The Christmas Train®

Get ready for your new family tradition. From late November until Christmas the campus of Doe River Gorge will be transformed into a magical Christmas wonderland to provide a spectacular night for your family.

With festive Christmas decorations, warm campfires, amazing foods, singing carolers, and various shops and attractions, there will never be a dull moment. But the highlight of the evening will be riding aboard a live steam locomotive train where the true story of Christmas will be told like you’ve never heard it before. It will be like riding through a life-size storybook.

Putting Christ back in Christmas

The story of Christmas and the gospel message are increasingly being suppressed in our culture. Christmas carols, nativity scenes, and even the “Merry Christmas” greeting are gradually disappearing from the Christmas holidays. The Christmas Train will provide a fun and festive evening where people of all ages can hear the gospel message as they experience the story of Christmas as told from creation of the world to the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.

How was the Christmas Train Idea Born?

Several years ago, Doe River Gorge began exploring ways to expand its ministry during the non-summer season while simultaneously generating revenue to operate and sustain its year-round operations.

In 2013 a team from DRG took a trip to a camp in Oklahoma to experience an event called The Christmas Train. Through this event, the true story of Christmas was shared with 60,000 people each year while generating almost $2 million in gross revenue. At one point this event was rated as one of the top 100 attractions in America.

Being mesmerized by the experience, and wondering if a similar event could work at DRG, the group returned to Tennessee and commissioned an extensive feasibility study and business plan. With these studies projecting positive results, the idea of a Christmas Train event was placed in DRG’s long-range master plan. As a first step to implementation of that plan a steam locomotive was purchased in 2014 and its renovation was begun.

steam locomotive

Once-in-a-lifetime Opportunity!

In 2018, DRG was presented with a “once-in-a-lifetime” opportunity when the owners of The Christmas Train offered to sell all of its assets to DRG for a fraction of its value. The only caveat was that it be moved to Tennessee and continue to be operated for the glory of God. After much prayer and discussion DRG entered into a contract to take advantage of this miraculous opportunity.

conductor and steam locomotive at night

The Christmas Train Moves to DRG!

Over the twelve month period from September 2018 – August 2019 assets of The Dry Gulch Christmas Train have been acquired, transported to DRG and paid in full. It took 57 tractor trailer loads and included:


conductor and railcar


Shares the true story of Christmas and the gospel message with thousands of people

Enhances existing and future programs at Doe River Gorge

Provides significant revenue during DRG’s slowest season of the year

Boosts tourism and the local economy

train in gorge


The Christmas Train will become operational at Doe River Gorge as soon as funding, engineering and construction can be completed. The target date for the grand opening is November 2024. The total amount of money that must be raised is $5.85 million. This chart includes the following financial needs to become operational:


  • Purchase and renovate the Crown Locomotive: $125,000
  • Purchase The Dry Gulch Christmas Train assets: $740,000
  • Move The Christmas Train assets to Doe River Gorge: $272,000
  • Purchase sawmill property: $650,000
  • Construct approximately 2.2 miles of railroad track: $2,600,000
  • Renovate sawmill buildings for passenger coach garage and storage facility: $75,000
  • Construct engine house: $250,000
  • Construct costume storage facility and loading platforms: $250,000
  • Renovate 2 Porter Locomotives: $250,000
  • Renovate and install story boards: $150,000
  • Prepare to begin operations (inventory, decorations, labor, etc.): $488,000


site plan rendering

Leaving a LEGACY

In the mid 1880’s, when the idea was born to construct a railroad from Johnson City TN to Cranberry NC, one of the great challenges was acquiring the proper funding. To meet this challenge numerous people invested their resources to see the railroad become a reality. An investment by Ario Pardee, along with those of others, changed the course of history and its impact and legacy lives on to this day.

stock certificate

All Aboard!

Now, 140 years later, the return of steam railroading and The Christmas Train will once again bring benefi ts that will last for generations and even into eternity. To make this a reality will require the resources of numerous people. Doe River Gorge invites you to share in this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity through your generous giving. For each $100 given, you will be issued one share of symbolic stock with a certificate indicating the number of shares that you choose to give.

For a minimum of 10 shares of stock, you will become a member of the Spike Club. Your name, or the name of a person you wish to honor, will be engraved on the Recognition Wall at the site of The Christmas Train.

artist rendering of train loading area

BEYOND the Christmas Train

Once The Christmas Train is operational and generating sufficient income, Doe River Gorge will pursue construction of a recreation building, dining hall, and auditorium. These facilities will enhance the experience for all who visit Doe River Gorge.


Since its inception, Doe River Gorge has been a series of miraculous provisions. God has provided in ways and at times that could only have come from His hand. He has done “exceeding abundantly beyond all that we could have asked or thought…to Him be the glory forever and ever.”

In July of 1987, two and one-half miles of property in the scenic Doe River Gorge was acquired from its generous owners. A new non-profit organization was formed, money began to be raised, and the dream of creating a place to share the love of Christ with young people was on its way. Although weekly Bible studies and small weekend retreats began, there was much work to be done before full-scale summer programs could begin. Many things were needed: site plans, buildings, recreational facilities, programs, maintenance provisions, and staff. With no money the task seemed impossible.

Many said that it would never happen. But God delights in doing the impossible and almost immediately He went to work and provided beyond what we expected. Over the past 25 years thousands of young people have experienced the joy of knowing Christ, and many others have grown in their Christian walk.
“Let this be written for a future generation, that a people not yet created may praise the Lord.” – Psalm 102:18

We now enter into a new phase of history…

The Christmas Train!