As soon as Christmas was over, former United States Army S160 1702 was hard at work pulling passengers along the Great Smoky Mountains Railroad. For the third year in a row, her winter operations would consist of one Tuckasegee River excursion each day between Christmas and New Years, ending with two Polar Express trips on the night of New Year’s Eve. Unfortunately for most of this week the weather would be poor, but luckily the skies cleared up just enough on Saturday the 29th for me to make my final chase of 2018. The heavy rainfall of the preceding days combined with snowmelt from the Smokies combined to make the streams & rivers in the area flow much higher & faster than usual – if you look close at 10:10 you can see that part of Old River Rd is completely under water! This chase also gave me a chance to test out my new Magnus VT-4000 tripod, as my previous one literally fell apart after chasing the Rambler last week, which is why pretty much every shot is a pan.
2018 certainly had its ups and downs, Amtrak’s decision to end excursions casting a dark cloud over the mainline steam operators all year, but there are some big and great things on the horizon for 2019. With the Golden Spike celebrations, potentially 3 mallets under steam, 576 finally leaving Centennial Park after 65 years, the reconnection of Cass and Durbin, and more, I think its safe to say we have a good year ahead of us. I wish you all a Happy New Year!