‘Big Boy’ loco making big move
One of the world’s largest steam locomotives, known as ‘Big Boy’, is ready to make tracks to a new home. The steam engine will depart the Fairplex parking lot sometimes during the early morning of Sunday, January 26, to the Colton railyard in order to prepare for a 1200-mile trip.
“Once it is restored, which we anticipate that the process will take at least five years, we would use the locomotive for special events and to make special visits to communities in our network,” Union Pacific spokesman Aaron Hunt said.
Originally, 25 of these engines were built exclusively for the Union Pacific Railroad. Because of their enormous size, the engines were hinged so they could turn without trouble. At 132 feet in length and 1.2 million pounds, it is no wonder the engines were dubbed ‘Big Boys’.
“Union Pacific long has played a key role in building America, starting when Abraham Lincoln signed the railroad into existence more than 150 years ago,” said Ed Dickens, senior manager, Union Pacific Heritage Operations. “Restoring No. 4014 is a great way for us to honor employees past and present, while bringing to life Union Pacific’s history for rail fans everywhere.”
This specific engine ran for 20 years while it was still active and covered 1,031,205 miles working in the Midwest.
The move has been a long time planned. It began in November 2013 through a leapfrog process in which prebuilt panel track sections were laid down in the parking lot to keep the heavy locomotive from cracking the pavement. Since then, the behemoth has been sitting on the north side of the fairgrounds near Arrow Highway.
Before it can move from the Colton railyard, however, the engine will have to go through a full inspection. Work on the joints, roller bearings and wheels will be key so the 1200-mile trip does not damage the discontinued parts. Any pieces that are damaged will be handmade by Union Pacific.
According to Mr. Hunt, the largest part of the restoration for the No. 4014 engine is the conversion of its coal-burning engine into one that runs on recycled oil. The oil would be used to heat the engine’s 24,000-gallon tank.
“It is pretty much like rebuilding an engine of an automobile, but the scale and scope is so much more significant. It’s going to be a complex process and it’s going to take dozens of our steam crew to make it work,” Mr. Hunt said.
Now that the engine is moving into the second phase of it’s trip, people from places such as Europe and Australia have contacted Union Pacific about the restoration process. The interested parties have offered input and called to just check on steps for the engine to be restored.
Community members are invited to view the engine in Colton Yard on Saturday, February 1 and Sunday, February 2 from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Visitors are asked to enter the rail yard at 19100 Slover Avenue in Bloomington.
Union Pacific has not yet released a date when ‘Big Boy’ will begin the trip to Cheyenne. To follow updates on the ‘Big Boy’, visit www.up.com or follow the progress on Twitter @UP_Steam.
—Christina Collins Burton