The largest steam locomotive to ever travel the American West is being brought back to life. Nicknamed “Big Boy”, 25 of the famous steam engines were built by the American Locomotive Company (New York) between 1941 and 1944.
Designed to reach speeds of up to 80 miles per hour (mph), Big Boys are 132 feet long (including the tender carrying coal and water) and tip the scales at 1.2 million pounds with fuel. The locomotive powers two sets of eight drive wheels and pumps out 6,300 horsepower.
The Union Pacific Railroad – which initially connected with the eastward-building Central Pacific in Utah in 1869 to form the first transcontinental railway line – will now restore one of the Big Boys to working order. Big Boy No.4014 has spent over 50 years at the RailGiants Train Museum at the Los Angeles County Fairgrounds. The hospitable southern Californian climate has helped to preserve this particular giant. There are 8 remaining Big Boys, including No. 4014, on display around the United States. Diesel engines had basically replaced steam by the mid-20th century in North America (US and Canada).
No. 4014 began its journey toward restoration on Monday, April 28th, moved by two contemporary locomotives at an average speed of 20 to 25 mph. Having left California, the train is scheduled to arrive May 8th in Cheyenne, Wyoming, at Union Pacific’s steam shop. The restoration is expected to take three to five years and once finished, No. 4014 will be used to pull special excursion trains. The hope it is have it ready for the 150th anniversary of the first transcontinental railroad in 2019. The AMC TV series Hell on Wheels – about to enter its 4th season – is currently dramatizing the building of that railway.
The nickname “Big Boy” was originally scrawled in chalk by an unknown worker on the front of one of the engines while it was being constructed. That chalk name remained on the locomotive as it emerged finished from the shop and has stuck.
To track the ongoing progress of No. 4014, visit the official Union Pacific link at Big Boy No.4014.
(Copyright – Chad Beharriell)