By Stacey Doud | DFW Newsflash | August 2021
Fort Worth—Despite the rain, people from around the Metroplex converged in Fort Worth to see the Union Pacific’s “Big Boy” steam locomotive engine number 4014 ride the rails on Saturday, Aug. 14.The engine stopped for a short rest before heading to Houston.
The historic engine, of which only 25 were made, was designed to traverse mountains while carrying supplies needed during WWII. Only eight of the engines survived, and today Big Boy is the sole functional locomotive of its class. The other engines sit in museums and in static displays around the nation.
“We started off this tour on Aug. 5, leaving Cheyenne, Wyoming, which is home base,” Robynn Tysver, spokesperson for Union Pacific, said. “It’s been incredible watching the reactions. We’ve had whistle stops and more than several dozen communities up and down the line come out. We’ve had people have block parties waiting for Big Boy to come through. We’ve had communities that have geared up and got the barbecue grills out to get the community to have a party on Big Boy’s arrival.
“Yesterday, coming in, there were thousands of people in Denton. They were gathered up and down the line. We’ve had an incredible turnout today despite the weather issues. Actually, we have been getting an incredible turnout wherever we go.
“There are so many folks who love this locomotive,” Tysver said. “I think it’s nostalgia. I think it’s a bit about the railroad romance. I’m sothrilled to see such different age groups represented. It is really a huge multi-generational turnout.
“I think of it as a living, breathing piece of history. [Big Boy] was built to go over the Wasatch Mountain Range, which is east of Provo, Utah. Unfortunately, most of the 25 that were commissioned ended up in the salvage yard, but eight of them were saved.
“Union Pacific acquired Big Boy in 2013, and its restoration was a mammoth undertaking. It was arguably one of the largest locomotive restoration projects in the nation. It took several years. We like to say there’s no parts store out there for Big Boy. If there’s a part we can’t buy, our machinists have to make them.
“This project in a large part was in honor of the 150th anniversary of the completion of the Transcontinental Railroad, which happened in 1869,” Tysver said. “If you remember, that was when Abraham Lincoln was getting the railroad companies to essentially compete to meet in the middle connecting East versus West. In 2019, 150 years later, Big Boy took its first, I like to say, restoration debut. This is the second tour.
“This project was done in time to honor that huge historical milestone in transportation. But it’s also to honor the spirit of the men and women, past and present, who have worked on the railroads. Railroads continue to be a backbone of the transportation network of this country, transporting the supplies and goods and stocking your grocery stores and your big box stores.”
Fans of all ages wanted to see the engine.
“We came out because this is a way to see a living piece of machinery,” Bill Teel said. “It’s a five-year restoration project that cost over $5 million. I saw it when [Big Boy] left Los Angeles, California, on the internet, and I followed it all the away. That’s my lifelong dream.
“I’ve seen the 3595 they had in Beaumont about 10 years ago. I missed [Big Boy] two-and-a-half years ago when I went to Corsicana, but I wasn’t going to miss it this time.
“My uncle, who was my dad’s brother, operated several of these in Vermont. He always told me they were living piece of machinery. We spent the night to come over here, and the weather didn’t cooperate, but it looks good now. I’m really happy about that.”
Richard Hoggarth brought Boy Scout Troop 109 from Aledo, Texas, to see Big Boy.
“When do you have the opportunity to see a steam engine in Fort Worth, in real life?” Hogarth asked. “This maybe aonce-in-a-lifetime chance to see a real steam engine, especially a Big Boy,that’s actually functional.There is the one in Frisco, but it’s all static display.
“It’s the sheer magnitude and the majesty of steam. I’m a big fan of steam.I think it’s important for the youth to see history, especially living history. If anything, they’ll go back and they’ll tell their friends, ‘Wow, we just saw a big train.’
“The engineering that went behind this for the time that it was built, you had no computers or calculators or anything; it was all done by hand, mentally and on paper. Kids these days have no real concept of what that meant back then.”
You can view photos of the steam engine below: