Train lovers and history buffs are running out of time to catch a glimpse of a piece of railroad history making its way around the country.
Union Pacific’s historic Big Boy No. 4014 is wrapping up its summer tour across the heart of the country, making one final stop for display this weekend in Denver. The train will arrive Sunday night and be on display Monday from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. at a station at 39th and Wynkoop streets.
Big Boy 4014 is one of 25 massive locomotives built for the Union Pacific Railroad during the Depression. Each one measures 132 feet long and weighs 1.2 million pounds. Seven of them remain on display at locations throughout the country, but rarely do they get out on the tracks for a tour like Big Boy 4014 is doing.
“What person in their right mind would not like to see this train in action?” Ralph Hughes, a self-described train nut, told the Daily Journal as he waited for its arrival in southeastern Missouri last week. “It is history on 24 wheels.”
Big Boy No. 4014 began its summer journey from its home base in Cheyenne, Wyoming on August 5, winding its way through 10 states. It went as far south as New Orleans before heading back to its home base. The curious have been able to see it along the way and take pictures as it made whistle-stops in hundreds of towns, but it only has five stops where visitors can get an up-close tour.
The last of those stops is Monday in Denver. Display days include access to the Experience the Union Pacific Rail Car, a multimedia walk-through exhibition that provides a glimpse at the past while telling the story of modern-day railroads. There will also be a special merchandise tent. Admission to display days is free, though planning ahead is recommended as crowds have swelled at most stops.
“This is a really big deal for train enthusiasts and non-train enthusiasts,” Walt Pierce told NOLA when the train stopped in New Orleans. “It’s a mechanical miracle, really something to behold.”
Others described the experience as similar to Christmas, particularly for seniors who remember the trains from their heyday on the tracks.
“You wouldn’t think that a big inanimate machine would move people like this, but it does,” said Ed Dickens, a Union Pacific senior manager. “They smell the steam, they hear the whistle, and it’s bringing back all her childhood memories.”
Before reaching the station in Denver Sunday night, the train will make more than a dozen whistle-stops in the coming days all across Kansas and eastern Colorado. It will spend Thursday night in Salina, Kansas; Friday night in Hays, Kansas; and Saturday night in Sharon Springs, Kansas. Big Boy will also make a few final stops Tuesday in northern Colorado on its way back to Wyoming.
Larry Holmberg, 73, was typical of those who came out to see Big Boy as it passed through Nebraska. Holmberg has been around trains most of his life, but this was a completely different experience.“They were nothing like this,” he told the Hastings Tribune. “It’s huge. Unbelievable. I’d have walked 60 miles to see this.”