Day Drinking on a Train: The Great Smoky Mountain Railroad

Have you ever wanted to get day-drunk on a train? Yeah, I thought so. If you are anything like me, the very thought of drinking on a train sounds like a excellent way to spend any day, right? Regardless, if you want to drink or not, riding on an old train is pretty amazing as is. But what if I told you that you really could do both on the Great Smoky Mountain Railroad?


 It was actually my mother’s idea (she’s cool like that).  She asked me, “Would you like to go up to Bryson City and ride the train? They even have a moonshine car and …” “Yes,” I interrupted, “ I definitely want to go.” She had me at moonshine. She actually had me at train, but whatever.
Living in North Carolina, I’d actually never been up to Bryson City. It’s a small town in Western North Carolina where everything seems oddly quaint, sort of like you’ve stepped back in time a little, but not too far. The pace is slower, the people nice … and they have magnificent trains that allow you to get drunk riding it.
There is actually a variety of train options and special event trains to choose from. Aside from the Moonshine Car that I went on you can dine in one of the First Class Cars with a private attendant or there is the Open Air Gondola. The Open Air Gondola car  is ideal for photographers wanting that perfect scenic shot. Created from retired baggage and flatbed cars, these open cars feature long padded outward-facing seats, perfect for the panoramic views.
Gondola Train Car
During Thanksgiving they have the PEANUT themed car and during Christmas, The Polar Express Train. It’s a great place to take your family as it allows you a variety of choices and experiences.
No matter what option you choose, you are going to be treated to an amazing ride. With 53 miles of track, two tunnels and 25 bridges, you will certainly have a memorable journey whether spirits are involved or not.
As for me, if sprits can be involved … thats where I’ll be.

The Moonshine Car

Moonshine Car.jpg

The “Shine and Dine” experience begins in a renovated First Class train fleet car, called The Carolina Shine. The interior design features copper lined walls filled with the history of moonshining in North Carolina. While taking in the view of the countryside you will learn about the proud tradition that the Appalachians established when bootlegging was an “acceptable” way of life. You will also learn about Swain County’s very own Major Redmond, the most infamous mountain moonshine outlaw of the 19th century.

Next, passengers are fed pulled pork barbeque, rubbed with Cajun spices and served with a southern sweet cornbread muffin, coleslaw, and cinnamon apples.

While you are eating, there is live music (usually one person playing the banjo or guitar). You are probably going to hear Wagon Wheel and Rocky Top or both…probably both.

After you have a little food in the belly, then comes the good stuff. You are treated to a sample tasting of NASCAR legend, Junior Johnsons, Midnight Moon family of spirits. This features Apple Pie, Blackberry, Blueberry, Cherry, Cranberry and Strawberry moonshine. I went through these pretty fast and felt fairly warm and buzzed. If you are like me, and the samples are still not enough, there’s  plenty of Moonshine infused cocktails like  the Copper Cola or Moonshiner’s Mimosa available for purchase after the tasting. All are delicious and I suggests that you try a few.

Passengers  will also receive their very own Carolina Shine mason drinking jar, a Midnight Moon official mason jar shot glass, and a souvenir Great Smoky Mountain Railroad tote bag.


Train Museum

Before you go on the train or after you get off, you have to be sure to see the Smoky Mountain Trains Museum (included with your ticket) with its collection of  over 7,000 Lionel engines. The kids tend to love  it… so do drunk 36 year old men.

Train Museum

Excursions Options

Nantahala Gorge Excursion
Ride along the rushing Nantahala River. This 4.5-hour route carries you 44 miles to the Nantahala Gorge and back. The historic Trellis Bridge takes you across Fontana Lake. You arrive at the Nantahala Outdoor Center (NOC) for a one-hour layover on the river. If you enjoy whitewater rafting,  you can take their Raft and Rail combination trip.

Tuckasegee River Excursion
Ride through quiet countryside in Jackson County. This four hour excursion travels 32 miles round-trip to Dillsboro and back to Bryson City. Pass by the movie set of The Fugitive starring Harrison Ford and stop in Dillsboro for a 1.5-hour layover to explore the charming town with an impressive collection of galleries.

Other Train Seating Options

  • Most excursions have a full service concession car with snacks and lunch items, beverages and alcoholic drinks for purchase. Or pick up snacks or lunch at their cafe at the Depot before your ride. First Class includes a meal.
  • Standard Seating (Coach Class) is in restored vintage coaches that feature windows that open for fresh-air viewing, ceiling fans and heat for cooler days.
  • Open Air Gondolas are created from retired baggage and flatbed cars, with long padded outward-facing seats for the panoramic views.
  • In Crown Class, relax in restored coaches dating from 1925 with larger windows for better viewing and climate control. Get a souvenir tumbler to fill with a fountain soda.
  • The First Class riding experience. Travel in comfort and style in 1940s-era bar, lounge and dinner cars. Receive a lunch served by the car’s private attendant, a souvenir tumbler with a fountain soda and an embroidered tote bag gift. First Class cars are climate controlled and full bar service is available.

Click here to visit their Web site for current ticket pricing, packages and specials.

Pricing for the Moonshine Car

*note: they just re-introduced the  Steam Engine and I did not get a chance to take a ride on that one.*

Locomotive Adult (21+) Child (2-12) Infant (0-23 Months)
Diesel $99.00 ($105.00 October) N/A N/A
Steam $110.00 ($116.00 October) N/A N/A


Bryson City Map

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