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    Union Pacific Railroad is going to attempt to get Big Boy #4014 back in service. For those of you who have no idea who "Big Boy" is, it's one of the surviving examples of what were among the biggest steam locomotives ever built. (Many say THE biggest.) Union Pacific ordered 25 of the 4-8-8-4 monsters to haul long trains over the mountains back in the 1940s. The last one retired in 1962.

     Complete with tender, the entire locomotive stretches 132 ft 9 1⁄4 in (40.47 m), and weighs in at 1,250,000 lb (566,990.5 kilograms) according to wikipedia. Top speed was 80 mph (130 km/h), although climbing through the Wasatch Mountains while pulling a mile of freight cars was more about tractive effort - 135,375 lbf (602.18 kN) - than speed. The size and weight of these locomotives meant that they were restricted to trackage that could handle them - Union Pacific had to lengthen turntables at the engine service facilities to handle them and be very careful which bridges they ran across. These restrictions likely mean that Big Boy 4014 will not be going on a nationwide tour once it is back in steam - not without some very special arrangements!

     They all came from Schenectady, NY, from the American Locomotive Company (Alco) and all ran on coal. Union Pacific plans to convert 4014 to burning oil if the restoration goes as planned - it will join the other steam locomotives in its heritage fleet, 844 and 3985. Restoration is expected to take 3 to 5 years at the U.P. shops in Cheyenne, Wyoming. When complete, #4014 will be the largest operating steam locomotive in the world. Eight of these engines were set aside for display after Union Pacific took them out of service. Most are in the midwest or west; 4014 has been in Pomona, CA at the RailGiants Train Museum. 4012 is the only one east of the Mississippi, at the Steamtown National Historic Site, in Scranton, PA. (The picture at the top of this diary is a composite of overlapping photos taken of 4012 in 2010 at Scranton.)

       Returning a Big Boy locomotive to operation has been a long-running fantasy of many a rail fan - that's it's finally going to happen (fingers crossed, knock on wood) is almost too much to believe. When it does, it will be a real reminder of an important part of American history - this country was shaped as few others by steam engines and the railroads that operated them. Union Pacific hopes to have it operating in time for the sesquicentennial of the driving of the Golden Spike. Regular updates can be found at Twitter @RailGiants.

Originally posted to xaxnar on Wed Sep 04, 2013 at 07:41 PM PDT.

Also republished by History for Kossacks and Community Spotlight.


My reaction to a Big Boy being restored to operation:

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