Skip to primary navigation Skip to content Skip to footer
Back to News And Notes From Noccalula Falls

Why Did It Take So Long To Get Those Trains Running? (Behind The Scenes Of A Major Project)

Being the Manager of the Train Drivers, everyone associates me with the person in the “know” about the trains. And while I do know a good bit, information flows to me from a million different sources. As such, I’ve had to piece together all of the information I have received over the past ten months into one cohesive picture.

The biggest question the train team has been asked during all this time is why is it taking so long to get these things up and running? I thought as we near the end of the project I’d take a look back over the construction and explain the things that went into changing out our old trains for the new ones. It has been a fascinating process to say the least.

I think the general assumption was were were going to just take the old trains off the tracks and put the new ones directly in the old one’s place. A few things prevented us from doing so.

First, the new trains are slightly wider and as such we were required to pull up all of the existing track and widen it. Secondly, one of the biggest issues with the old trains occurred during rain and the colder months. The tracks were set on a grade the was slightly too high, meaning the train had to climb a steep hill and would sometimes get stuck trying to go up wet tracks or icy rails.

The smart people that designed the new trains decided to fix that (good news) but in order to do that, the track height needed to be raised or lowered a bit. That meant we had to basically redo the entire structure of the train tracks (Bad news). Some places are now much higher and some lower. Here is a picture of the vast amount of destruction that has been going on throughout the past few months.

a car parked on pavement near a forest

Once the track bed was leveled and re-graded, it had to be smoothed down and packed to support the new wider and longer trains. Slight changes had to be made in the path of the trains to make the ride more efficient and enjoyable for passengers. We had to cut down several trees, curve the rains and then get rid of what was there before. Picture below of more demolition.

The next step was to flatten everything out so that the new tracks would have a great surface to rest on.

Larger, more sturdy crossties were laid down and track workers hammered spikes into place to secure the rails. Track curvature was adjusted at this point. It looked like this image below.

Once the tracks were down, gravel was added.

The gravel was spread out evenly and then a large track machine followed and slightly lifted the track and vibrated the gravel around and under the crossties. (It was really cool to watch) Below is a picture of the finished tracks after a final spread of gravel was added.

a train traveling down train tracks next to a tree

While all this was going on, work continued elsewhere in the park raising the elevation of the train tracks near the Animal Habitat. Once completed, the same process will be done to add the rails.

Here is a pic showing the new elevation of the redesigned curve where the old Gorge trail platform was located.

a tree on a dirt road

If I had to estimate the amount of track completed as of today, September 30th, 2022, I’d put it at 80% or better. (Two weeks ago we didn’t even have any track down.)

The last things we will be working on are fixing the boarding platforms at the Gift shop so that we can load all of our great passengers once the trains reopen. Also, since these trains are electric, the electrical equipment needed to charge and run the trains will be put in place.

We are so close to getting them running again and we certainly appreciate your patience while we improved our train experience. We are now just mere weeks away from completing the biggest project I’ve ever been involved in and it has certainly been a learning experience. We can’t wait for you all to see our new trains, track, and slightly altered layout.

We’re counting down the days.