale to members of the N.C. Transportation Museum and Watauga Valley Railroad Historical Society Thursday, while the general public will be able to purchase tickets starting Monday.

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 are offered with the Virginia Autumn Special to Charlottesville, Va. Departing from the N.C. Transportation Museum in Spencer, with additional pickups at the Greensboro Amtrak Station, passengers will experience beautiful views of the Piedmont and the rolling hills of North Carolina and Central Virginia.

Impressive views of the Dan, Roanoke and James rivers will be seen as the train crosses those bodies of water.

By 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.

Departing Charlottesville at 3 p.m., the train will arrive back in Greensboro at 6:45 p.m. and Spencer at 8 p.m.

On the next day, the Georgia Autumn Special, destined for Toccoa, will depart from Spencer, with additional passenger pickups at the Spartanburg, S.C., Amtrak station.

Nestled in the foothills of the Southern Appalachian Mountains, historic Toccoa 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 regional foods, entertainment on two stages, children and youth activities, buggy rides and 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 Tourist Class ($160 per person), Heritage Coach Class $185 per person), Deluxe Coach ($195 per person), First Class ($270 a person) and Dome Class ($299 per person) and Business Class ($1,120 for up to four people).

Tourist Class seating is on 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.

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.

Deluxe Coach passengers ride in spacious seating with 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.

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 a morning newspaper, light snacks and beverages onboard.

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.

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.

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.

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