A 501(c)3 Non-Profit

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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. What they don’t know is that if that railroad had not stopped on its way and planted an apple and peach orchard beside the tracks, the Orchard at Altapass would not be. This season the Toe River Model Railroaders of Spruce Pine will be working with the O to create a replica of our own history.

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 pristine 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 are collaborating with the Toe River Model Railroad Club 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 Orchard would love to include cars, tracks, accessories that have their own histories and are now in the attic or boxed in the basement; tiny people just waiting for a new paint job; open cars that once held tiny logs, chunks of coal, livestock, 10" of track here, a curve there. Currently, the design is for a 16' oval replica of the track and orchard land in the early 1900s. A 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. 

If you would like to be a part of the Orchard Train Project, please email the executive director. Members of the Model Railroad Club will be working on construction throughout the remainder of the season on Wednesdays. We invite folks to come and watch as it slowly chugs along.


Keep the Train Chuggin' Along

The Toe River Model Railroaders will be working to put the train back on track before season's end. We could use your help.
We need a left-hand Lionel fast track turnout, two stop and goes, and of course, tiny people, tiny animals, and tiny vehicles (circa 40s-50s).
We estimate a total cost of $300 and welcome all donations (including tiny bills). Just click and designate the Train Project. Couldn't be simpler. Can you hear it coming? Chug-a-Chug-a.

The Tiny Tree Project

Come be a part of the Orchard

We'll provide all materials
Build and plant a tiny apple tree for our Train Project

You'll receive a certificate of participation with the location of your tree

Workshop runs continuously from 10 AM to 12 PM, the last Saturday of each month—
June 26, July 31, August 28, & September 25.

Got a group and can't make it on open Saturdays?
Email Germaine, our program coordinator, for other arrangements.

Open to all ages
(under 5 must be accompanied by an adult)

No need to preregister!
$5 suggested donation per person
(cash only please)

All donations go to support our mission and its many educational programs.


1025 Orchard Road

Spruce Pine, NC 28777

Blue Ridge Parkway
(mile marker 328.3)



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2021 HOURS

June 1-October 31

10 to 5

Subject to change

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