Today’s round of questions, my smart-aleck replies and the real answers:
Question: I’ve heard the train wreckage from the movie “The Fugitive” — the locomotives you can see when you ride on the Great Smoky Mountain Railroad — is going to be removed. Is that true? Does it still draw visitors? This is the rusting wreckage that says “Central Illinois Railroad” or something like that. It’s kind of cool, and I bet it’s still popular with tourists. Can you find out what’s going on with this?
My answer: “Rusting Wreckage” is one of the many band names my two guitar playing friends and I are considering. We just need a singer, drummer and someone who can actually play lead guitar. Oh, and some talent.
Real answer: If you’ve ever taken a ride on the Great Smoky Mountain Railroad, which I can say from experience is a lot of fun, you’ve probably seen these wrecked train cars, and a wrecked prison bus.
They were quite literally wrecked for a scene from the Harrison Ford/Tommy Lee Jones blockbuster, which was filmed in western North Carolina in 1992. The scene involved a prison bus that was struck by a train, and nothing about it was fake.
The movie makers created an incredible smashup in the tiny town of Dillsboro, NC., about 50 miles west of Asheville.
“It’s still a pretty good tourist draw,” Kord Walls, marketing manager at Great Smoky Mountains Railroad, told me in a phone interview. “I don’t think it necessarily has the same punch it had years ago, but for quite a few people they do still get a kick out of it.”
The wreckage includes two locomotives and the prison bus, Walls said. The Railroad does own the train cars and bus.
“There are no plans to remove any of the wreckage, so I can go on record with dispelling that,” Walls said.
Nick Breedlove, executive director of the Jackson County Tourism Development Authority, said even 30 years on, folks still ask about the train wreck scene and the cars. Dillsboro, a town of just over 200 residents, is in Jackson County.
“We get people who ask about it in the Visitor Center to this day,” Breedlove said. “I remember being a kid here and meeting those actors. People still ask me about that all the time.”
Breedlove met Harrison Ford when the actor, who is still at it and has a new “Indiana Jones” movie coming out this summer, when he was filming a scene at Harris Regional Hospital in Sylva. Ford will turn 81 in July.
“He was really nice, to have been such a big celebrity,” Breedlove said.
The Great Smoky Mountains Railroad has 53 miles of track, two tunnels and 25 bridges, according to its website. Its trains pass through river gorges, valleys and tunnels carved through the Smoky Mountains. Trips range from three and a half hours to a full day.
Question: Published reports indicate that the proposed Buncombe County budget would give most employees a 7.28% raise. Will the 2023 supplement for teachers — 8.5-10.77 percent according to years on their state license — be raised accordingly? A Google search for county supplements indicates that Wake County currently pays an average supplement of $9,465. How does Buncombe County compare in 2023? If the county is not planning to raise the supplement percentages, why?
My answer: My plan for supplemental income from selling “Answer Man Moonshine” has been quashed by my bosses here. It’s hard to build a merchandising dynasty around here.
Real answer: Buncombe County spokesperson Lillian Govus offered some insight from the county side.
“The reader is referencing a cost of living adjustment as outlined in our personnel ordinance,” Govus said. “Some may consider that an entitlement rather than a ‘raise.’”
As far as supplements, the school systems decide on those, not the county.
Govus provided a link to the North Carolina public schools page that has supplement information, but she stressed this information comes with a caveat.
“The supplements table only shows an average per school — that is misleading because both local supplements are based on years of service, and one school system may have longer-tenured teachers,” Govus said.
Buncombe County Schools spokesperson Stacia Harris said $8,292 is “the average annual local supplement that is being paid in the 2022-2023 school year to licensed BCS teachers.
“We have a number of licensed teachers who have a masters degree or beyond, they are nationally board-certified, and/or they have many years of experience, which is reflected in our average local supplement,” Harris said.
Asheville City Schools has a $5,672 supplement. Haywood County comes in at $2,871, Henderson County $4,441, Madison County $1,000 and McDowell County $3,226.
I also checked some of the state’s larger counties. The Charlotte-Mecklenburg supplement is $9,345. Durham comes in at $8,414, Guilford at $7,465, Forsyth at $7,740, and Wake County at $9,465.
Got a question? Send it to John Boyle at email@example.com or 828-337-0941.