1.1M-pound historic steam train to return to Utah during 2024 tour

Nov 6, 2023, 5:30 AM

Steam engine...

Union Pacific’s historic steam locomotive Big Boy No. 4014 prepares to leave Evanston, Wyo., for Ogden on May 8, 2019, in celebration of the 150th anniversary of the completion of the transcontinental railroad. The massive steam engine is slated to return to Utah in 2024 as part of a multistate tour, according to Union Pacific. (Steve Griffin, Deseret News)

(Steve Griffin, Deseret News)

SALT LAKE CITY — Union Pacific’s Big Boy No. 4014, known as the world’s largest steam train, will make its return to Utah next year as part of a multistate tour.

Union Pacific announced Thursday the locomotive will travel across all four corners of its service area as part of a 2024 tour to highlight the history of the unique train that helped haul heavy freight, particularly during World War II. Exact dates and route information associated with the tour are yet to be determined, but the massive train is slated to make at least a stop in Salt Lake City, according to the company.

The company last brought the locomotive to Utah in 2019.

“The Big Boy represents the history of Union Pacific and the United States,” said Union Pacific CEO Jim Vena, in a statement. “When No. 4014 comes to town, we will celebrate with the communities where we operate, our employees and their families. Together, we will marvel at how far technology has brought us.”

American Locomotive Company began producing the Big Boy locomotive for Union Pacific in the 1940s. Each locomotive was massive, weighing at least 1.1 million pounds and measuring 133 feet in length — nearly double the size of Union Pacific’s current fleet of diesel trains and more than three times the size of a normal school bus.

Big Boy No. 4014 was one of 25 of these locomotives that the New York-based American Locomotive Company produced between 1941 and 1944, delivering it to Union Pacific in December 1941 just as the United States entered World War II. It featured a 25,000-gallon tank and could hold as much as 56,000 pounds of coal at the time, according to Union Pacific.

“They had a 4-8-8-4 wheel arrangement, which meant they had four wheels on the leading set of ‘pilot’ wheels which guided the engine, eight drivers, another set of eight drivers, and four wheels following, which supported the rear of the locomotive,” the company wrote about the 25 locomotives.

The large engines mostly operated between Ogden and Cheyenne, Wyoming. That’s because the steam locomotive was “designed primarily to handle heavy freight traffic in the Wasatch Mountains” and its continuous steep grades, as noted by Britannica.

This proved to be important during the war, serving as one of the engines that Union Pacific turned to transport supplies and people throughout the country.

However, Big Boys began to fade out of service as railroad companies switched to cheaper and more effective diesel locomotives. The last Big Boy was pulled out of regular operation in 1959, according to Britannica.

Only eight of these trains exist today, spread out in museums across the U.S. Big Boy No. 4014 is the only one that still operates in any form, as Union Pacific decided to restore it in time to celebrate the 150th anniversary of the completion of the transcontinental railroad in 2019. The company also made changes to the engine so it operates now on industrial heating oils.

The 2019 tour included multiple stops in Utah. Union Pacific officials said Thursday that they will release more information about the 2024 tour closer to when it begins.

Other anticipated stops are planned in Chicago, Dallas and Houston, as well as parts of California, Idaho and Oregon.

Related: Utah State University to help develop battery-powered train

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1.1M-pound historic steam train to return to Utah during 2024 tour