We love the Smoky Mountains. Wish you were here!

Archive for February, 2012

In Bryson City, One of the South’s Largest Model Train Collections

Some kids never grow up, particularly when it comes to model trains. And next door to the Bryson City train depot, there’s a special treat for model train lovers of all ages. Smoky Mountain Trains, a museum dedicated to model railroading, houses a vast collection of 7,000 Lionel engines, rail cars and accessories, some dating back to the early 20th century.

The museum’s centerpiece is a large diorama with more than a mile of track on three levels where up to six trains run simultaneously. The layout includes a freight yard with more than 400 cars. There are tunnels, trestles, houses, factories, a five-foot waterfall and 12 animated scenes. The miniature maintenance area includes a turntable and roundhouse (above).

There are also smaller train layouts just for kids, with child-friendly buttons that operate the trains and accessories.

Admission to Smoky Mountain Trains is $9 for adults, $6 for children; and free for riders on Great Smoky Mountain Railroad excursions.

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Hi Na-Ber, How Can I Help You?

Na-Bers Drive-in on East Main Street is a Bryson City landmark — a classic 1950s-era drive-in restaurant that really hasn’t changed much in more than a half-century of serving townsfolk and visitors. Thankfully.

A love of nostalgia prompts a lot of tourists to give Na-Bers a try. And they’re not disappointed with the extensive menu, attractive prices, and the friendly service they receive from employees like 76 year-old carhop Dixie Hughes (above). When asked why she continues to work well beyond retirement age, Dixie says she just loves the job and the people. She’s quick to add “I’ll stay here as long as they let me.”

Dixie is as much a Na-Bers fixture as the drive-in’s vintage curbside speakers, where you can still order such long-time favorites as a chili dog, cherry or pineapple milkshake, barbecue and fried chicken. One regular customer proclaims “the Cherry Lemon Mountain Dew is the nectar of the God’s! Get a large one and enjoy the greatest non-alcoholic beverage in the universe!” And Congressman Heath Shuler has even been quoted in the national media in praise of Na-Bers’ signature cheeseburger topped with coleslaw. “One of my favorite vices,” he said.

Na-bers dates back to the early 50s when local drive-ins were soaring in popularity nationally. The original location, next to the Governors Island bridge on Hwy 19, burned in 1964 and was rebuilt on the current riverside site a little closer to town. According to owner Ronnie Henderson, the name ‘Na-bers’ was inspired by the original owner’s greeting to his very first customer — “Hi Neighbor, how can I help you?”. It stuck.

Na-Bers Drive-In, at 1245 Main Street, is open Monday thru Saturday, 9 am to 8 pm. Eat inside or in your car.

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A ‘Model Citizen’ in More Ways Than One

The late P.R. Bennett was ‘Bryson City’ through and through — mayor for nine terms, firefighter for 51 years, business owner, town clerk and member of the Swain County Planning Board. And after retiring, his love for Bryson City took him in a new direction: meticulously creating small-scale replicas of Bryson City landmarks — the train depot,  Jenkins Mill, the Presbyterian Church and the iconic old Swain County Courthouse. He also built a model of the Davis House, the late 19th century chestnut log cabin that the National Park now has preserved in its Mountain Farm Museum in Cherokee.

All the models but the church are now on display at the Swain County Genealogy Society above the Police Department on Main Street. Hours are 8 am to noon Monday, Wednesday and Friday; 8 am to 4 pm Tuesday and Thursday; and Tuesday night from pm to 8 pm. As Bennett wished, the Presbyterian Church model lives at the church on North Everett Street.

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5th Annual Chocolate Cook-off is February 11

One of the most popular Winter events in Bryson City is the annual Chocolate Cook-off. Now in its 5th year, the February event usually attracts more than a dozen competitors… plus the throng of chocolate lovers who pay up to $6 to sample the entries following the judging. All proceeds benefit the Friends of the Marianna Black Library.

Entries are judged on taste, texture, aroma, creativity and aesthetics. Each competitor is required to make at least 150 samples of their creations for the the judges and the public. Cash prizes and trophies are awarded.

5th Annual Chocolate Cook-off 
Saturday, February 11, 2012
2 to 4 pm
Bryson City Presbyterian Church, Everett St.
$6 admission
$1 off for Friends of the Marianna Black Library members.
Kids under 6 are free.
Contact the library for more information at 828-488-3030.

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