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.
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.
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.