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!