Great Smoky Mountains Railroad to Restore Southern 2-8-0

Southern Railway 722 was used by the railroad in the early 1970s as part of its steam program, before being replaced by larger locomotives. The locomotive is seen at Belvoir, Va., in 1979. Photo by Steve Barry.

Great Smoky Mountains Railroad to Restore Southern 2-8-0

By Justin Franz

The Great Smoky Mountains Railroad announced over the weekend that they had begun restoration work on Southern Railway 2-8-0 722, a locomotive that helped establish the Southern’s original steam program back in the 1970s. 

Great Smoky Mountain, owned by American Heritage Railways, announced more than a decade ago that it planned on restoring the Southern 2-8-0, along with its U.S. Army 2-8-0 1702. The Army locomotive was restored to service in 2016. Since then the railroad has focused on other projects, but said the goal was to still eventually get 722 restored and on the main line. With an increasingly popular excursion business, the railroad said now was the time to begin that work in earnest. 

Locomotive 722 was built in 1904 by Baldwin for the Southern. The locomotive traditionally ran on the Murphy Branch between Asheville and Murphy, N.C. In the 1950s, it was sold to the East Tennessee & Western North Carolina Railroad, along with sister locomotive 630. In 1967, as Southern’s steam program was just beginning, the Class I traded two RS-3 locomotives to ET&WNC for the steamers. In 1970, 722 joined 630 and 4501 in excursion service. For nearly a decade, the 722 and its sisters would barnstorm the south, leading excursion trains. In 1980, as larger locomotives came in to handle the work, 722 and 630 were sidelined. The locomotive was then loaned to the Tennessee Valley Railroad Museum for a few years, before being retired in 1985. 

In 2000, Southern successor Norfolk Southern sold 722 to Great Smoky Mountains, which operates the Murphy Branch where it once worked. 

Great Smoky officials say they plan to convert the locomotive from coal to oil. They hope to complete the restoration by 2026. Once it is running again, it would be the only former Southern locomotive operating on its original line. 

This article was posted on: May 23, 2023