A 100-Year-Old North Carolina Steam Locomotive Keeps Chugging Along
Back in the golden age of railroads, the East Tennessee and Western North Carolina Railroad carried passengers and iron ore through the Blue Ridge Mountains. After its run ended in 1950, the line’s Engine No. 12 changed hands twice before ending up as a central attraction at Tweetsie Railroad, a Wild West theme park in Blowing Rock, North Carolina. (Hollywood cowboy Gene Autry bought a purchase option for the steam locomotive in 1954, but when he learned how expensive the 80-ton engine would be to ship West, he sold it to Tweetsie founder Grover Robbins.)
In addition to the theme park, which attracts 250,000 visitors per year, Tweetsie also contains a narrow-gauge steam locomotive shop, which maintains and fixes engines both in-house and for other theme parks such as Disney World and Busch Gardens.
This year marks the 100th anniversary of Engine No. 12, and the 60th anniversary of the park. Along with its newer counterpart, Engine 190, the train still makes its three-mile loop an average of 12 times per day. See below for a selection of vintage photos of the National Register-listed engine.