GLIMPSE OF THE BIG BOY • A very large crowd welcomed the Big Boy steam locomotive to town on October 4. Spectators took pictures and video of the train before it continued on towards Delta as part of its 5,000 mile journey through several states.
By Myrna Trauntvein
Nephi residents turned out in grand style, with over 1,000 people showing up at 300 North and 300 West at the eastern edge of the railroad tracks, to welcome Big Boy to town on Friday morning.
Ed Dickens, senior manager-Heritage Operations, Scott George, director of Union Pacific Steam Shop Operations and Nathan Anderson, Union Pacific director of public relations, met with Nephi City Mayor Glade Nielson, and city council members, Kent Jones and Justin Seely to the side of Big Boy for a presentation.
“Kent Jones, our city councilman, is responsible for about 99 percent of this and he has correlated with the Union Pacific,” said Nielson.
He also said he wanted to thank the Times-News for their prior coverage of the event.
The mayor, Dickens and Jones used a megaphone for the presentation. Nielson said it was his first time to use such a device and was afraid, with the sound of the engine, it was not loud enough.
“Thank you for coming down today, on behalf of Union Pacific, we would like to present to the good mayor, “Race to Promontory” to put in the Nephi City Public Library,” said Dickens.
The book should go into the railroad history section, he said.
The photographs appearing in the book were selected from the Union Pacific Historical Collection and show original images documenting construction of the nation’s first transcontinental railroad.
Dickens recognized the large number of school children present and three times had them shout out the name of the locomotive—”Big Boy.”
He said that it took two and a half years to completely rebuild the engine and that it was rebuilt from the ground up. The Big Boy’s return to the rails is the product of meticulous restoration work by the Union Pacific Steam Team.
No. 4014 is the world’s only operating Big Boy locomotive.
Dickens said that Big Boy participated May 9 and May 10 at the 150th Anniversary of the Transcontinental Railroad’s Completion Celebration.
Union Pacific’s historic Big Boy steam locomotive No. 4014 is now touring the Union Pacific system throughout 2019 to commemorate the transcontinental railroad’s 150th anniversary.
“We will travel for 60 days and just under 5,000 miles,” said Dickens. “This is the very beginning of our journey.”
“On behalf of Union Pacific, Scott George and his crew, we appreciate everyone coming today,” he said. “You have set the gold standard for all the other communities to follow.”
“This is so cool,” said Nielson. “I would like to give a shout out to Councilman Jones and a shout out to the schools and to their teachers.”
He said that he wanted to present to Union Pacific group and all the crew members Nephi City pins.
Jones then said he had a special surprise. He presented Dickens with a golden spike that he said was found in Nephi.
In fact, the fourth grade class last year had received replicas of those precious golden spikes. The golden spike was the last spike driven 150 years ago at Promontory Point to celebrate the historic joining of the rails.
Seely said that it was a great experience to be present and said he enjoyed the sound of the train’s steam whistle.
Dickens recognized the crews who were doing the maintenance work on the engine to prepare it for the next leg of the journey. Two of those were Troy Plagge and Don Crerer, both part of the steam team.
“There was a crew of nine that did the [restoration] work,” he said.
Eric Davies, special agent for the Union Pacific Police Department, showed off the drone that is accompanying the railroad to make certain the journey is safe.
When the restoration wrapped up, the 4014 completed its first run in 60 years in May to celebrate the 150th anniversary of the Transcontinental Railroad’s completion.
On Thursday, the train left Provo, at 8 a.m. and arrived in Nephi at 10:30 a.m. where it remained until 11:15 a.m. before heading to Delta and then on to Milford where it stayed overnight.
It then traveled to Modena before leaving Utah for Caliente, Nevada.
Dickens said he and his team will be part of Big Boy’s two-month tour through 12 states. Big Boy No. 4014 will ride the rails on the Union Pacific system, taking it through Arkansas, Arizona, California, Colorado, Kansas, Missouri, Nevada, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Texas, Utah and Wyoming.
It’s longer than two city buses, weighs more than a Boeing 747 fully loaded with passengers and can pull 16 Statues of Liberty over a mountain.
“Modern American steam locomotives use what is known as a fire tube boiler with a stay bolted firebox,” Dickens said.
Although originally designed to burn coal, Big Boy now burns oil. The oil used in No. 4014 is very similar to what comes out of a car during an oil change, he said.
“The engine has a capacity of 6,300 horsepower at 41 mph (miles per hour),” said George. “It is as heavy as three modern locomotives.”
A Big Boy locomotive, along with its tender, weighs 762,000 pounds and measures 132 feet 9 inches in length. In its days of use, it could haul a 3,600-ton train unassisted up the Wasatch Mountain grade.
Big Boy has a fuel capacity of 28 tons, a water capacity of 25,000 gallons, a boiler pressure of 300 psi and a maximum speed of 80 mph.
George said that getting the engine ready to roll each day takes about three hours. Then it takes another three hours to get it ready to shut down.
“We’re not exaggerating,” Dickens said. “It is a big monster.”
Because of their great length, the frames of the Big Boys were “hinged,” or articulated, to allow them to negotiate curves
“Rebuilding the big boiler was labor-intensive with many steps, but the crew enjoyed the process,” Dickens said.
On Wednesday night, Jones and Nielson were invited to travel to Provo and have dinner in the train’s dining car. They also viewed the Pullman Sleeper car.
“I want to thank Union Pacific for their hospitality,” said Nielson.
Marvin Mackey had a display set up showing items that had come from the old railroad depot that once was located in town.
Until Union Pacific decided to abandon the passenger trains in the early 1970s, said George, most of the places that Big Boy was stopping in had once had railroad depots.
Union Pacific hosted a celebration marking the 150th anniversary of the transcontinental railroad’s completion Thursday, May 9, at Ogden Union Station a day ahead of Utah’s celebration at Promontory Summit where the Golden Spike was originally tapped into place.
Union Pacific no longer has tracks near Promontory Summit. They were removed to support the scrap metal projects during World War II.