The Union Pacific Railroad is moving the giant Big Boy 4-8-8-4 locomotive #4014 from Colton, California, to Cheyenne, Wyoming, where it will be restored. I had the opportunity to see, photograph, and touch the Big Boy on April 30, 2014, when it made a stop in Las Vegas, Nevada, on its journey to Cheyenne. (Check this website article explaining how locomotives are designated: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wheel_arrangement.)
[media-credit id=1 align=”aligncenter” width=”640″][/media-credit]Will Braddock, the hero protagonist of The Iron Horse Chronicles, is impressed by the 4-4-0 locomotives used in 1867, as he embarks upon his quest to determine his own destiny during the time of the building of the first transcontinental railroad. My website header features Union Pacific’s 4-4-0 engine #119 approaching Promontory Summit, Utah, to participate in the ceremony commemorating the joining of the eastern and western portions of the “Pacific Railroad” in 1869. In the mid-nineteenth century the 4-4-0 was the largest, land-based machine designed for transportation.
If Will Braddock was impressed with the 4-4-0, what would he have thought about the 4-8-8-4? Perhaps some statistical comparisons will give us a clue.
At #4014’s length of 132 feet (almost half a football field), you could park three 4-4-0s end-to-end on the far side of Big Boy and not even know they were there.
The Big Boy’s 600-ton weight is seventeen times more than #119. Such heavy locomotives were not possible until the iron rails initially used for the construction of the transcontinental railroad were replaced with steel ones.
Big Boy could reach a top speed of 80 mph (but seldom ran that fast), while #119 had to struggle to reach 40 mph. A significant factor in the potential speed of a locomotive is the quality of the rails and roadbed over which the engine runs.
To railroad aficionados, both the 4-4-0 and the 4-8-8-4 are impressive feats of engineering. The Union Pacific estimates it will require three to five years to restore #4014 to full operating condition. In the meantime, the National Park Service operates a replica of #119 at the Golden Spike National Historic Site in Utah. NPS also operates a replica of the Central Pacific 4-4-0 locomotive Jupiter. I plan to be at Promontory Summit on May 10, 2014, to witness the reenactment of the driving of the golden spike. I will report on my trip in future blogs. (Visit this website for the latest information from the GSNHS: http://nps.gov/gosp/index.htm.)