Bryson City, N.C. — There's a train depot tucked away in the mountain town of Bryson City. The trains there don't go far, but they take tourists to a far off place.
Engineer Eric Pittman has been taking driving the train for more than a decade. He pulls seven rail cars behind his Great Smoky Mountain Railroad locomotive. From his driver's seat, he can see peak-to-valley as he glides along the rails.
“It’s different every day. The weather’s different. We see a lot of wildlife. We saw a deer,” he said.
Dave Menci’s son, Wyatt, is fast becoming a seasoned rail rider.
“He’s been on a couple before, but never been through the mountains yet,” Menci said.
Wyatt summed up the mountain scenery, the open-air cars, the easy mosey through the mountains with a simple, “I like it.”
Up front, first-class cars offer cocktails and air conditioning.
“We usually go to the beach but this time we decided to go to the mountains,” Menci said.
Pittman knows the draw of the mountains all too well.
After four years of studying to be an accountant in college, Pittman instead rolls along happily in the Nantahala Valley.
“About once a year my wife points at the diploma on the wall and asks, ‘What’s this for?,’” he said. “And I say, ‘I really don’t know.’”
Pittman said he realized he didn’t want to be sitting in an office. “I wanted to be out here,” he said.
The Great Smoky Mountain Railroad is located at 226 Everett St. in Bryson City.
The venue has 53 miles of track, two tunnels and 25 bridges.