SPIKE 150

Refurbished ‘Big Boy’ Locomotive Fires Up Crowds In US West

May 8, 2019, 12:53 PM | Updated: Jun 8, 2022, 5:09 pm

CHEYENNE, Wyo. (AP) — It’s longer than two city buses, weighs more than a Boeing 747 fully loaded with passengers and can pull 16 Statues of Liberty over a mountain.

The Big Boy No. 4014 steam locomotive rolled out of a Union Pacific restoration shop in Cheyenne over the weekend for a big debut after five years of restoration. It then headed toward Utah as part of a yearlong tour to commemorate the Transcontinental Railroad’s 150th anniversary.

Big Boys hauled freight between Wyoming and Utah in the 1940s and 1950s. Of the 25 built by the American Locomotive Company in Schenectady, New York, from 1941 to 1944, eight remain. Only No. 4014 will be operational.

Engineered for steep mountain grades, each Big Boy had not one but two huge engines beneath a 250-ton (227-tonne) boiler able to hold enough water to cover an area the size of a basketball court to the depth of a high-top shoe.

The locomotives are not only big, they’re so complex that steam train buffs long considered restoring one to a fully operational state all but impossible, said Jim Wrinn, editor of Trains magazine.

They were the “pinnacle of steam locomotive design” in the years before diesel engines took over as the less expensive, more efficient standard for U.S. railroads, Wrinn said.

“It’s a pretty big deal,” said Wrinn. “Nobody ever thought that a Big Boy would be restored to operation. Ever.”

Union Pacific hasn’t said how much the restoration cost, but Wrinn estimated at least $4 million based on similar restorations. The result will be one of just six to eight steam engines still operational on mainline U.S. railroad tracks.

The last steam locomotive delivered to Union Pacific, the “Living Legend” Northern No. 844, has remained in service since 1944. Big Boy No. 4014 will join in No. 844’s publicity work as a railroad version of the Goodyear Blimp, Wrinn said.

The locomotives will tour the Union Pacific system throughout 2019 in honor of the Transcontinental Railroad’s 1869 completion. They will be in Ogden, Utah, this week for an event featuring UP and Utah officials and a descendant of one of the Chinese workers who helped build the railroad.

Few train engineers these days know what it’s like to drive a steam locomotive, though retired Union Pacific engineer Mickey Cox once got a brief turn driving No. 844.

The cab had no air conditioning behind the big coal-fired boiler and got dirty, Cox recalled of his jaunt that included driving through a tunnel between Cheyenne and Laramie.

“Everybody in the cab is, you know, covered with soot by the time you go through the tunnel on those things. And it gets very hot. By the time you get out to the end of the tunnel, you’re welcome to see daylight,” said Cox, whose father and grandfather worked in the rail industry in Wyoming. “It would’ve been a tough job back in the day, I’m sure.”

Converted to burn fuel oil instead of coal, Big Boy No. 4014 will be less filthy, but even fewer people alive today know the experience of driving it. Big Boy No. 4014 was retired in late 1961, and no Big Boy engine has run since 1962.

One retired Union Pacific employee, Jim Ehernberger, remembers the Big Boys well. He joined the railroad at age 16 in 1953.

“You could sure tell when a Big Boy left town. The ground kind of vibrated a little more than it did with the other types of locomotives. They were very, very powerful,” Ehernberger said.

Union Pacific towed Big Boy No. 4014 to Cheyenne in 2014 after acquiring it from a museum in Pomona, California.

“They had to basically completely disassemble the locomotive down to just the frame and the shell,” Wrinn said. “It was an immense undertaking.”

KSL 5 TV Live

Top Stories

Spike 150

...
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.
3 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.
3 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.
3 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.
3 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.
3 years ago
AJ Russell's famous "champagne" photo...
KSL TV

Presidential Message Released On The 150th Anniversary Of The Completion Of The Transcontinental Railroad

The White House released a presidential message about the 150th anniversary of the completion of the transcontinental railroad. 
3 years ago

Sponsored Articles

Diverse Group of Energetic Professionals Team Meeting in Modern Office: Brainstorming IT Programmer...
Les Olson

Don’t let a ransomware attack get you down | Protect your workplace today with cyber insurance

Business owners and operators should be on guard to protect their workplace. Cyber insurance can protect you from online attacks.
Hand turning a thermostat knob to increase savings by decreasing energy consumption. Composite imag...
Lighting Design

5 Lighting Tips to Save Energy and Money in Your Home

Advances in lighting technology make it easier to use smart features to cut costs. Read for tips to save energy by using different lighting strategies in your home.
Portrait of smiling practitioner with multi-ethnic senior people...
Summit Vista

How retirement communities help with healthy aging

There are many benefits that retirement communities contribute to healthy aging. Learn more about how it can enhance your life, or the life of your loved ones.
Happy diverse college or university students are having fun on their graduation day...
BYU MBA at the Marriott School of Business

How to choose what MBA program is right for you: Ask these questions before you apply!

Wondering what MBA program is right for you? Take this quiz before you apply to see if it will help you meet your goals.
Cloud storage technology with 3d rendering drawer with files in cloud...
PC Laptops

How backing up your computer can help you relieve stress

Don't wait for something bad to happen before backing up your computer. Learn how to protect your data before disaster strikes.
young woman with stickers on laptop computer...
Les Olson

7 ways print marketing materials can boost your business

Custom print marketing materials are a great way to leave an impression on clients or customers. Read for a few ideas to spread the word about your product or company.
Refurbished ‘Big Boy’ Locomotive Fires Up Crowds In US West