AP

Restored steam locomotive rolls to anniversary event

May 7, 2019, 5:12 AM
A worker walks past the wheels on the Big Boy No. 4014 at a Union Pacific restoration shop at the C...
A worker walks past the wheels on the Big Boy No. 4014 at a Union Pacific restoration shop at the Cheyenne Depot Museum in Cheyenne, Wyo., Saturday, May 4, 2019. One of the world's biggest and most powerful steam locomotives is chugging to its big debut after five years of restoration work. From there, it goes to Ogden, Utah, to help celebrate the 150th anniversary of the Transcontinental Railroad. (AP Photo/P. Solomon Banda)
(AP Photo/P. Solomon Banda)

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 an ancestor 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.”

___

Follow Mead Gruver at https://twitter.com/meadgruver

Today’s Top Stories

AP

This June 5, 2013, image provided by the California Department of Water Resources shows a drip irri...
JESSICA DAMIANO Associated Press

Tips for growing a healthy garden during drought

Watering needs for plants could increase during periods of extreme heat, when the soil dries out more quickly.
1 day ago
Two members of the FBI move items from the scene at the Highland Park shooting...
MICHAEL TARM, KATHLEEN FOODY and STEPHEN GROVES Associated Press

Police: Gunman fired more than 70 rounds at July 4 parade, 7 dead

Police gave no motive for the attack in Highland Park, an affluent community of about 30,000 on Chicago's north shore.
1 day ago
Frankfurter-munching phenom Joey “Jaws” Chestnut has gobbled his way to a 15th win at the Natha...
By JENNIFER PELTZ and JULIA NIKHINSON Associated Press

Joey Chestnut is chomp champ again in July 4 hot dog contest

NEW YORK (AP) — Frankfurter-munching phenom Joey “Jaws” Chestnut put a protester in a chokehold while gobbling his way to a 15th win Monday at the Nathan’s Famous Fourth of July hot dog eating contest, powering down 63 hot dogs and buns at the annual exhibition of excess. In a decisive chowdown comeback, women’s record-holder […]
2 days ago
FILE - Fireworks explode over Baltimore's Inner Harbor during the Ports America Chesapeake 4th of J...
BOBBY CAINA CALVAN ASSOCIATED PRESS

A turbulent US this July 4, but many see cause to celebrate

July 4 has arrived as many citizens struggle to find a reason to celebrate. Yet many also see cause for celebration, including President Joe Biden.
2 days ago
A Navy soldier stands guard as authorities wait for the arrival of people who were evacuated from t...
Associated Press

Tropical Storm Colin brings rain to Carolinas, weakens

Tropical Storm Colin formed along the coast on Saturday. Conditions are expected to improve by Monday's Fourth of July celebrations.
3 days ago
A female bison and calf are seen near the Yellowstone River in Wyoming's Hayden Valley, on Wednesda...
Mark Jones

2nd visitor in 3 days gored by Yellowstone National Park bison

In less than a week, two visitors to Yellowstone National Park have been gored by bison. Park officials say to stay at least 25 yards away from a bison.
5 days ago

Sponsored Articles

Tax Harassment...
Jordan Wilcox

The best strategies for dealing with IRS tax harassment | You have options!

Learn how to deal with IRS tax harassment. This guide will teach you how to stop IRS phone calls and letters, and how to handle an IRS audit.
spend a day at Bear Lake...
Bear Lake Convention and Visitors Bureau

You’ll love spending the day at Bear Lake | How to spend a day at Bear Lake

Bear Lake is a place that needs to be experienced. Spend a day at Bear Lake.
Curb Appeal...
Price's Guaranteed Doors

How to have the best of both worlds for your house | Home security and curb appeal

Protect your home and improve its curb appeal with the latest security solutions like beautiful garage doors and increased security systems.
Prescription opioids can be disposed of during National Prescription Take Back Day...
Know Your Script

Prescription opioid misuse | How to protect your family from the opioid epidemic

Studies have shown that prescription opioid misuse has increased since COVID-19. So what do you need to know about these opioids?
national heart month...
Intermountain Healthcare

National Heart Month: 5 Lifestyle Changes to Make Today to Keep You Heart Healthy

Heart disease is the leading cause of death for both men and women. One person dies every 36 seconds in the United States from cardiovascular disease
Joseph Smith Memorial Building...
Temple Square

The Joseph Smith Memorial Building is an icon of Salt Lake City | Why hosting an event at this beautiful location will make you a hero this year

Here's why hosting an event at the iconic Joseph Smith Memorial Building in downtown Salt Lake City will make you a hero this year.
Restored steam locomotive rolls to anniversary event