Union Pacific to resurrect ‘Big Boy’ locomotive

Big Boy 4014

Railfans can’t help but love this Associated Press description of a Union Pacific locomotive that once hauled freight over the Rocky Mountains.

“In its prime, a massive steam locomotive known as Big Boy No. 4014 was a moving eruption of smoke and vapor, a 6,300-horsepower brute dragging heavy freight trains over the mountains of Wyoming and Utah.”

Even better for train aficionados, Big Boy No. 4014 is coming back to life after sitting silent for the past half century. Union Pacific is embarking on a years-long restoration project that will put the behemoth back to work pulling special excursion trains.

The locomotive is one of 25 monsters built by the American Locomotive Co. in Schenectady, N.Y., during World War II.

Earlier this month, Big Boy was moved from the RailGiants Train Museum at the Los Angeles County Fairgrounds in Pomona, Calif., to a Union Pacific shop in Colton, Calif.

A crew at Colton will begin Monday towing it across Nevada, Utah and Wyoming to Union Pacific’s steam shop in Cheyenne, Wyo., where it is scheduled to arrive May 8, according to the wire service.

“It’s sort of like going and finding the Titanic or something that’s just very elusive, nothing that we ever thought would happen,” said Jim Wrinn, editor of Trains, a magazine that covers the railroad industry.

“Something that’s so large and powerful and magnificent, we didn’t think any of them would ever come back,” he said.

The locomotive lives up to its nickname. It’s 132-feet long, including the tender, which carried coal and water, and weighs 1.2 million pounds with a full load of fuel.

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Volunteers resurrecting Polish steam engines

Volunteers have joined forces with railroad museum officials in central Europe to bring Poland’s steam locomotives back to life.

They’re not only gathering to scrap away decades of rust and soot in an effort to restore the a handful of the nation’s old steam engines to their former glory, but often pay for the privilege, adopting the locomotives, some of which date back to the 1890s.

“This steam train symbolizes liberty,” Janusz Boratynski, an immunology professor in his 60s, told Agence France-Presse. “When I was little, it transported me from my city of Wroclaw, ruined by the war and teeming with rats, to a holiday spot on the other side of the country.”

Boratynski jumped at the chance to adopt one of the engines in particular: the Tki3, a brooding hulk of red-trimmed black metal built in the early 1900s (see above photo).

In return for his adoption fee, about $500, which covers the cost of a new coat of paint, Boratynski will have his name etched into a plaque on the antique locomotive, once famed for having set a speed record of 110 kilometers per hour, or nearly 70 miles per hour, according to the wire service.

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