One day earlier this month my friend Tom asked if I wanted to go see Union Pacific’s Big Boy locomotive. It was on a ten state tour and was going through Oklahoma on August 12. So the next day Tom and I went up to the little town of Vinita where the Big Boy was scheduled to appear.
Turns out about half the population of Oklahoma was there as well. Train fans of all ages were there. It’s nice to see that people still get all excited about trains.
The locomotive pulling this train is special. It is the biggest and most powerful operating steam locomotive in the world. With its tender, it weighs 1,951,000 pounds, it is 133 feet long and over sixteen feet tall. Twenty five of these monsters were built during World War II to pull freight trains over the Wasatch Mountains of Utah.
They were in service up until 1959 when they were replaced by cheaper to run diesel locomotives. There are only eight left. Seven are static displays in museums. The one we saw, number 4014 is the only one operational. Union Pacific reacquired it in 2019 and brought it back to working condition. The originals burned coal, 4014 is converted to burning used motor oil. It is used for promotional purposes by UP now.
It is very impressive and very loud and everybody was excited to see it including me.
It is still on tour, so you can still see it if you wish. They are touring ten states and it ends September 7 at UP’s station in Cheyenne, Wyoming. Check here for details on the schedule and stops.
Hey everybody else was getting a selfie why not me?
It stayed in Vinita for an hour or so while the crews fussed over the locomotive adjusting this and that and asking hundreds of questions.
The crew and the other UP employees were obviously proud of the engine. I was proud also. I worked for an oil and gas subsidiary of UP back in the late 70’s and early 80’s. They didn’t let me near a train but I still get their yearly train calendar.
And then it came time for it to go to the next stop.
There goes almost two million pounds of steel.
Tom and I got a few miles ahead of it so we could capture some motion. Locomotives are all about motion.
And so that was a good day back earlier this month.
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