The Transylvania Times -

Speaker To Discuss Trains And Transformation In WNC


August 9, 2018

Ray Rapp will be the guest speaker for the Transylvania County Historical Society’s August, Sunday History Talk. The free event will be held at the Allison-Deaver House at 2 p.m. on Sunday, Aug. 12.

Hear this informative and entertaining presentation about the challenges of building railroads into the Western North Carolina mountains, and the revolutionary changes that resulted after the first train arrived at Asheville in 1880 and Brevard 15 years later. The heartbreak and heroism of constructing rail lines up the Blue Ridge escarpment involved convict labor building loops, tracks on shelves along rivers and the famous Saluda Grade, the steepest standard gauge railroad in the United States.

Learn details of the dramatic growth of timber, mining and tourism in Transylvania County. The surrounding mountainsides gave way to lumber barons and altered landscapes left by miners prospecting for iron ore, feldspar, mica, zircon, marble, copper and other minerals.

At the same time WNC Railroad took the title of Christian Reid’s novel, “The Land of the Sky,” to promote summer visitors to the region. Tourism burgeoned as businesses and communities grew along the right of way making Asheville, Hot Springs, Waynesville, Hendersonville, Brevard and Lake Toxaway new and accessible destinations.

The historical impact is given along with a glimpse into current efforts by the WNC Rail Committee, Inc. to improve and expand service freight and passenger services to the region, including establishment of AMTRAK Thruway Bus Service between Asheville and Salisbury.

Ray Rapp retired in 2009 as Dean of Adult and Graduate studies at Mars Hill University and continues to serve as an adjunct faculty member. Rapp served five terms in the North Carolina House and co-chaired Education Appropriations and Select House/Senate Committees on Improving and Expanding Rail Service in North Carolina. He currently chairs the Western North Carolina Rail Corridor Committee, Inc.

In 2015 he curated the exhibition at Mars Hill University Rural Heritage Museum: “How the West Was Won.” This exhibition traveled to Saluda and Marion and is presently on display at the N.C. Transportation Museum in Spencer. Rapp lectures extensively on regional rail history to civic groups.

The Transylvania County Historical Society is a nonprofit organization that operates on memberships and donations. For future event information, visit the website or call (828) 884-5137.


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