Union Pacific’s huge “Big Boy” steam locomotive, No. 4014, pulled into Grand Island moving west at about 4:45 p.m. Sunday evening. It settled down in a “no public access” location to spend the night before continuing its return to Cheyenne, Wyo., today.
Earlier Sunday, it had pulled a string of 10 passenger cars from Omaha, stopping in Fremont, Columbus and Central City.
The locomotive and train are in the final stage of a multi-state trip, dubbed “The Great Race Across the Midwest,” that took them on July 11 to Grand Island for the first time ever. The next day the train proceeded to Omaha and then to major stops in Des Moines, Iowa; St. Paul, Minn.; Duluth, Minn.; Milwaukee, Wis.; and Chicago. From Chicago, it turned westward on July 26 to begin its return to the Union Pacific Steam Shop in Cheyenne.
The locomotive and its train are scheduled to leave Grand Island at 9 a.m. Monday morning. Further overnight stops are scheduled in North Platte and in Sidney.
Yesterday afternoon, the train moved slowly through Grand Island and then backed up, on another track, to its overnight location near the small UP freight yard east of the city.
No 4014, with eight large driving wheels on each side, was delivered to the railroad in 1941 and saw use for 20 years, mostly pulling freight trains through the mountains of Wyoming and Utah. Union Pacific reacquired it from a railroad museum in California in 2013, relocating it back to Cheyenne to begin a multi-year restoration process. That process was finished in May of this year, in time for the locomotive to participate in celebrations in Utah of the 150th anniversary of the completion of the first transcontinental railroad.
Twenty-five Big Boy locomotives were built, exclusively for Union Pacific. No. 4014 is the only one that still exists and is operational.
No public viewing of the stopped locomotive was scheduled in Grand Island during either of its passages through the city.
“Unfortunately, Grand Island is a community where the infrastructure does not allow us to safely invite the public to a Big Boy display,” said Raquel Espinoza, UP’s Senior Director of Media Relations.
Despite that, on July 11, the engineer halted the train briefly for viewing at the Walnut Street and Oak Street crossings.