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Stories from the Smokies

At the end of many steam excursions on the Great Smoky Mountains Railroad, riders have the opportunity to participate in a unique railroad turntable experience. Volunteers are called upon to assist the crew in manually turning the 353,540 pound engine and tender while other passengers watch and cheer. The seemingly super-human feat of moving that much weight by hand is made possible by the turntable, steam engine and tender being perfectly balanced on a central pivot bearing.

Why does the railroad need a turntable? First of all, the Tuckasegee River excursion travels east to Dillsboro and the Nantahala Gorge trip is in the opposite direction. And more importantly, vintage steam engines like the #1702 were not designed to travel long distances in reverse,

The 89,000 pound turntable, built by Bethlehem Steel in 1937, was installed in Bryson City to coincide with the fully-restored #1702 steam locomotive’s return to service in 2015. The engine had been taken out of service at the end of the 2004 season.

The #1702 was built by Baldwin Locomotive Works in 1942 for the U.S. Army during World War II and was acquired by the Great Smoky Mountains Railroad around 1994.

Riding the Great Smoky Mountains Railroad is an essential part of any Bryson City vacation. Another essential is quality lodging, and our Great Smokies lodging directory offers a wide array of choices for every budget and lifestyle.