The Union Pacific 'Big Boy' is arguably the most famous locomotive in the USA and is known by railfans across the globe. It remains the most powerful steam locomotive in the world and charts high on the all-time lists of longest and heaviest steam locomotives ever built. But as cheaper diesel-electric power came to prominence in the late 1950s and early 1960s, like other steam locomotives, the 'Big Boys' were phased out, destined initially for storage and then as museum pieces. Only 8 of the 25 still exist and below we take a look at where each has ended up, for those wanting to seek them out.
Note that during 2021, not all museums and railroads are open or operating and travel is restricted in some jurisdictions. This article serves to provide information for when such restrictions and closures have been lifted. For further details, please contact museums and venues direct.
4004: The State of Wyoming set the scene for many 'Big Boy' services hauling freight between Green River and the neighboring State of Utah. In its later years of service, Cheyenne was the base of most 'Big Boy' operations and locomotive 4004 is now proudly on static display at the southern end of Holliday Park, just across from the historic Union Pacific Depot, which hosts a museum of its own. We asked to see your own images of Union Pacific 'Big Boys' and not surprisingly most were of 4014. This fabulous shot (featured) is by William M Suchan.
4014: The UP Depot at Cheyenne also boasts the only operational 'Big Boy', restored to working order in 2019 as part of the railroad's Steam fleet. Though earmarked for excursion passenger trains across the Midwestern and Southwestern USA, 4014 has also, since restoration, performed the occasional revenue earning freight movement. Its initial run was for twenty years from 1941 to 1961 after which is spent time in California on static display. It wasn't until 2014 that the locomotive was taken back to Wyoming, where it queued up behind UP's other major restoration project, No. 844 'Living Legend', with whom it eventually double-headed after both locomotives were christened back into service. More railfan shots of 4014 in action can be seen at the foot of this article. 844 'Living Legend' (renumbered 8444 in this image), an entirely different class of locomotive, was restored long before 'Big Boy' 4014. Here it is shown c1965. Credit: Courtesy of Missouri State Archives
4005: Following the retirement of all 'Big Boy' locomotives in 1962, all but two of the surviving eight found homes beyond native Wyoming with some spreading their wings further than others. 4005 was sent south in 1970 to Denver, Colorado where it has since remained on display at the Forney Transportation Museum. During service, this unit was involved in a notable accident on April 27 1953 and was briefly (and unsuccessfully) converted to burn oil in the late 1940s.
4006: Though 4006's current resting place is not the furthest of the remaining eight from its familiar haunt in Wyoming, it does have the accolade of the 'Big Boy' to have traveled the most miles during service. In total, it ran for 1,064,625 miles - almost 43 times the circumference of the globe. It sits on display at the Museum of Transportation in St. Louis, Missouri. The locations of the remaining eight 'Big Boys' are denoted on this map. Note that only 7 markers are visible as both 4004 and 4014 are both based at Cheyenne, Wyoming. Map data ©2021 Google, INEGI.
4012: After retiring, 4012 was taken up to the northeast of the country to Steamtown USA, a locomotive museum in Vermont. The museum stumbled across a number of hurdles including air quality rules restricting steam excursions and arguments over use of the track and eventually closed in 1983. Though many of the exhibits were auctioned off, 4012 was sent down to Scranton, Pennsylvania where another Steamtown site was set up around a former rail yard and turntable. 4012 has been cited as a possible contender for future operational restoration, like 4014 but questions are raised over the surrounding infrastructure's ability to bear its weight. Whichever example it may be, 'Big Boys' certainly draw a crowd. Here is another photo of 4014, this time in Ogden, Utah, where these locomotives ran during their time in service. Photo courtesy of James Curneal. Photo taken prior to 2020.
4017: Up in the far north of the USA, on the shore of Lake Michigan, is the Natioanl Railroad Museum at Green Bay, Wisconsin. UK railfans will know this as one of only two places to find one of the famous A4 Pacifics outside of Britain. 'Big Boy' 4017 also resides here next to GG1 4890 in a climate-controlled shed.
4018: Though, like the others, 4018 was retired in the early 1960s it did take to the rails again, unpowered, during a move from its original Texan resting place at Fair Park, Dallas to Frisco. This was due to the Museum of the American Railroad relocating there in 2013. Prior to that, there was the possibility of 4018 going back into steam - talk of a Hollywood movie about the locomotive surfaced in the late 1990s, but resulted in nothing. Though 4018 sits idle in the Lone Star State, 4014 visits on occasion through its excursions as captured here by Ron Hanson in 2019. The full image can be viewed here.
4023: Having been built later than any of the other remaining 'Big Boys', it is not surprising that, cosmetically at least, 4023 is one of the best preserved examples. Aided by an overhaul in 1957, just a few years before retirement, the locomotive also had an external spruce-up post-retirement resulting in its current appearance. It was initially stored in a familiar setting at the UP roundhouse in Cheyenne, Wyoming but in 1974 was taken to Nebraska for preservation. It now resides at the 'Welcome to Omaha Sign' at Kenefick Park alongside EMD DDA40X 6900, the most powerful Diesel-Electric locomotive built on a single frame. At Kenefick Park, 4023 looks on accompanied by EMD DDA40X No. 6900. Photo by civilengtiger. CC-BY 2.0 Mike Rusnak sent us this fantastic shot of 4014 basking in the sun during a visit to Milwaukee in 2019. 4014 was certainly in steam for this incredibly intimate photo captured by Trevlyn James at Van Buren, Arkansas. Benjamin Lake was lucky enough to get close to 4014 as part of the editorial team for Trains Magazine and snapped this 'behind the scenes' shot of crew working on the locomotive inside the UP Depot at Cheyenne on May 3rd 2019.
Author Gary Dolzall rejoices in the extraordinary and unforgettable Atchison, Topeka & Santa Fe.
Allen Jackson explains Britain's freight operations, illustrated with recent photos from Basford Hall Depot.