Pigeon Forge, Tennessee: Goldrush Junction
In 1961, "Rebel Railroad" opened in Pigeon Forge, Tennessee. It featured a steam train, general store, blacksmith shop, and saloon. In 1966, it was renamed "Goldrush Junction" and in 1970, the Cleveland Browns football team purchased "Goldrush Junction." In 1976, Jack and Pete Herschend bought Goldrush Junction, and in 1977, renamed it "Silver Dollar City Tennessee" as a sister park to their original Silver Dollar City near Branson, Missouri. In 1986, Dolly Parton became a co-owner, and the park was renamed "Dollywood."
Visitor Tips and News About Goldrush Junction
I don't know if there was a Gold Rush Junction in Maggie Valley or not, but I do know that there was one in Pigeon Forge. It then became Silver Dollar City and later changed to Dollywood. I know this for sure because my Dad played music there the summer of 1976, and my sister and I went to work with him many, many times. It was supposed to be like an old western town. I used to love riding the train and helping the rainmaker put on his show. But my favorite part was the saloon show. It was really fun. So, tipster SJH obviously doesn't know what he's talking about because it definitely was in the same place that Dollywood is now.[Ritta, 09/13/2007]
I remember Silver Dollar City very well. I made friends with several of the "train robbers" back in my youth, and to this day miss the park and the whole bunch of "robbers" that made us all laugh. From the Rainmaker to all the rides...especially the Blazing Fury...it is some of the best memories that I have from those family vacations in Pigeon Forge.
When Silver Dollar City became Dollywood, we went to go check it out. Being season-pass holders of Silver Dollar City in years past, we thought maybe the park was even better. We were so wrong. All the old crew was gone, and no one was even friendly among the many employees. They took away the Flooded Mine, and they took away the Inventors Mansion, and inserted Dolly Parton's family junk instead. We looked around, looked at each other, and left. Yes, they gave us our money back, because we were not at all happy. My Dad loved to play skee-ball, and the operators of the game allowed him just one prize...a very tiny, sick-looking stuffed bear. And they told him that was all he was allowed to play.
Yes, I miss Silver Dollar City, the fun times, my old pals, and the laughter.[laina, 08/30/2007]
I was reading about Dollywood and what it was in prior years. I need to correct a "tipster" about Gold Rush Junction being in NC. It was indeed in Pigeon Forge, TN. I know, because as a child I swam for a swim team they had. I was a Goldrush Guppie. Our suits were one piece black and gold stripes.
It was later Silver Dollar City and then Dollywood. I do remember in Goldrush Junction that the train would be stopped and "held up." I have a black and white picture of me sitting behind what are supposed to be jail bars. Many good memories of summer spent in the Smokies. My grandfather owned Trentham's hardware and my uncle Hobie had two restaurants, two hotels and part owner of the Space Needle.[sabryna, 02/01/2007]
Dollywood has become very commercialized, but so has everything else in P.F. You should expect it when coming. But to be fair, it is quite entertaining -- live shows, the "new" Festival of Nations in the Spring, and of course all of the good food!
Dolly does not even own the park anymore, they pay her for her name. It is said locally it is not even American owned anymore. (I grew up in P.F.) Otherwise, the whole town is changing daily, out with the old, in with the new. I go monthly and see something new every time I go! A new 4 lane road is under construction after coming off the interstate to get to Dollywood without driving through town...[Kerri Conrad, 05/02/2006]
How to Get a Free Day at Dollywood: I once worked at Dollywood during a summer break from college -- briefly that is, until I was an unfortunate victim of their hillbilly management style as a cast member on the Dollywood Express. From my experience, it seems that Dollywood would rather have a couple literally run over by their 110-ton, coal-fired, steam locomotive than have a simpleton like me "ruin" their day by asking them to get off the tracks.
The Dollywood Express attraction involves a five-mile round trip up into the outer reaches of the mountainous terrain of the park. Along the way, the train is "held up" by a fictional group of characters for a short interactive comedy skit. Cheesy as it was, it was always fun. We alternated positions, switching from actors, to ride attendants, to safety attendants at the gates. In order to give visitors a truly authentic feel for the 1800s, the gates at the train crossings were designed to be manually operated when a train was coming. Most reasonable people would not argue with a piece of machinery even greatly outweighing Dolly's massive mammaries.
However, as my luck would have it, I encountered the two most unreasonable people in all of Pigeon Forge one day. In an attempt to prevent the couple from entering the Kingdom of God as flat as one of the pancakes that can be found at any of the 200+ pancake houses on the Pigeon Forge strip, I incurred their wrath. Perhaps it was their estimated combined weight of over 1000 pounds, or maybe even their unwillingness to part from their large chocolate milkshakes that warranted such hostile opposition to the urgency in my voice as I attempted to ask them to get off the tracks as the locomotive was less than 100 yards away.
In any event, they reported my "rudeness" to the park manager, I found myself out of work that summer, and they got themselves a full refund.[Darren Hastings, 03/29/2004]