Light load: Big move for a Big Boy

by MM&D staff

ROSEVILLE, California—It’s one of the shortest journeys the train has ever made, but Big Boy No. 4014’s short journey is receiving a lot of attention.

Big Boy No. 4014 at the train museum (Photo: Union Pacific)

Big Boy No. 4014 is a steam locomotive first put into service by the Union Pacific Railroad in 1941 to haul freight trains on runs between Ogden, Utah and Cheyenne, Wyoming. No. 4014 is on of 25 Big Boys, which got their names from their immense size.

The locomotives measured 132ft long and weighed 1.2 million pounds. They were so big, that they were articulated (or “hinged”) so they could travel around curves and bends.

They had a 4-8-8-4 wheel arrangement, which meant they had four wheels on the leading set of “pilot” wheels which guided the engine, eight drivers, another set of eight drivers, and four wheels following which supported the rear of the locomotive.

The locomotive was retired in December 1961, having traveled 1,031,205mi during 20 years of service.

Since 1962, No. 4014 has been on display in the parking lot at the RailGiants Train Museum, which is located at the Los Angeles County Fairgrounds in Pomona, California. The train, however, has been picked to undergo restoration at Union Pacific’s Heritage Fleet Operations headquarters in Cheyenne, Wyoming, which is 1,260mi (2,028km) away. The restoration process is expected to take a minimum of five years and will involve thousands of hours of work by a team of steam locomotive experts.

The first leg of the journey calls for the Big Boy to travel to Union Pacific’s Colton, California, rail yard, but before it can do that, it has to traverse the museum’s parking lot.

Part of the temporary track.

This means a temporary rail line needed to be constructed to get the train from its display location and onto an existing rail line. The curved, hand-built track uses plywood and second-hand rail panels. A Union Pacific video details its construction. More videos about the locomotive are available on the Project 4014 website and on its YouTube channel.