Posted in | Tribology

Timken Bearings Aid Locomotive Restoration

State of the art railroad bearing technology and bearing materials are now helping in the restoration of a 1942 railroad locomotive.

The Great Smoky Mountains Railroad, recently refurbished engine No. 1702. "We replaced chrome brass headers on all wheels with Timken AP(TM) bearings. We chose Timken because of the bearing design and performance, as well as the extensive technical support offered by the company," says Greg Dodd, former engine master at Great Smoky Mountains Railroad. "The result is a smoother ride and a life expectancy of 500,000 to 600,000 miles per wheel versus 50,000 per wheel with friction bearings."

The No. 1702 restoration, which also included firebox and boiler upgrades, ensures more efficient operation for the 200,000 people who ride the train to view the Great Smoky Mountains in half-day trips from March through December.

The locomotive originally provided service to the U.S. Army during World War II, and then was sold to the Warren & Saline River line in Arkansas. In the 1960s, Paramount Pictures leased the locomotive for "This Property is Condemned," starring Robert Redford, Charles Bronson and Natalie Wood. Since moving to the Great Smoky Mountains Railroad, No. 1702 and its track have been featured in several films, including "The Fugitive," "My Fellow Americans" and "Forces of Nature."

Following the renovation of engine No. 1702, the Great Smoky Mountains Railroad enlisted two volunteers to pull the locomotive 1,000 feet at the Bryson City, N.C., depot. At the time of the demonstration, the engine carried full tanks of water for steam, adding to the weight pulled.

The event harkened back to a similar demonstration in the 1930s, when locomotive No. 1111, known as the Four Aces, was first fitted with Timken bearings. Friction was so greatly reduced by these alternative bearings that three people were able to pull the 323-ton Four Aces from a dead stop.

"We remembered the Four Aces demonstration and thought it would be interesting to reenact the event, especially since we integrated Timken bearings into our locomotive," says Kim Lyons, marketing manager - Great Smoky Mountains Railroad. "Much like the 1930s, we captured the event on video and in photos. As one of the volunteers who participated, I can attest to dramatic improvement Timken bearings provided on our engine."

For more information on bearing materials in transport, click here.

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