The last week of my internship fell right on Easter Week. Because of this the railroad was operating the Easter Beagle Express. This fun children's is centered around the Peanuts Characters Snoopy, Lucy and Charlie Brown. The week was spent decorating, marketing and training staff. This event was far different from the Durango and Silverton's Easter Beagle Express and so it was interesting to see how they plan for this large event. They ended up having over 700 people on one train!
This bridge is a remnant of the old alighnment of the Murphy Branch. Once supporting the weight of hundreds of freight and passenger trains, it now sits silent at the start of Fontana Lake.
This is one of my favorite views on my field trip along the old right of way. The rails are still intact next to this abandoned factory just outside of Bryson City. This scene, once common across the United States, is slowly disappearing and this place seems frozen in time.
My final days at GSMR were in the Operations Department's rules class. I learned about their operating rules, safety practices and took their operating tests. I passed each test with flying colors and am now certified to operate trains across their track if I ever were to go back. To the right is a picture of the BIG TEST which was the conductors certification test. I got a 96%!
Above is the Easter Egg hunt facility at the end of the line. The goal was to find ten eggs, plus the golden egg, to win a special prize.
Along with my Easter Beagle Express duties, I met a gentleman who is the railroad's official historian. He not only gave me a lesson about the history of GSMR and the Murphy Branch but also took me on a tour of the surrounding area to some of the historic sights. For example, the railroad was relocated in 1944 due to dam construction for World War 2. 9 miles of track were drowned by the new lake and now that water is low it is possible to see some of the remaining structures such as bridges and the general Right of Way.
These tests are required by the Federal Railroad Administration to ensure those operating trains have a clear understanding of the safety rules they must follow.
My final day in North Carolina was spent driving to Asheville and touring the famous Biltmore Estate. This home, built in 1890, contains over 250 rooms and the owner has of 8,000 acres to their name. The house is spectacular, and instantly throws you back in time to the era of victorian elegance.
My final week at Great Smoky Mountains Railroad is over. However I was as busy as ever with the railroad, doing everything from running one of their special events to taking their operating rules class.
Once the tour was complete we drove and checked into my hotel for the night as my flights were at 6:00am the next morning. Finally I awoke at 2:00am and took the shuttle to the airport, checked in and watched as the Smoky Mountains vanished beneath the clouds. After several plane changes, mountains more familiar appeared below. I was back home.
Overall, my internship is a time in my life that I will never forget. The lessons that I learned, the people that I met and the experiences that I had are second to none and gave me the insight that I needed to choose my career path in the future. I love tourist railroads I think that I need to spend the rest of my life preserving the history of trains in the United States. The Great Smoky Mountains Railroad does this every day in the heart of a rural mountain town. It supports hundreds of people, carries thousands of people on a trip back in time, and most importantly preserves the past the built our future.
My second week in Bryson City and working for the Great Smoky Mountain Railroad has come to a close and it was completely full of trains!
I've got one more week left here at the Great Smoky Mountain Railroad and am excited to see what it brings. I will be working for their special events department helping them put together the Easter Beagle Express!
Well my first week of work at the Great Smoky Mountains Railroad is finished, and what a week it was. First of all, this town is so quiet and so amazing. Everybody knows everything and everyone is so hospitable. The food is good, and the scenery is even better. On Tuesday I took a tour of the railroad and got familiar with the grounds and the property. We toured the depot facility in Bryson City and I met the people that run the ticket office, the Food and Beverage Department and learned a lot about their routines and their procedures. Right off the bat it seemed like a well run, tight ship. Then we hit the road and toured their shop facility and end of the line at Dillsboro. That little town was pretty much asleep when we arrived, but I got to meet all of the people that keep these old trains running and talk shop about the mechanics of steam locomotives and their historic coaches.
On Wednesday I spent the day exploring the surrounding towns with their Marketing Assistant Stephanie. Our goal was to distribute marketing materials to the nearby visitor centers, shops, hotels and attractions. I learned a lot about the Smoky Mountains and saw a lot of the backroads as well as the tourist attractions that keep this area alive. I learned a lot about marketing to the locals with a railroad, because you can't just rely on tourist traffic, you have to be a part of the community. It was a lot of fun to see the small towns that make up this area of North Carolina. I will be doing this every Wednesday while I'm here.
My flights to Bryson City were long... yet I must have had some good karma built because all of them were at least ten minutes early. What a relief! I sat in the Denver Airport for my longest layover and thought about the month ahead. I knew that I was really excited... yet the nerves began to set in. Finally, I landed in Asheville and took a short drive to my new home for the month. I checked into my hotel and began to get settled. I unpacked, and fell right asleep after a long day. On Sunday, I took a walk around town for the first time. I thought it would take me all day to explore my new surroundings when in fact, it only took me a few hours. I had lunch in my hotel, as well as dinner, and fell asleep again with my first day at the railroad looming ahead.
When I woke up, I quickly got dressed in my best business casual clothes and took the 5 minute walk to work across the river. After a two hour long new employee orientation we packed up and hit the road for a job fair my mentor was attending. After a half hour drive we arrived at a very large community college and I spent the next four hours talking about the railroad to a bunch of potential new employees. I quickly learned a lot about the railroad, the people that they are looking for and the job positions that they have in their structure. It was a really neat way to begin my time at the Great Smoky Mountains Railroad.
Along with my first day selfie, be sure to click the link to my google photos album about my LINK Internship where I will be posting a ton of photos about my experience.
As I write this, I am sitting in my new favorite coffee shop, Sagebrush Coffeehouse. Decorated with cowboy hats, lassos and antlers it feels very North Carolina yet also has a sense of home. Each cup of coffee also comes with a quote on the cup, which just shows you the southern hospitality that these people provide every day. I am really really going to like it here.
I am very excited for this internship and went through a lot of time to get it ready and secured. Below is my essay that is about the process of building my internship.
Incredible news! My LINK Internship has been secured and on March 5th, I will be rocketing out of Durango to experience the busy spring break season on the Great Smoky Mountains Railroad. From working aboard the trains to working in the ticket office, I am going to gain an incredible view of how this railroad operates its first class train operations and get a vision into the hospitality side of the tourist railroad industry.
Check back here to read about my weekly experiences as I post them as well as reflections and pictures!