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.
Mr. Harper cut the ribbon and officially christened #1702!
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!
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.
Short ties have been cut and are being installed under the turntables ring rail.
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.
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.
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!
#1702 Steam Engine Makes a Triumphant
Return to the Smokies!
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
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.
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.
After months of hard work we are happy to say that the turntable has been set. Although this doesn’t complete the entire project this is a major advancement! Enjoy some photos from today’s setting.
Project Manager, Tom Falicon was able to push the very first full rotation of the table!
In addition to our exciting Steam Shop Tour taking place during the RailFest celebration, the turntable will be open for viewing and photos. Tom Falicon will be present to answer questions! Visit the turntable site behind the GSMR parking lot on Saturday Sept. 5, 9-10AM & 3:30 – 4PM!
The steam shop has been busy with the latest rounds of sheet work.
They are fitting, reforming, trimming and reaming the side sheets. A few of the sheets have been placed inside the boiler so that they can be properly marked and grounded for the best fit. A new contractor, Gary, has been working alongside the team for the past few weeks.
Joe has been busy on the engine lathe making new belly brace bolts.
Brian and Marshal were also able to craft some formers for the boiler plate.
There are still tickets available for the Steam Shop Tour and the guys are looking forward to showing everyone around! If you haven’t made your reservation you should. This will be the first ever specialty Steam Shop Tour hosted during RailFest, we’d like for all of our steam patrons to join us if you can!
Steam Shop Tour got your attention? Keep reading for a special announcement!
Steady progress continues at the shop this month! The new door sheet has been returned from its heat treatment. It is ready to be sandblasted and installed. The flu sheet has also been heat treated and is now waiting be polished and sandblasted. Work continues with the stay bolt holes on the top wrapper sheet as well.
The ultra sound thickness test was conducted on the boiler shell and everything was in tolerance! Another step forward!
The guys took on a tedious 2 day project with one of the water glass valves that needed to be re threaded. Thanks to Marshal for the before and after photos showing the valve in the process of being tig welded below:
We are really excited for the upcoming RailFest 2015 celebration. Although the #1702 won’t be ready for its debut we will be prepping for an exclusive STEAM SHOP TOUR! So if you have enjoyed following the blog, now is your chance to see all the progress in person! Find all the details HERE. Better book fast! There will be a limited number of seats available and it is limited to ages 12 and up only. We look forward to seeing you in September!
Here is the latest from the Project Manager Tom Falicon on the Bryson City turntable :
The turntable concrete is COMPLETE!
As usual, the work was tough but both the Swain County and the GSMR crews were up to the task. Next step is to back-fill the outer ring wall as well as install the inspection pit and the storm water runoff system. After the surrounding earth has been cut down to actual grade, Concrete aprons will be poured around the inspection pit as well as the outer circumference of the turntable.
We’re planning on a 150 ton and a 90 ton crane being brought in towards the middle of August to do the job. The turntable was primed and painted, and it’s now ready for it’s trip across the parking lot and into the pit.
The two cranes required for the task are scheduled for Monday August 31st to make the parking lot move and Tuesday September 1st for the setting of the table into the pit. In the mean time, back-filling and compacting of the outer pit wall will continue and a bulldozer will be brought in to lower the earth to the proper grade and also make things more presentable for our Railfest 2015 Celebration!
It’s been pretty steamy down at the steam shop with all the elevated temperatures and welding. We hope you’re staying cool!
Marshal and Brian have continued the steady work on the staybolt holes and Tim is back in the Tender needle scaling. Marshal has installed a temporary walking board, as they should begin to work on the top wrapper sheet this week.
The new piece of the throat sheet has finally been installed and it was quite the beast to get in! The fit was perfect.
Joe has been on the engine lathe fabricating the bushings for the washout plugs.
We’ve got a short update for this week! Most of the work has been centered on drilling the new staybolt holes. As of Tuesday they had drilled well over 1000 holes.
The new piece of the throat sheet was returned with the 8-degree bend needed and the holes for the flexible staybolts have been drilled.
Marshall has been working on readying the section where the new throat sheet piece will be placed.