The whistle of “Tweetsie,” the locals’ affectionate name for the train, now echoed through the high country.7 Though tax records suggest this building was not a taxable property until 1930, from 1917 to 1940, this site served as the original Tweetsie Depot.8 The railroad was immensely popular and ran daily except for Sundays. Like many other railroads in mountainous regions, the railroad’s popularity began to wane with the depletion of lumber in the area. It was not until after flooding from a hurricane destroyed some of the tracks that the depot finally closed its doors in 1940 after Tweetsie’s final run on Tuesday, August 12, 1940.9 Trains never frequented Boone again.10
Though trains never frequented Boone again, they were to remain a permanent fixture in the area. Tweetsie Locomotives no. 12 and no. 190 were sold to the White Pass and Yukon Railroad in Alaska, and Hollywood’s Gene Autry expressed interest in using them for films.11 Before Gene Autry could purchase the locomotives, locomotives no. 12 and no. 190 were purchased in 1956 by the Robbins family for the Tweetsie attraction in Blowing Rock, NC.12 Thus, the railroad industry might have been gone, but it left behind a legacy in the region. Though most people seek this legacy out at the Tweetsie Railroad in Blowing Rock, it also lives on at the Portofino’s building in Boone: the first and last place Tweetsie (and the railroad) stopped in Boone.
The depot once served to place Boone in the larger context of the world. It was a place that served to open the doors for communication, industry, and travel between Boone and the rest of the world. In the community’s repurposing of the building as a restaurant, it still serves as a place of connection. Except, instead of connecting the people of Boone with the world, it serves as a place where Boone builds community as people socialize over drinks and a meal.