“New” steam-powered train service planned for railroad

Steam engines are coming back to Western North Carolina, thanks to the Great Smoky Mountains Railroad.

The railroad announced that in coordination with Rail Events Inc., it has closed on the purchase of a steam locomotive — #1149 — and a Bud Rail Diesel Car — RDC-1. Additionally, the railroad has obtained nine passenger coaches from the Belfast and Moosehead Lake Railroad Preservation Society in Unity, Maine.

The locomotive and coaches have been winterized and will remain in storage for the winter. They will come to Bryson City, where the railroad is headquartered, in late spring 2011. Minor repairs are needed — two boilers will be renewed, which means disassembly of the smoke box and reinstalling a throttle.

Locomotive #149 is a Swedish locomotive built in 1913 and exported to the U.S. in 1994. It is a coal-burning locomotive with a 4-6-0 wheel configuration and a 5,000-gallon coal tender. The locomotive was rebuilt and re-tubed in 1998 under Federal Railroad Administration standards. The locomotive and passenger coaches have a Swiss coupling system and will operate together as a train set.

The RDC “Budd car” is capable of seating up to 84 passengers and is equipped with controls on each end. It has two 275hp diesel engines and has #6 airbrakes with D-22 brake valves. The RDC may be coupled with additional passenger coaches.

“Having been with the Great Smoky Mountains Railroad for the past 23 years, I have seen the operation grow and expand the passenger rail-tourism industry with our successful special events,” Kim Albritton, vice president and general manager, said in a prepared news release. “I, along with my staff at GSMR, are exploding with excitement and the many opportunities that restored steam service will provide, not only to the railroad but to the region of Western North Carolina.”

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