Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Big Boy rolls through Barstow

Bystanders watch Union Pacific's ‘Big Boy' No. 4014 roll through Lenwood on its way to an inspection stop in Barstow. The locomotive, one of the largest ever built, is headed home to Cheyenne, Wyo., for restoration that is anticipated to take three to five years. (LARA HARTLEY, FOR THE DESERT DISPATCH)


BARSTOW • Steam wasn’t coming out of its stack, but Big Boy No. 4014 roared down the tracks along the Harvey House before coming to a complete stop in front the historic Barstow train station on Monday.

Hundreds of onlookers were allowed to walk up to the gigantic steam engine as dignitaries and a Union Pacific crew jumped off.

The locomotive arrived at 3:41 p.m., about 40 minutes late, being towed by a modern Union Pacific engine with the same number as Big Boy — 4014. Another locomotive was pushing it. Three passenger cars, two box cars and five flat cars followed.

“It’s magnificent,” Wade Harris, of Barstow, said. “You don’t want to miss something like this. It’s history.”

Shelli Anderson, of Claremont, followed the train since it left Colton on Monday. The train enthusiast says she has posted a lot of photos to Facebook.

“It’s awesome,” she said. “Absolutely spectacular.”

In its heyday, Big Boy No. 4014 was a “moving eruption of smoke and vapor” that was known to drag heavy freight trains over the mountains of Wyoming and Utah, according to one Associated Press story. The American Co. in Schenectady, New York, built 25 of the monsters to Union Pacific’s specifications between 1941 and 1944.

A Union Pacific crew is towing the 1.2 million pound steam locomotive 1,293 miles on an 11-day excursion to Cheyenne, Wyoming, where it will be restored back to life during a five-year project.

“It’s beautiful,” said Joseph Sanchez, who worked for Santa Fe Railroad for 25 years. “It’s a beautiful piece of machinery made in the United States of America.”

Sanchez’s fiancee, Ann Canizales, agreed: “I love antiques, and this is a real one.”

Soon after the couple talked about Big Boy, a voice bellowed from the locomotive.

“All aboard!”

It was 4:09 and time to go.

The wheels on Big Boy slowly came to life, and its horn blew twice.

“Diesels just don’t have that look. But look at it,” said Dave Keeler, of Barstow, as he walked away from tracks where Big Boy once rested. “The Schooner of the prairie. There’s nothing more romantic than a steam engine. I just had to see it. I actually wish they would put them in service again.” Keeler gave Big Boy one more glance as it rolled further down the track. “That’s incredible.”