COPPERHILL, Tenn. — The train creaked its way into town and ground to a halt, straddling the Tennessee-Georgia state line.
With that, passengers disembarked and quickly made their ways to the shops and eateries sprinkled throughout the sister cities of Copperhill and McCaysville, Ga.
The charming communities grew up after copper was first discovered in the area in 1843. Today, tourism has replaced copper as the economic engine of the two cities, which combined have a population of less than 1,500 residents.
Visitors by the thousands come to Copperhill/McCaysville each year. Many are whitewater rafters who want to ride the rapids of the Toccoa River as its known in Georgia and the Oconee River as its known in Tennessee.
The Blue Ridge Scenic Railway has been ferrying tourists and railfans between Blue Ridge, Ga., and the Georgia-Tennessee state line since 1998. The heritage railroad train departs from the historic 1906 Louisville & Nashville Railroad depot in downtown Blue Ridge and treks northward for an hour, providing riders with a beautiful view of the scenic North Georgia landscape.
Once at the state line, passengers have two hours to explore the small, but quaint twin cities before the return trip south.
In town, be sure to check out the steel bridge spanning the Toccoa/Oconee — it’s at this point where the river changes it’s name. Opened in 1911, the bridge eliminated the need for a ferry to cross the river.
Another landmark for tourists is a dotted blue line painted in the IGA parking lot. Tourists who straddle the line can can have one foot in Georgia and the other in Tennessee.
The railroad operates over a portion of the famed Hook and Eye line, so named because of switchbacks near Tate Mountain in Talking Rock, Ga., and a loop in the tracks at Bald Mountain near Farner, Tenn.
The Knoxville Southern Railway Co. built tracks from Knoxville to the state line. The Marietta & North Georgia Railway built the trackage from Marietta to the state line.
In the first decade of the 20th century, the Louisville & Nashville Railroad built a new route between Cartersville, Ga., and Etowah, Tenn., to bypass the Hook and Eye line. At that time, the line took on a new nickname: The Old Line.