Most of the folks around here have heard the distant rumble of trains as they pass through the north end of Mitchell County and on into McDowell. It’s now called CSX but from the early 1900s until 1983, it was known as the Clinchfield Railroad. Few realize that if the railroad had not stopped and planted an apple and peach orchard beside the tracks (believed it to be a great revenue stream), the Orchard at Altapass would not be.

Our thanks to the Toe River Model Railroaders of Spruce Pine who worked with the O during the last two seasons to create a replica of our own history. Visitors can now experience the beginnings of the Orchard at Altapass from Revolutionary War times through today's orchard with its music, its apples, and its many stories. This year they will be back adding more about the OverMountain Men and Altapass.

When the Holston Land Corporation built the railroad through what is now known as Altapass (naming the area—Altapass, meaning “high pass”), they employed 4,000 workers, they built an elegant hotel to draw tourists, which it did, and they planted two orchards—Holston Orchard (now The Orchard at Altapass) and one at Hefner Gap. The most productive years at the O were in the 1930s when over 50,000 bushels left the grounds on trains going north and south. However, years passed, the depression intervened, and Congress approved the building of the Blue Ridge Parkway, which would join the Great Smoky Mountains National Park and the Shenandoah National Park, provide work for the thousands unemployed, and a smooth road and captivating ride for tourists. The Parkway split the orchard in half, apple sales plummeted (commercial vehicles were prohibited on the Parkway), and dreams dissipated.


Today the Orchard is thriving—a non-profit dedicated to preserving the land and its heritage. To recognize that heritage, we collaborated with the Toe River Model Railroaders of Spruce Pine to construct a miniature railroad representation (48 times smaller than a real train) of the Orchard that will “track” in the red barn (train whistle included).

As a true community project, the model Clinchfield train will run the track passing in front of the tiny red barn, disappear inside the tunnel and reappear at the other end, tracking the beginnings of the Orchard from the Revolutionary War mountaineer to the first shovelful of dirt for The Blue Ridge Parkway to today's Orchard with its music, its apples, and it many, many stories.

There is still much to do—planting more tiny trees, loading more apples, adding more cars (perhaps another engine), bring, more "tiny people" onto the grounds

If you would like to be a part of the continuing Orchard Train Project, please email the executive director.



1025 Orchard Road

Spruce Pine, NC 28777

Blue Ridge Parkway
(mile marker 328.3)



Follow Us

When you shop at, Amazon donates 0.5% of your eligible purchases—at no cost to you.

AmazonSmile offers the same products, same low prices, and same services as the Amazon you know.
Sign up Today. Just choose Altapass Foundation, Inc. The best way to make a difference




Please Help!

The Orchard General Fund
$23,683.00 Raised: $30,000.00 Goal:
Copyright © The Historic Orchard at Altapass 2022. All Rights Reserved. Site designed by Blue Ridge Visions