"Big Boy" Rides Again!

May 9, 2019 03:06 PM

It wasn't that long ago the best way to travel cross-country was by train.  A year-long celebration started this week that marks the Transcontinental Railroad which is now 150 years old.

The party started rolling along with help from a nearly 80-year-old steam locomotive.

The Big Boy No. 4014 rolled across the Wyoming plains near Cheyenne.  It's longer than two city buses, weighs more than a fully-loaded Boeing 747, and is able to pull the equivalent of 16 Statues of Liberty over a mountain.  The Big Boy made a reappearance after some 70 years of retirement.

Big Boy engines 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.

Today, thanks to five years of restoration, only No. 4014 is operational. Ed Dickens headed up the restoration.  Ed says, "it looks really complex and complicated, somewhat intimidating.  When you learn about steam locomotives, all of those valves have a specific purpose."

Operating the Big Boy requires a two-person crew to monitor the 1.2 million pound machine.  

"Because we rebuilt this, we designed everything to customize what I want as an engineer and what the fireman wants as a fireman, so as I'm sitting right here positioned, looking out as I need to, the speedometer is right in line with me-everything is within easy reach," says Dickens.

Engineered for steep mountain grades, each Big Boy was built with two huge engines beneath a 250-ton boiler.  It's a feat still drawing crowds 150 years past the first golden spike.

If you would like to learn more about the celebrations surrounding the Transcontinental Railroad, go here.



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