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The historically important Murphy Branch is the western most part of what was the Western North Carolina Railroad, later the Richmond and Danville, Southern Railway and today the Norfolk Southern Railway. The branch runs between Asheville, North Carolina in the east and Andrews in the west. It roughly follows Interstate 40 and the Great Smoky Mountains Expressway. The railroad branch was constructed with convict labor between 1881 and 1894. Today the section of the branch between Asheville and Sylva is owned and operated by the Norfolk Southern Railway. The tracks between Dillsboro and Andrews are owned and operated by the Great Smoky Mountains Railroad, a tourist excursion railroad. Although the Murphy Branch is today divided between two separate companies, it is still a continuous rail line between Asheville and Andrews.
The tracks between Andrews and Murphy are still in place but have not been in use since the late 1980s after Norfolk Southern decided to close the leg because of a lack of freight traffic. When the railroad began eying the rest of the Murphy Branch past Dillsboro for closure the state of North Carolina stepped in and purchased the tracks to keep the right-of-way alive. It later sold the tracks to the Great Smoky Mountains Railroad which had leased them from the state for a number of years. This section of the Murphy Branch has the distinction of being the first stretch of track the state ever purchased in modern times and began a long running practice for the state of North Carolina that eventually became the state's "Rails to Trails" program which maintains railroad rights-of-way for future use.
The Murphy Branch was extremely important to Southwestern North Carolina in the late 19th and early 20th centuries as it opened up the isolated and rural mountains west of Asheville to the outside world allowing easy travel and improved commerce. It can easily be said with confidence that these tracks made Western North Carolina what it is today.
Towns, cities and communities along the route 
- Asheville (Beginning point)
- Murphy Junction
- Balsam Gap- Junction of Hwy 74 & Blue Ridge Parkway
- Willits-Ochre Hill
- Bryson City
- Andrews (End point Today)
- Murphy (End point until 1985)
Commodities shipped/received on the Murphy Branch 
The Murphy Branch still plays a vital role in the industrial economy of western North Carolina. The rail line serves two paper mills: Evergreen Packaging in Canton and Jackson Paper Manufacturing Company in Sylva. Chemicals used in the making of epsom salt are delivered to Giles Chemical in Waynesville and there are a number of small concrete mixing facilities that receive sand. Woodchips are loaded at T&S Hardwoods in Addie, about 4 miles east Sylva. Liquefied petroleum gas is delivered to a transfer facility a few miles outside of Sylva in the community of Beta. A feed mill located in Andrews is served by the Great Smoky Mountains Railroad and receives carloads of grain.