#1702 Official Celebration

Since the re-debut of #1702 we have made sure to take time and celebrate the return of this historical steam engine not only with our employees but our community as well. Because of the unique nature of GSMR’s public/private partnership with Swain County we indeed have a lot of fantastic supporters to celebrate with.

Friday, Aug 5, GSMR celebrated the official debut of #1702 with a specialty ceremony and evening reception train. Our guests along with employees enjoyed a train ride with #1702 leading the way to the Fontana Trestle and back while dining on a fantastic spread of food prepared by our excellent Food and Beverage Staff.

The evening began with a special ceremony in which our owners Al & Carol Harper recognized all the hard work and dedication of the steam engine restoration crew, turntable crew, and Swain County community leaders. Specialty plaques that will be placed inside the cab of #1702 and at the turntable were also unveiled. We made sure to grab some photos to share!

See below, our restoration crew paused for a photo op with some of the Harper Family, GSMR General Manager and GSMR Superintendent of Operations.


(Left to Right) John Campasino, Robert Franzen (Steam Services of America), Brian Brooks, Kim Albritton, Marshal Harris, Joe Stewart, Al Harper, Carol Harper, and John Harper.


More of The Harper Family enjoying #1702!

Mr. Harper cut the ribbon and officially christened #1702!









The Steam of the Smokies has Returned!

What a whirlwind last few months that we have had! So many parts have finally been placed together, welded, installed, or finished that it’s hard to recap!

What we can finally celebrate is that #1702 is operational again, and that is a huge triumph for the restoration project.


Our crew; Joe, Brian, and Marshal along with Robert Franzen of Steam Services of America have been in overdrive the past few months to make sure that we would fall as close to our debut date of July 22 as we could.

On July 21, #1702 took her first steps in the Dillsboro railyard 100% independently operational. After that successful mini trial it was decided that a test run would be performed the next morning from Dillsboro to Bryson City.

About half way through the morning test run a mechanical issue with the wheel bearing overheating was discovered. This caused #1702 to be stopped immediately for repairs on the main line. Once stopped the crew removed the cellar box on the rear #4 driver and found that the brass bearing and axle was being damaged due to the lack of lubrication causing the bearing to heat up. Unfortunately the engine had to be returned to the shop in Dillsboro for further repairs upon this discovery. Fortunately, the damage to the brass bearing and axle was not that significant because the issue was found quickly by the GSMR Crew and Robert Franzen of Steam Services of America on the initial test run and the #4 driver did not have to be dropped out.

The engine remained in Dillsboro for the next 48 hours, with the assistance from Steam Services of America our crew focused on the repair of the bearing and lubrication problems. While it was out for service they also inspected the oil lubrication system that provides oil to all bearing boxes to prevent future overheating problems. Other minor improvements included modifying the burner and adding a new fuel flow valve to improve the firing process.

On Sunday July 24, another test run was completed successfully arriving to Bryson City with cheers and applause from spectators.

Tuesday July 26, the engine set out for its first successful passenger excursion on the Tuckasegee River run. Along the route rail fans waited at every crossing to take the opportunity to capture #1702 on her first journey. We have seen some great photos on the web, thanks to all who shared.


After completing two successful Tuckasegee River Excursion trips, the crew prepared for the first Nantahala Gorge Excursion on Friday July 29. For its’ first run to the Gorge the train was sold out, full of excited passengers and fans. Everyone enjoyed finally hearing the sound of the steam engine and the whistle echoing between the beautiful scenery of the Smoky Mountains!

Saturday evening a problem with the throttle opening and closing properly left the engine powerless. #1702 had to be taken back down to the steam shop in Dillsboro for a proper shut down and repair. Once shut down the crew inspected the throttle thoroughly and found that they could repair it by machining new parts to correct the operating malfunction. In order for the engine to have enough time to be fired up and ready to operate on Wednesday Aug 3, the Tuesday trip had to be changed to Diesel only.

We appreciate all of the fans who have followed this journey and continue to stay passionate about this important restoration work. With such a historical piece of equipment we are looking forward to the continued work that it will require to stay in top shape! We hope to see you riding steam in 2016!



Turntable Update

Just a quick update from our Project Manager, Tom Falicon on the turntable in Bryson City!

Ties have been installed on the deck of the turntable bridge. The longer ties support walkways so the crews can walk past the engine while it is on the turntable.

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Short ties have been cut and are being installed under the turntables ring rail.

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A storm water control manhole assembly was installed in order to create a central location for all storm water to be pumped out to a newly excavated retention pond.

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18 cu. yards of concrete was poured into a pit to create a solid base for our locomotive inspection pit to rest on.


This month both the precast concrete inspection pit and the precast concrete bridge for the rail passing over the nearby creek will be installed.

The Pressure’s On!


Our last blog post featured a few videos of the flue tube instillation and we are happy to report that the boiler is ready for water and pressure (hydro static testing)! A huge step in our final months of completion before our scheduled return of #1702 this summer!

Since the completion the guys have been using compressed (120lbs per square inch) air to test the pressure inside the boiler. Steam Services of America contractor Bob, explained that by using soap and water they can easily locate where the leaks are allowing the air to escape, causing suds to appear. Once identified the leaks will be sealed. The next step is the hydro test which should be conducted sometime this week. After the test is completed a few minor additional items that the boiler needs can be installed and the boiler can be prepped for initial fire-up testing.
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Last week Brian worked to complete the fabrication of the water column that will gauge the water level in the boiler.

The engine was moved so that they could prepare to reposition the tender behind the engine. While preforming the first movement test they discovered a few needed repairs to the entrance track of the steam shop.  Those will be repaired before the next move.

While #1702 was outside the guys enjoyed giving it a much needed wash!

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_MG_0898You can certainly see a change in the firebox interior with the instillation of the tubes and flues and now the transverse arch tubes. These transverse arch tubes are the newest addition. Originally arch tubes were inside the firebox but this new transverse design will prove to be more efficient in circulating the water from the side sheets to the top crown sheet allowing the water to be heated faster and more efficiently.

Steam Services of America also delivered the 30 New Sets Super Heater Units in March. The SH Units will be installed once the hydrostatic testing of the boiler is finished and the boiler is being prepped for fire-up. The SH Units which are installed in the smoke box and lay inside the flues inside the barrel of the boiler take the saturated steam generated in the boiler and reheat the steam through the SH Unit piping from the gases from the firebox which travel trough the super heater flues heating the steam inside the SH Units. The saturated steam is about 450 degrees Fahrenheit when taken out of the boiler and heated to approximately 650 degrees Fahrenheit after passing through the SH Units. Once the steam is superheated it then enters into the valves and pistons where the steam goes to work moving the engine drive wheels.


Our anticipation is growing with the excitement of finally seeing #1702 back on the line! We hope that you have booked your ticket. If not, find all the information HERE.



Flue Tubes!

More progress to report as our steam shop guys and Steam Services of America official contractors; work hard at the final stages of restoration. The flue tubes of the boiler are being installed. We have exclusive video from the shop of the installs courtesy of our shop guys. Enjoy!

It’s Official!

It’s official, #1702 will return to service this summer! Read the official press release from GSMR below, or view it on GSMR’s website here: http://bit.ly/1pvO1LD  Tickets are on sale now!

GSMR-Logo#1702 Steam Engine Makes a Triumphant
Return to the Smokies!

Bryson City, NC – After long awaited anticipation Great Smoky Mountains Railroad (GSMR) is excited to announce that the historic #1702 Steam Engine will return for the 2016 excursion season! Thanks to the innovative private/public partnership between Swain County Commissioners, Tourism Development Authority Board, and GSMR, #1702 is revived and ready to roll on the rails! Booking is now available!

Steam excursions will depart from the historic Bryson City Depot beginning July 22nd with a variety of options. Throughout the season 39 excursions will follow the Nantahala Gorge route and 22 excursions will follow the Tuckasegee River route. All general excursions will offer the full variety of seating options including our most popular First Class seating. Before departure, passengers may arrive early to enjoy a meet and greet with one of GSMR’s star conductors along with the engine crew. As it prepares for its journey, #1702 will be on display allowing for photos opportunities and an up close and personal view of the impressive equipment.

On board, passengers will enjoy interacting with staff and hearing about various historical points and interesting facts about #1702. All steam excursion passengers will receive a commemorative #1702 souvenir ticket and lapel pin to celebrate the locomotive’s return to the rails! These items are one of a kind and not sold in our retail store. Upon return to Bryson City, a live demonstration of the turn-table will also be on exhibit. A few lucky guests will be selected each day to be an active participant in the manual turning of the locomotive!

In addition to the regular excursion schedule, #1702 will also be leading six special event trains. The popular, family friendly Fontana Trestle Train featuring BBQ & Brews service and THE POLAR EXPRESS train ride will be operating with the steam engine on select dates! #1702 will also pull two new event trains in 2016: the Railroad Reserve, a wine and rail pairing dinner train; and the Photo Special, an 8-hour roundtrip excursion to the Nantahala Gorge departing from Dillsboro NC, stopping for two run by photo opportunities and a short steam shop tour.

This historic season has been years in the making as official restoration began in May of 2014. Under the guidance of Project Manager Steve Jackson and the official boiler contractor, Robert Franzen of Steam Services of America, GSMR in house shop workers have worked tirelessly to meet the summer deadline. GSMR owner, Al Harper, is personally thrilled to see this massive project reach completion. Harper says, “2016 is going to be a banner year for the Great Smoky Mountains Railroad. Steam is coming alive! Engine #1702 will once again be a super star on our tracks offering numerous excursions for all our guests to ride. The personnel of GSMR have done a tremendous job in making one of my personal dreams come true.”

Booking is now available for the variety of steam powered options. Pricing and details can be found at http://www.gsmr.com or by calling 1-800-872-4681.


The Final Staybolt!

Exciting news from the steam shop! After months and months of work the FINAL STAYBOLT was completed! The last of the 1,175 staybolt was finished this past Tuesday and the guys were certainly excited to check that task off the list!

Here are some videos courtesy of Brian and Marshall.

There has been great progress with the tender. The inside has been cleaned and prepped for paint. The air and steam gauges have been sent off to be calibrated, and it will be prepped for a new wheel set. Pressure testing was completed and it passed with no leaks!


Say hello to Tony and Eli! These guys have been working on the compressor. It has been stripped and the cylinders have been honed. They are checking the gauges in the compressor to make sure they are still round. The valves have been measure determined the clearances.



The tubes and flues were delivered from Germany. Next expected to be delivered are the ferrules, which are the copper rings that are placed around the tubes and flues to seal.

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Also arrived are the new injectors. The power reverse has been removed for cleaning and it was tested last week – it’s good to go!

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The shop received a flue roller from our sister railroad D&SNGRR. This will be used to install the flues, which should begin next month!



Buddy has begun working on the cab carpentry. New beadboard will be replaced throughout the interior. The exterior has received some deserved attention. A lot of the rough patches and holes are being filled in, welded or bonded over to create a new fresh and smooth surface.



Our last exciting arrivals are the builder plates! These are casts of the original plates, and will be one of the final pieces placed on the engine before it’s set to return to the rails!


Happy 2016!

Happy New Year! We are back after a bit of break in blogging. Trust us, the work has still continued! With the anticipation of our 2016 Summer Steam Engine return, the shop has been working harder than ever getting 1702 ready!

Over the last 2-months the focus has been the staybolt work. Almost all the rigid staybolts have been completed and the guys are waiting on the delivery of the flexible staybolts so they can finish up.

You can really see the difference!

Needle scaling the tender is all but completed. As of yesterday a few of the shop guys were cleaning out the last bit of old epoxy. The fuel tank has been pumped to remove the old oil. In the coming weeks two of the wheels on the tender will be replaced and there are a few spots on in the inside that will need to be patched!

A few months ago the boiler was tested and a few low spots were revealed. Those have been repaired. The boiler tubes are also making there way to the shop within the coming days.

An exciting new addition in the steam shop – the 1702 cab! It was moved inside a few weeks ago so its repairs could begin. It will need to be cleaned, patched and repainted – plus a few more minor repairs to make it ready to occupy again!


The throttle valve has also made an appearance. Its being prepped for some minor repairs and lapping.


We hope you all had a great holiday! Thanks for following along on this journey with us. We are getting closer and closer to the summer debut – we hope you’ll join us!

Riveting Day!

Finally after months of anticipation, riveting day finally arrived!

We were able to get some great video footage of the riveting process. Enjoy the videos below!

Steam Shop Tour Success!

A great big thank you to all who joined us for the Steam Shop Tour during RailFest weekend! It was such a great success, with many out of state guests joining us along with locals, whose excitement was only fueled by the chance to see the progress.


#1702 was on full display along with, the steam shop, #777 diesel engine, and if you notice, a small replica engine that we repainted and displayed just in time! This little green guy will be placed in Bryson City beside our historic depot and will be a great photo op!

Here are a few fantastic captures of the engine. Photographer Charles Hardin was kind enough to share these great images. Enjoy!

The shop guys were happy to host everyone for the afternoon, and really enthused by all the questions everyone had. After a nice holiday weekend they were back at it! The biggest project has been fitting the interior sheets in the boiler. All but one sheet has been placed inside and the contractors have been working to get them set. A door sheet had to be removed so it could be realigned.


New bolts for the steam pipe on both sides have been installed!

Joe has been working on the lathe making some much needed tools. All the belly brace bolts are completed, and he just finished up on a new welding fixture for the flexible staybolt sleeves.