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Autumn in Oz: the mostly abandoned Land of Oz opens again
October 5, 2013 8:34 AM   Subscribe

In 1957, Grover Robbins opened the "Tweetsie Railroad", a Wild West themed park centered around a segment of the old East Tennessee & Western North Carolina gauge railway. Then from 1965 to 1968, Robbins purchased or leased land on Beech Mountain in North Carolina (Google maps) with the idea of a year-round theme park in an area already popular for skiing. The result was The Land of Oz, which included props bought from MGM through an auction. The park was only open from 1970 to 1980, closing due in part to a fire and the death of Grover Robbins. The park was partially restored in 1990, then opened one weekend in 1993 for an employee reunion. That was the first of an annual event, Autumn in Oz, happening this weekend.
posted by filthy light thief (19 comments total) 11 users marked this as a favorite

 
The Land of Oz was mentioned previously, as part of a larger post on the various "real world" home of Dorothy.

If you're looking to attend Autumn in Oz, advanced tickets are sold out, but you can (probably) still buy tickets at the gate. If you can't make it to Beech Mountain, here are a few more images from the past and present of the Land of Oz, and more from Atlas Obscura. You can also watch this short documentary on the park, made by Appalachian State University students.

Also of note: the Tweetsie Railroad theme park is still open.
posted by filthy light thief at 8:39 AM on October 5, 2013 [1 favorite]


Tweetsie Railroad is great if you're like five. There is a single stoplight at the entrance on route 321 that the county takes down at the end of October and puts back up when Tweetsie re-opens.
posted by infinitewindow at 8:41 AM on October 5, 2013 [1 favorite]


My kid would be all over this. Too late to get there this weekend, but maybe we can plan in advance for next year. Nice post!
posted by DirtyOldTown at 9:00 AM on October 5, 2013


Oh man, Tweetsie Railroad was a big part of my childhood. My grandparents lived in Tennessee and we lived in North Carolina, so we'd always drive through the mountains and make a stop in Tweetsie Railroad on the way. We're talking: fudge! Fake panning for gold! Tilt-a-whirl! Plastic axes for sale! Interactive train robberies probably performed by App State theater students! Oh it was fun.
posted by showbiz_liz at 9:08 AM on October 5, 2013 [4 favorites]


I rode on the Tweetsie Railroad when I was little back in the 70s, but I've never heard of Land of Oz. Maybe my parents purposely kept my sister and I in the dark so they wouldn't have to bother with it.
posted by cropshy at 9:29 AM on October 5, 2013


Tweetsie railroad seems like a good time, but it's in a high crime area. Everytime I went, the train was attacked by Indians.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 9:30 AM on October 5, 2013 [12 favorites]


Interactive train robberies probably performed by App State theater students!

I was about six or seven when I went to Tweetsie Railroad back in the sixties. I now publically apologize to the "train robber" I kicked in the leg.
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 10:43 AM on October 5, 2013 [1 favorite]


I think I remember Tweetsie Railroad, but it may be all jumbled up with Silver Dollar City. My family tried to do a Beech Mountain ski-trip meetup one year in the mid 80s, there was no snow for skiing so us kids spent the days climbing fences and traipsing through what was left of The Land of Oz. I remember it being rather decrepit and reclaimed by the weather and the forest.
posted by zengargoyle at 10:45 AM on October 5, 2013


Everytime I went, the train was attacked by Indians.

So, the Tweetsie railroad is not a juggernaut if indigenous history, I gather. I must decry the low level of theme park scholarship these days. I went to a dinosaur theme park when I was a wee lad, and was bitterly disappointed at their recreations of dinosaur physiology.
posted by GenjiandProust at 11:08 AM on October 5, 2013 [1 favorite]


Oh wow! I lived in Boone as a kid and worked at the local outdoor drama. Employees got free passes to all the nearby attractions, so my parents would just drop me off at Tweetsie every morning in the summers. I took my children back there last year and discovered they'd gotten rid of the stop where the "wild injuns" (aka, ASU students with tans) attacked the train. I'd forgotten about that part until I didn't see it. Thank god.

The students still looked drunk and/or stoned though. I suppose you would have to be to get through the day.

My parents' favorite childhood story for me involves me being terrified by the Wicked Witch of the West and running, screaming my head off, back up the Yellow Brick road. The performers must have lived for children like me.

Thanks for this post!
posted by bibliowench at 11:08 AM on October 5, 2013 [1 favorite]


I visited the Land of Oz park as a kid, and I found it (even as a kid) a bit cheesy, but also a lot of fun. The part I recall best was the cyclone effect in Dorothy's house. The visitors entered the house from one door (in Kansas) and exited from another (in Oz), but while inside the house, the cyclone would hit ... in the form of sound effects (which are described in the "Land of Oz" link) but also a pretty scary rear-screen projection on the windows. At least it shook me up a bit. And, yes, the Wicked Witch of the West delighted in terrifying the impressionable children.
posted by JimInLoganSquare at 11:23 AM on October 5, 2013


My son and I visited Tweetsie's steam locomotive shop a few years ago. Impressive.
Since it's virtually impossible to find replacement steam locomotive parts, Tweetsie's machinists and welders must manufacture their own.
posted by maggieb at 12:17 PM on October 5, 2013


Annual visits to Tweetsie Railroad were a big part of my childhood. And Blowing Rock. And Grandfather Mountain. And Mystery Hill. We lived in the Piedmont and would alternate being vacations at the beach or in the mountains. I would have been going there from maybe 82-87 so I just missed out on visiting the land of Oz.

Another memory of that time and place - the Linn Cove Viaduct being open to the public before it was officially open to traffic, and being able to walk out on the highway on the side of the mountain.
posted by thecjm at 12:41 PM on October 5, 2013 [1 favorite]


I think I remember Tweetsie Railroad, but it may be all jumbled up with Silver Dollar City.

Yep. Various Great Smoky Mountains attractions and also stuff around Stone Mountain in Georgia kind of blur into those memories, too.
posted by Sara C. at 1:45 PM on October 5, 2013


Well, I suppose it is about time. I have had people mentioning they wanted to know what Samizdata looked like. Well, as I tripped over an old photo of me recently that seems thematically apropos to the discussion, it seemed it was the right time, so...

Here I am!

(SFW, and it REALLY is me.)
posted by Samizdata at 3:20 PM on October 5, 2013 [2 favorites]


Now I have the "The Tweetsie Railroad is coming your way" song in my head.
posted by octobersurprise at 5:58 PM on October 5, 2013


I lived near Hickory, NC, as a kid and loved going to Tweetsie Railroad. I still remember with fondness the time during one "Indian" attack when a fierce brave jumped up and whooped in my little brother's face through the window, reducing him to tears. Ah, good times. I may still have the tan plastic Tweetsie Railroad wallet I got from the gift shop (very grown up!) in a box somewhere.

I also remember a thing where if you left your car windows down or something, that would tell them it was okay to put a Tweetsie Railroad bumper sticker on your car? (Am I remembering this right?) I remember I begged in vain for my dad to let them put one on.

Also, does anybody remember Fred Kirby? He was a singing cowboy who performed there. He also had a kid's TV show on Sundays that featured The Little Rascals. I remember him singing "Big Rock Candy Mountain" on his show.
posted by catastropher at 10:08 AM on October 6, 2013


I also remember a thing where if you left your car windows down or something, that would tell them it was okay to put a Tweetsie Railroad bumper sticker on your car? (Am I remembering this right?) I remember I begged in vain for my dad to let them put one on.

Oh holy shit, they did! I had forgotten that until this moment, but they totally did! Wow. Tweetsie bumper stickers are totally my madeleines.

The last time I took my kids there, they were having a theme week that required the traditional train engine to be replaced with motherfucking Thomas. Needless to say, there were no gun battles along the way. We just took this boring-ass ride while Thomas the Tank Engine music played over the loudspeakers. It was hell.
posted by bibliowench at 10:16 AM on October 6, 2013 [1 favorite]


In my search for Tweetsie bumper stickers, I came across this post on the fire at the Tweetsie, with a few old images from the Tweetsie from the A View to Hugh blog, where I also foundthe bear that didn't know she was a bear - Mildred the bear, who was a fixture at Grandfather Mountain from 1967 through the early 1990s. A View to Hugh also has an article on the Land of Oz, with four images of the old Oz. From that post, someone linked to a collection of scanned postcards from Oz.
posted by filthy light thief at 11:44 AM on October 18, 2013


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