JOHNSON CITY, Tenn. - The Tweetsie Hiking and Biking Trail from Johnson City to Elizabethon will open later this month. But what do we know about the old railroad nicknamed Tweetsie?
It was the East Tennessee Western North Carolina line that went from Johnson City to Cranberry, North Carolina. That old line is being recreated in miniature at the George L. Carter Railroad Museum on the campus of East Tennessee State University.
It's the largest project undertaken by the George L. Carter Railroad Museum's seven-year history.
It's a recreation of the old East Tennessee Western North Carolina line known as Tweetsie. "Tweetsie disappeared after 1950. We are trying to emulate what Tweetsie was like and give a lot of people that have not been to the museum and don't know Tweetsie a feeling for the deep mountains, broad canyons, the river valleys that the railroad pushed through in two years' time," Fred Alsop with the museum said.
But recreating it to scale is taking the museum a little longer because all of the work is being done by East Tennessee Model Railroad club members. "We're having to build the scenery, they just had to cut a railroad through it. So we built the mountains. We built the backgrounds. We building every tree one tree at at time and it's slow going," Alsop says.
But when finished it will not only climb from Johnson City to North Carolina, but it will show all of the landmarks along the way. "We're in a room that's 1,300 square feet. We've got more than 250 feet of mainline representing about eight scale miles to represent 35 actual railroad mile from Johnson City to Cranberry," Alsop explained.
The project is getting national attention from model railroaders and hundreds of members of the National Tweetsie Railroad Historical Society, which is dedicated to preserving the history of the old railroad line. "This is a historic endeavor. We're not just building a model railroad, we're trying to recreate history," Alsop said.
One tree, one bridge, one tunnel, one city and one town at a time.