Railroad’s future in the mountains

Published 5:27 pm Thursday, October 12, 2017

The Saluda Historic Depot board attended the Railroads and Regional Economic Development Conference 2017 sponsored by the Asheville Area Chamber of Commerce, the WNC Rail Committee, Inc., and the NC DOT Rail Division held in Asheville on Sept. 22.

 This conference focused on the dynamic and diverse changes in today’s railroad industry and rail’s critical role in regional transportation planning and development.  

Sessions focused on how Western North Carolina can work to improve and expand freight services in the region, increase excursions to and through the mountains, promote existing tourist lines and re-establish a passenger rail connection to Asheville and WNC.   

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 “It was a great day and a wonderful panel of speakers from our transportation systems, from elected officials to managers with Norfolk Southern, CSX and Watco/Blue Ridge Southern Railroad, CEO of the Charlotte Chamber of Commerce and Scenic Railways producer. All shared information about present projects and looking toward the future of rails in Western North Carolina and the impact it would be to us. For economic growth to our area, the impact of an excursion would bring education and entertainment. We will be making contact with some of the speakers and invite them to present at Saluda Train Tales next year. Western North Carolina is growing and many are coming to see our mountains, trails and rails, we must plan and be ready.

 “Imagine an excursion from Saluda to Hendersonville and then to Asheville. People could ride the rails to visit us and then return to another location without driving. Imagine the ride and not having to drive and then add to that picture enjoying fine dining in a dining car. People love experiences and a ride on the rails to Saluda would bring back a little history from when folks rode the train to Saluda and would be wonderful for Saluda’s economy and its citizens,” says Judy Ward.

 “We made great contacts with the owner representative of the Great Smoky Mountains RR, and they are interested in coming to Saluda to help us get something rolling! He owns five tourist train operations. The first was the Durango to Silverton line in New Mexico to Colorado,” stated Mary Meyland Mason.

 Some of the information learned will be discussed at the October Saluda Train Tales by Ray Rapp.

– submitted by Cathy Jackson