Gladys Knight and the Pips sang about a man who was leaving on that midnight train to Georgia, going back to find a simpler place in time.
In Blue Ridge, Ga., about 90 minutes north of Atlanta, you can find both a simpler place in time and also a train to take you there, though it doesn’t run at midnight.
The Blue Ridge Scenic Railway train runs regularly from the picturesque town of Blue Ridge to Copperhill, Tenn. It’s a 10-minute trip by car but a leisurely hour-long train ride along the Toccoa River (which becomes the Ocoee when you cross the Tennessee line).
Disembark in Copperhill, grab some lunch in either Tennessee or Georgia (McCaysville, Ga., is a five-minute walk away from Copperhill), stroll through a few shops then hop back aboard for the ride back to Blue Ridge. The whole adventure takes four hours.
Sit on the west side of the train for mountain views or on the east side for the river. With the train’s top speeds at 10 to 15 mph, there’s plenty of time to snap photos along the way. On the return trip, passengers switch sides.
On the first leg of the journey, on the riverside, try to get a photo of the Cherokee fish trap in the center of the river. The Native Americans would stand in the middle of the V shape, formed by rocks, and catch fish routed their way by friends standing upriver. Your car host will point out it out as you go by.
At another place along the way, your car host will let you know of a spot where you may lean out (if you are in one of the open cars) and snap a photo of the front of the train as it rounds a curve.
When you purchase your ticket, you can select either a climate-controlled or open-air car or the special needs car. The snack bar serves non-alcoholic drinks, snacks and souvenirs. There are restrooms on board as well as diaper-changing stations.
Upcoming trips include:
- Pumpkin Express, Oct. 25
- Fall Foliage tours, through Nov. 14
- Winter, Nov. 15 - Dec. 31
- Santa Express, Nov. 21 - Dec. 24
- Santa Day Pavilion Train, Nov. 29 - Dec. 13
- Santa Night Pavilion Train, Nov. 21 -Dec. 19
While the engineers are railroad employees, the car hosts, trainmasters and conductors all are trained volunteers knowledgeable about the train, its history and the sights along the way.
Our car host, Wendy, also specializes in tall tales. As we chugged alongside the Toccoa, she told us, “There are four kinds of fish in this river: blackened, baked, sautéed and fried.” And when we passed a field filled with round bales of hay, Wendy asked if we knew that the round bales had been outlawed.
No, we didn’t know.
Wendy explained: “The cows signed a petition. They wanted four square meals per day.”
Journalist Carol Carter writes and edits for Atlanta Convention & Visitors Bureau.