Union Pacific Railroad has announced the return of Big Boy steam locomotive #4014 to Southern California in October.
Making its final public appearance for 2019, the locomotive will pull a special Union Pacific passenger train consisting of immaculately maintained 1950’s era Heritage Fleet passenger cars commemorating the 150th anniversary of the completion of the first transcontinental railroad at Promontory, Utah, on May 10, 1869.
Called “The Great Race Across the Southwest”, the Big Boy train will depart its home base in Cheyenne, Wyoming on Sept. 27 and arrive in the greater Los Angeles area on Oct. 9.
Along the way, it will visit Yermo, Barstow, Victorville, and descend famous Cajon Pass into the Los Angeles Basin.
On Oct. 12 and 13 the train will make a special excursion with passengers from West Colton to Barstow on Saturday and from Barstow to West Colton on Sunday. Tickets for both days are available at www.4014traintix.com, and more information on the excursions is available at www.4014journeys.org.
The train will depart the West Colton area on Oct. 15 and travel through Beaumont, Indio, and Niland on its way to Yuma, Arizona.
The tour will continue through Arizona, New Mexico, Texas, Arkansas, Kansas, and Colorado before returning to Cheyenne in November.
The Big Boy tour schedule is available on Union Pacific’s website: www.up.com/heritage/steam/schedule/index.htm.
The world’s largest steam locomotive, Union Pacific’s Big Boy 4014 has very close ties to Southern California. Originally built in 1941 to haul wartime freight across the Rocky Mountains in Wyoming, the locomotive was retired in 1959. In 1961, Union Pacific donated the locomotive to The Railway and Locomotive Historical Society, Southern California Chapter, a rail preservation group that operates a railroad museum at the Los Angeles County Fairplex in Pomona, known today as the RailGiants Train Museum.
One of eight Big Boys donated by Union Pacific to museums around the country, the locomotive was preserved at RailGiants and visited by many thousands of people during its years at the Museum.
In 2012, Union Pacific approached the Museum with a request to return the locomotive to Union Pacific. Of the eight surviving Big Boys, 4014 was deemed to be the most suitable for restoration. The railroad had big plans to commemorate the 150th anniversary of the Promontory event and wanted a restored and fully operational Big Boy to play a key role in the activities. A deal was reached with the Museum in 2013, and the Union Pacific Steam Crew arrived on-site at Fairplex and began preparations to move the locomotive. The locomotive was moved to Union Pacific’s West Colton yard in January 2014, and in May 2014 it was moved to Cheyenne to begin the restoration process. Similar to moving space shuttle Endeavour and “The Big Rock” across Los Angeles in 2012, thousands of people lined the route to witness this iconic locomotive’s amazing journey to its new life.
After a five-year multi-million-dollar restoration effort performed by Union Pacific’s fabled Steam Crew, the fully operational Big Boy made a short debut test run on May 2, 2019. On May 4, it departed Cheyenne along with Union Pacific’s other operable steam locomotive, #844, for the “Great Race to Ogden”. Tens of thousands of railfans flocked to Wyoming and Utah from all over the world to witness a spectacle that few believed would ever happen. They were not disappointed, as 4014 and 844 performed flawlessly through the spectacular scenery that was the Big Boy’s home territory during its years of regular service. On May 8, the Big Boy and 844 met each other face-to-face in Ogden before a crowd of thousands to commemorate the driving of the golden spike, joining California to Omaha by rail, one of the most pivotal events in early American history.
In July and August, The Big Boy travelled through the Midwest, visiting towns in Nebraska, Iowa, Minnesota, Wisconsin, and Illinois.
The current trip will visit many towns in the southwest and south-central states. No plans have been announced for 2020, but the Big Boy will hopefully continue its travels around the Union Pacific system.
Built by the American Locomotive Company (Alco) in Schenectady, New York, The Big Boy was designed to pull heavy freight trains up the steep mountain grades east of Ogden Utah, a critical segment of the rail route between east and west.
With World War II approaching, the biggest locomotive that could be produced was needed, and Union Pacific engineers worked with their counterparts at Alco to produce a locomotive that weighed 600 tons, had a length slightly over 132 feet, developed close to 7000 horsepower, and could pull a 4,000 ton train up the mountain grades.
The boiler on a Big Boy could boil over 100,000 pounds of water per hour at 300 psi pressure to drive the locomotive’s four enormous pistons, consuming about 12,000 gallons of water and 6 tons of coal per hour in the process.
The restored Big Boy 4014 has been converted to burn fuel oil instead of coal (recycled lube oil is used as fuel), and typically consumes about 200 gallons of water and 20 gallons of fuel per mile.
Since the height and width of the locomotive was fixed by the dimensions of existing bridges and tunnels, the only
way for the designers to build a larger locomotive was to make it longer, and the Big Boy is so long that the frame is articulated, or hinged, in the middle to allow it to go around curves. The railroad was originally thinking of naming the locomotive the “Wasatch” after the mountains it would operate in, but an unknown Alco employee famously wrote “Big Boy” with chalk on the front of the first locomotive produced, and the name stuck. Over the next 18 years, the Big Boys carried on with their duties and developed a reputation as a reliable workhorse, a superbly designed machine, a masterpiece of American engineering and craftsmanship. Big Boy 4014 made the second-to-last revenue run of a steam locomotive on Union Pacific in July 1959, followed by the last run a few hours later with Big Boy 4015. It was the end of an era.