OWATONNA — In celebration of the 150th anniversary of the completion of the transcontinental railroad, Union Pacific has restored one of the world’s largest steam locomotives — and it’s coming to town.
Twenty-five Big Boys were built exclusively for Union Pacific Railroad, the first of which was delivered in 1941. Of the eight remaining Big Boys in existence, No. 4014 is the only one operating today. On Wednesday, July 17, the steam locomotive will be making a pit stop at the Glendale Street Crossing in Owatonna as a part of the “Great Race Across the Midwest,” recognizing the milestone anniversary. The train will arrive at 10:45 a.m. and depart at 11:30 a.m.
According to Union Pacific, it took more than two years to prepare No. 4014 for the rails. This specific Big Boy was delivered to Union Pacific in December 1941, with its last run on July 21, 1959. The locomotive had traveled 1,031,205 miles in its more than 18 years of service. It was officially retired in December 1961.
In its current journey, No. 4014 first left Cheyenne, Wyoming, where the restoration took place, on Monday, July 8, and began its trek that will take it through Nebraska, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Illinois, and Iowa.
The Big Boys were about 133 feet long and weighed 1.2 million pounds. Because of their great length, the frames of the Big Boys are “hinged” or articulated, to allow them to negotiate curves. They have a 4-8-8-4 wheel arrangement, which means they have four wheels on the leading set of “pilot” wheels which guide the engine, eight drivers on the first engine, another set of eight drivers on the second engine, and four wheels trailing that support the rear of the locomotive. These massive engines normally operated between Ogden, Utah, and Cheyenne, Wyoming.
The other seven Big Boys were donated for public display in various cities around the country. They can be found in St. Louis, Missouri; Dallas, Texas; Omaha, Nebraska; Denver, Colorado; Scranton, Pennsylvania; Green Bay Wisconsin; and Cheyenne, Wyoming.
Union Pacific reminds everyone who will be coming out to see Big Boy No. 4014 in Owatonna to stand back at least 25 feet from the tracks, noting that the average train overhangs the track by at least three feet and wider loads can extend even further. Standing back 25 feet will help the public avoid debris and steam.
After departing Owatonna, No. 4014 will continue toward Northfield, stopping at the 2nd Street Crossing around 12:45 p.m. and leaving about 15 minutes later. It will arrive next in St. Paul and remain there on display until July 18.
The Glendale Street Crossing is located near Sterling Pharmacy in Owatonna.