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National Transportation Safety Board says it isn’t investigating Great Smoky Mountains Railroad

Bryan Miler
BPR News headed out to the Finger Lakes near Fontanta Lake to see where the derailment might have occurred on Monday October 11, 2021. That afternoon the train was chugging down the tracks.

Recently, social media swirled with reports that a Great Smoky Mountains Railroad train had derailed.  BPR looked into what happened – and how our country’s rail systems are monitored:  


The Great Smoky Mountains Railroad runs two trains out of Bryson City in Swain County: one to Dillsboro and the other along the Nantahala Gorge. On Oct 9th, there were reports on social media of a derailment near Fontana Lake.  One person who said they were on the train Saturday posted on social media, “The train derailed and the back half is over the water.”  


“It’s all hearsay.”  


Ramelle Smith is the owner of Turkey Creek Campground on the other side of the lake. She said a camper saw the derailment.


“Someone came back and said, ‘the train derailed down there’ and that they couldn’t get across the tracks. And so that’s really all I know about it,” said Smith. “How much it derailed, I don’t know.”  


The Great Smoky Mountains Railroad could not be reached for comment.    


So BPR headed out to Swain County that Monday to see if the train was off the tracks - or in the lake. The track runs across the water from the Almond Boat and RV Park near Highway 28. From the dock, the train was chugging down the tracks as it would on any other fall afternoon.  


Employees at the Almond Boat Dock didn’t want to be interviewed on tape. One said the train stopped for a while and they weren’t sure exactly what happened but the train was never in the lake. 


Keith Holloway has been working in media relations for the National Transportation Safety Board over 20 years. 


“NTSB investigates all modes of transportation, aviation, highway,pipeline, railroad and marine,” said Holloway.  


If an accident causes serious injuries or reaches over $25,000 dollars of damage it much be reported to the Transportation Safety Board within a few hours. 


“Well because we haven’t been notified, and it doesn't appear that we are investigating, so I don’t know the circumstances surrounding what might have occurred," said Holloway. “It would definitely have to be substantial damage for us to be called in.”  


The Board does not have an investigation pending into the Great Smoky Mountains Railroad. 

Lilly Knoepp serves as BPR’s first fulltime reporter covering Western North Carolina. She is a native of Franklin, NC who returns to WNC after serving as the assistant editor of Women@Forbes and digital producer of the Forbes podcast network. She holds a master’s degree in international journalism from the City University of New York and earned a double major from UNC-Chapel Hill in religious studies and political science.
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