SPIKE 150

Under It’s Own Steam, ‘Big Boy’ Heading for Utah Celebration

May 5, 2019, 10:10 PM | Updated: May 6, 2019, 10:16 pm

CHEYENNE, Wyoming — When Utah celebrates the upcoming 150th anniversary of the of the completion of the transcontinental railroad, a star visitor will be something called “Big Boy.”

Railroad buffs don’t need to be told what that is, but for those who don’t know a coal-tender from a caboose, here’s the deal: Big Boy is one humongous locomotive.

There were actually 25 of them and one — just one — will be back on the rails and heading for Utah in early May for the first time in more than a half-century.

“They very rapidly became legendary because of what it was designed to do,” said Ed Dickens, who oversees Union Pacific’s Big Boy restoration project. “It’s nearly a 7,000 horsepower locomotive.”

The massive steam engine weighs over 600 tons and it’s 132 feet long, about half the length of a Boeing 747. The restoration project has been quietly underway for more than two years in a nondescript Union Pacific building called the Steam Shop near downtown Cheyenne, Wyoming. Railroad enthusiasts have been buzzing about it for months, looking forward to Big Boy’s upcoming trip to Ogden.

“Everyone is very excited about this,” said Kristen South, Union Pacific’s director of corporate communications. “This has been a lot of hard work.”

Big Boy is the biggest steam locomotive ever built and, arguably, the most powerful. Union Pacific developed it in the 1940s to provide muscle for the war effort as the pace of railroad activity picked up during World War II. The need was greatest in Utah’s Echo Canyon which became a bit of a bottleneck for busy transcontinental train traffic.

“That power was used to pull heavy, heavy trains out of Ogden, Utah, to Green River, Wyoming,” Dickens said. “They reached a point where two tracks could only handle a specific amount or a certain amount of trains per day. They had to find a way to carry more cars per train. You needed a single locomotive that could pull a tremendous amount of tonnage. So when this locomotive came out, it was huge.”

The 25 Big Boys retired from active duty in 1960. Nonfunctional Big Boys still exist as huge stationary exhibits in city parks and historical displays. Engine 4014 in Cheyenne will be the first Big Boy in 59 years to hit the rails under its own steam.

“The first time it will be on the rails,” South said, “is when it leaves here and heads to Ogden.”

4014 is being refurbished to play a role — a big role — in Utah’s Golden Spike 150 celebration. It won’t make it to the primary sesquicentennial festivities on May 10 near Promontory — there are no longer any rails that Big Boy can travel on to reach the Golden Spike National Historical Park. Instead, Union Pacific is holding its own celebration May 9 at Ogden’s Union Station. Big Boy will be the guest of honor, a 20th-century marvel, returning to Utah to help celebrate a 19th-century milestone.

“There will be a lot of opportunities to see the locomotive,” South said, “to see the steam firing and to hear the whistle and those kind of historic things that you really just feel deep down in your gut.”

KSL 5 TV Live

Spike 150

The Arizona Spike, right, is displayed next to the framed gold and Nevada spikes at the Utah Museum...

Carter Williams

1 of the 4 spikes driven at Promontory Summit fetches $2.2M at auction

The Arizona spike, which was ceremoniously driven in Utah to mark the transcontinental railroad completion in 1869, sold for a little more than $2 million during an auction that closed Thursday.

1 year ago

...

John Hollenhorst, KSL TV

Colorado Town Disputes Utah’s Transcontinental Claim To Fame

When Utah celebrated the 150th anniversary of the driving of the golden spike, the cheering section was pretty much statewide. But in a tiny Colorado town, some people think the whole thing in Utah is a historical fraud.

5 years ago

Big Boy and Crowd...

Mike Anderson, KSL TV

Spike 150 Brings Boost To Weber, Box Elder Economy

A large influx of visitors into Northern Utah is expected to translate into millions of dollars being spent, especially in Box Elder, and Weber Counties.

5 years ago

AJ Russell's famous "champagne" photo...

Keith McCord, KSL TV

Iconic ‘Champagne Photo,’ Photographers Remembered On Golden Spike Anniversary

As the transcontinental railroad was nearing completion, fortunately the Union Pacific and Central Pacific Railroads made sure the event was documented. They hired 3 photographers to preserve that great day in 1869.

5 years ago

Native American At Transcontinental Railroad...

Keri Wilcox, KSL TV

Spike 150 Celebrations Honor Native American Culture and Legacy

As Utah and the nation celebrate the 150th anniversary of the completion of the Transcontinental Railroad, Native Americans hope we also remember and honor an often forgotten legacy of progress.

5 years ago

...

BRADY McCOMBS Associated Press

Cannons, Bells, Music Mark 150th Anniversary Of Railroad

Visitors traveled from as far as China and dressed in old-fashioned dresses, top hats and bonnets for the celebration featuring music, a flyover, the firing of cannons and ringing of bells at the Golden Spike National Historic Park.

5 years ago

Sponsored Articles

Modern chandelier hanging from a white slanted ceiling with windows in the backgruond...

Lighting Design

Light Up Your Home With These Top Lighting Trends for 2024

Check out the latest lighting design trends for 2024 and tips on how you can incorporate them into your home.

Technician woman fixing hardware of desktop computer. Close up....

PC Laptops

Tips for Hassle-Free Computer Repairs

Experiencing a glitch in your computer can be frustrating, but with these tips you can have your computer repaired without the stress.

Close up of finger on keyboard button with number 11 logo...

PC Laptops

7 Reasons Why You Should Upgrade Your Laptop to Windows 11

Explore the benefits of upgrading to Windows 11 for a smoother, more secure, and feature-packed computing experience.

Stylish room interior with beautiful Christmas tree and decorative fireplace...

Lighting Design

Create a Festive Home with Our Easy-to-Follow Holiday Prep Guide

Get ready for festive celebrations! Discover expert tips to prepare your home for the holidays, creating a warm and welcoming atmosphere for unforgettable moments.

Battery low message on mobile device screen. Internet and technology concept...

PC Laptops

9 Tips to Get More Power Out of Your Laptop Battery

Get more power out of your laptop battery and help it last longer by implementing some of these tips from our guide.

Users display warnings about the use of artificial intelligence (AI), access to malicious software ...

Les Olson

How to Stay Safe from Cybersecurity Threats

Read our tips for reading for how to respond to rising cybersecurity threats in 2023 and beyond to keep yourself and your company safe.

Under It’s Own Steam, ‘Big Boy’ Heading for Utah Celebration