With passion for trains and trolleys, Asheville man engineers Christmas magic

Jason Sandford

Jason Sandford is a reporter, writer, blogger and photographer interested in all things Asheville.

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craggy_mountain_line_2014_woodfin_1Rocky Hollifield is engineering a little Christmas magic at his Craggy Mountain Line Railroad in Woodfin.

For three Saturdays in December, Hollifield ushers visitors aboard a 1920s-era Asheville trolley car and transports them to memories of Christmases past. The trolley rambles down the line, bedecked with lights and garland. Parents hug children close as they sign carols. Santa Claus and Mrs. Claus greet wide-eyed children upon their return from a short run on the open-air trolley car.

“Our goal is to take you back to the 1940s. We’re working with historic stuff and trying to take people back to a bygone era,” Hollifield says. “It’s an old-fashioned experience.”

Hollifield has followed his passion for trains and trolleys his entire life. He worked for the short-line Smoky Mountain Railroad for 18 years, starting out in maintenance and working his way up to brakeman and engineer. Hollifield has also been buying and selling railroad cars for more than 20 years.

“I love saving the cars. They’re railroad history. If someone doesn’t save them, it’s just gone,” he says.

Hollifield incorporated his nonprofit Craggy Mountain Line Railroad in 2001 and has worked tireless alongside a small group of volunteers to get three miles of track fit for use. The group installed more than 2,000 railroad ties and two switches, and reactivated a dormant side track.

“A lot of people think you’re crazy,” Hollifield says with a laugh. “I guess there’s a fine line between passionate and crazy. I just can’t help it.”

The goal is to operate a train on the line for most of the year, build a depot with restrooms and create a small museum, says Hollifield. He’s well-versed in the area’s railroad history, noting that at one point Asheville has the second-largest trolley system in the U.S. The track he’s using was first laid in 1904. Hollifield owns an original New York subway car that he hopes to restore one day. He has two Asheville trolley cars. And he has an engine.

But this time of year, Hollifield just wants to share his love of trains with parents and their children during the holiday season. Hollifield openly shares his Christian belief in God and expresses is gratitude in being able to restore the old railroad line and open it up to the public.

“It’s not the destination,” Hollifield says. “It’s the trip.”

The Craggy Mountain Line’s Jingle Bell Trolley Train Ride runs from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. on Saturday, Dec. 13 and 20. Cost is $10 a person, and children age 3 and under are free. The event includes appearances by Santa Claus and Mrs. Claus, as well as cookies and hot chocolate. Call 808-4877 for reservations. Craggy Mountain Line on Facebook.Screen Shot 2014-11-26 at 11.21.27 AM

Jason Sandford

Jason Sandford is a reporter, writer, blogger and photographer interested in all things Asheville.

  • 1

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1 Comment

  1. Rebecca in Asheville December 15, 2014

    I love that all over the country there are train rides featured in December. It’s a great activity for kids and adults. Rocky Hollifield’s sounds really awesome with its 1940s spin. Really sounds like it will be a great ride!


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