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A Day in the Life of the Dollywood Train Crew

Almost every little kid grows up saying they want to be a train engineer. At least, I know I did, and so does my little boy. He was actually a train engineer for Halloween last year, or what he would call a “choo choo man” with his own Dollywood Express stuffed train.

For Tim, Dollywood’s Train Shop Lead and an engineer, he actually did grow up to be a train engineer. After spending some time with Tim, I was able to learn all about a day in the life of a train engineer at Dollywood—and let me tell you, I’m jealous!

The train crew consists of seven full-time and three part-time employees. Of the total crew, only six of them are train engineers—meaning they are the only ones who can drive the train. The train shop team and train crew work two different shifts throughout the week: either in the shop or on the train.

Shop Duty

The train shop crew arrives at 7 a.m., and each day starts with inspections and duties to get the train prepped and ready to make multiple trips with guests around the park.

Visual inspections of the track, engine and cars are done first thing each morning. The train shop team checks the entire track to make sure the tracks are clear, and they inspect all aspects of the train engine. This team changes the coal fire to begin heating the water to create steam pressure that makes the train move.

When I met with Tim, inspections and changing the fire were completed, so the crew was oiling the bearings on the wheels.

They also were filling the tender with coal that the fireman will shovel into the fire box throughout the day.

Insider Tip

The tender is the portion of the locomotive that has “Dollywood Express” written on the side. It is attached to the engine where the engineers drive the train, and the tender holds the coal and water that is used to power the train.

The train shop crew continues to prep the train for its daily rides until the crew on the train arrives for the day. Once on the crew on the train arrives, the train engineers on shop duty are busy for the rest of the day working on different maintenance projects. Right now, Engine 192, also known as Klondike Katie, is going through a complete overhaul.

Insider Tip

Klondike Katie’s complete overhaul and rebuild started at the beginning of January, and she hopes to be back on the track pulling guests around Dollywood in August or September this year.

Klondike Katie was having new front wheels installed the day I visited. Tim thought the old wheels being removed were original from 1943 when the train was first commissioned! To learn more about Dollywood’s train maintenance, check out this other Insider post.

Insider Tip

The cars guests ride on used to be old coal cars in Pennsylvania that were modified. They are about 100 years old, which means they are older than both engines!

Train Duty

 Crew members on train duty for the day arrive depending on how late the park is open. When I visited, the crew on train duty arrived at 10 a.m. because the park was open until 8 p.m., working a 10-hour shift.

When on train duty, the train engineer’s main duty is driving the train, multiple times each day for hundreds of Dollywood’s daily guests. When I visited, the train engineer would drive the train for seven scheduled trips, the first one beginning at noon.

After each trip, the train crew will do a visual inspection of the engine. After every three or four trips, the train fireman will grease the rods and oil the bearings, in addition to maintaining the water and fire.

Insider Tip

There are only six train engineers, meaning there are only six people at Dollywood who know how to drive the train! There are usually two train engineers at the park each day the train is running.

Dollywood Express’ train engineers also have a celebrity status among guests, so you can often find them answering questions, taking pictures and talking with guests between trips.

Insider Tip

The water tower at the train depot just isn’t for looks. It really does hold water that the train crew uses to put in the tender between trips on busy days.

I felt like a kid again getting to talk to Tim and learn all about a day in the life of a Dollywood train engineer! Next time you’re at Dollywood, take a ride on the Dollywood Express through the beautiful Smoky Mountains and say hello to the train engineer after your ride. If you see Tim, tell him I sent you!

By | 2020-09-24T15:16:20+00:00 July 27th, 2020|Attractions|0 Comments

About the Author:

A Tennessee native, Andrew Courtner (Dollywood Insider 2019-Now) has lived in all three parts of Tennessee twice during his life. He was born in Knoxville and grew up coming to Dollywood as a child with his family. He now resides in Cookeville, Tennessee, with his wife and son. Andrew has his dream job of being a college professor teaching educational research and quantitative statistics. Andrew frequently visits Dollywood throughout the year making new Dollywood memories with his family while reminiscing about the memories he made as a kid. Andrew is excited to share his experiences and tips (especially about roller coasters and thrill rides) at Dollywood, Dollywood's Splash Country and Dollywood's DreamMore Resort and Spa.
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