One of the things our visitors seem to always want to know is whether the General is still a functioning locomotive.
The answer to that is…it’s complicated!
Technically, the engine was operable when it was donated to the original Big Shanty Museum in 1972, but a lot of time has passed since then. The General has now stood in the same spot for 42 years, so we can only imagine how stiff its moving parts are. Also, steam engines require a lot of steam pressure to operate (120 lbs per square inch in the General’s case); if we tried putting the engine’s boiler under that much pressure after all these years, the result would likely be disastrous.
The General is a large, powerful, and imposing locomotive, so it’s easy to forget that it’s still an artifact that’s now 159 years old. It might be fun to imagine firing it up one more time, but history would almost certainly be destroyed if anyone ever tried it.