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!
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.
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.
After several months of deliberation, we are happy to announce that Robert Franzen, owner of Steam Services of America, has been selected as the official contractor for the boiler rebuild of #1702. Franzen is also currently working on a steam engine rebuild, similar to that of #1702, in Alaska. During the boiler rebuild he will be joining the team a few days a week in the shop, as he is going between two projects.
The first order of Franzen’s work began this week as Bob Gold, was brought in to aid the placement of the new stay bolt holes. Original layouts of #1702 are being used as the reference point to which the new holes will be placed. Marshall has been cleaning the dirt and removing the pink die used in the crack tests. He has also spray painted the surface with a temporary gray in order for the fresh marks to be visible when applied. A few reference markings have already determined that on both sides the blowout valve will be moved from its former position to allow the boiler wash to operate more easily than before.
A section of the outer throat sheet that revealed cracks earlier, was removed and a new sheet has been cut (roughly 3 quarters of an inch steel). The piece has now been sent off so that a special 8 degree bend could be formed to allow the fit to be exact. In order for the guys to get a good handle on the section that was cut, they removed the air tank which opened up plenty of room for access. In the air tanks absence the guys constructed a brace to support the boiler so that it wouldn’t sag.
Brian finished up his dirty job of removing the cylinder valve covers and the insulation was cleaned out. The cylinders themselves need more work, but they have been cleaned as much as possible for the time being.
Here is the latest from Project Manager, Tom Falicon, on the turntable project in Bryson City:
A pivotal point was passed in the turntable build this week by completing the building of the forms and re-bar and then successfully pouring 47 cubic yards of concrete for the first quarter of the lower ring wall. The force of 47-yards of concrete pushing against the forms and bulkheads was tremendous, but everything held tight and the pour was a complete success.
In order for the concrete to cure slowly and properly, we must wait five days before the forms can be removed. To aid the concrete in hardening properly, we assembled a watering system using a pump in the nearby creek and a series of garden hoses. Water is continuously flowing over a blanket of burlap keeping the concrete from drying out, overheating and curing too quickly.
We have already begun assembling the re-bar for the second 1/4 of lower ring wall pour and we will also start assembling the forms for the upper ring wall pour on the first 1/4.
Another monumental mark was reached in the past weeks, when the large bearing assembly that the turntable pivots on was set and secured! The installation of this pivot bearing means that the center pivot pedestal build is complete and able to support the entire weight of the turntable and any locomotive placed on it. The bearing assembly install could not have gone any better!
The last few weeks have been very productive at the steam shop! The guys have really made great progress in the tender; it’s been a pretty nasty job removing the years’ worth of epoxy. So far they estimate to be about 2/3 of the way done with the needle scale removal. New drain pipes were installed finally replacing the dated ones that were rusted and not holding water.
Test patch bolts have been threaded into the mud ring. The testing revealed a few minor modifications need to happen before the rest are installed. The outer throat sheet will also eventually need to be removed due to the cracks that were revealed on the interior side of the sheet. Those will be repaired before installment.
Brian has continued his needle scaling work on the cylinder covers. He has also begun to try and clean out the old insulation underneath the cover. Presently the covers are stuck in place and he is working to loosen them so they can be removed and all the insulation can be replaced.
The turret parts as well as the boiler check valves have been taken apart and readied to be hand lapped and cleaned.The steam dome cover has also been set aside. That won’t be placed on the engine until the final stages.The old brake shoes have also been removed and those will be replaced.
Using the diagram that was drawn last week, Marshal and Brian have constructed the new blower piece.
The oilers have been drained and the oil lines are being purged with air to clean them out. The guys will begin to identify the lines that need repairing and those that will need to be replaced. Joe was nice enough to showcase the old oil that they are glad to see removed.
The engine was moved a few feet in order to access an area behind the wheel for cleaning. Below is a short video!
Here is the latest turn table update from Project Manager, Tom Falicon-
All primary excavation has been completed and all 19 over length steel I-beam piles were felled like tall hardwood trees and then stacked neatly in the parking lot.
Concrete sub-footers were poured for both the ring wall and the center pivot. These sub-footers will provide a flat, solid work area to erect the concrete forms as well as provide a solid surface to secure them to in order for them to be able to handle to excessive force of poured concrete.
30,000 lbs of steel concrete forms for the entire project arrived from Charlotte early last week.
The storm water drainage system and piping for the center of the pit was installed and capped off just outside the poured sub-footer of the ring wall. The build of the re-bar cage for the center pivot started last week followed by the forming. The concrete pour for the center pivot will be completed soon.
The large steel plate that the turntable bearing attaches to had holes machined in it too large by the supplier so four reducer spacers were machined and welded them in place. The dead center of project has been identified and clearly marked. The plate will have to be painted before installation to help prevent future corrosion.
The underground water intrusion from the river and the creek has been challenging to deal with; water is constantly streaming into the pits. A gravel sump system has been built to help keep the pits relatively dry.
The project is moving along in an extremely timely manner! Great job by the crew working to get it done!
The steam shop guys have been busy this month and couldn’t be happier about the warmer/milder weather that has finally reached the Smokey Mountains.
The tender has been moved inside the shop and the cleaning has begun. Tim, one of our GSMR Operations crew members, has been recruited to help with Tender duties. He has been removing the old epoxy that has been inside the tender for several years along with prepping for the new marine grade epoxy that will be applied.
This past week Brian and Marshal have been pulling the studs off the firebox and wrapper sheet. The old rivets were shot out a few weeks ago! Stay tuned, there may be video footage of the rivet removal coming!
Joe has been working on the engine lathe making new rivet snaps. They are ready for heat treatment and then the next step of re-reviting the mud ring.
The remainder of the old firebox sheet has been removed and the mud ring inside was welded and grounded down.
Great news! The crack check was completed on the wrapper sheet and everything passed. There were a few minor repairs that the developer revealed when it was applied to the penetrant (the pink dye).
Things will be kicking up here in Bryson City as well! On Monday April 6 – crews officially broke ground for the instillation of the Turn Table! The heavy work will begin this coming Thursday when the pile driving begins. Stay tuned for photos and the latest information on that!
GSMR is happy to report that #1702 has taken residence inside the new Steam Shop. The engine was transferred within the rail yard in Dillsboro with no complications! Here are some photos from the moving day!
Pictures posted show the thickness testing of the boiler and firebox of engine 1702, to see how thick the metal is. This is very important so as to determine if the engine is safe to operate and at what steam pressure the locomotive can be run. The process consists of laying out a grid with all the lines at 4 inch intervals then taking a ultrasound in the center of each grid.