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Take an up close look at the last surviving operational Big Boy train

Posted at 9:52 AM, Jul 05, 2024

MORGAN, Utah — In 1941, 25 of the largest steam engines ever produced rolled off the line and were dubbed the Big Boys.

One of the reasons they were created was because freight going up the tracks in Ogden Canyon put a strain on steam engines.

So, Union Pacific set out to design a bigger, better machine to move all the freight that the World War II effort demanded.

Many engines called Evanston, Wyoming their home as they made the trip back and forth between Ogden and Evanston hauling heavy loads for the town.

Now, over 80 years later, Engine 4014, the last surviving operational Big Boy train, steamed into Wyoming and Utah for the Fourth of July.



In Evanston, Wyoming, everywhere you look you’ll see the evidence of trains.

"This is a railroad town. We're here because of the railroad. We constantly see the freight cars going by many times during the day."James Davis, Chairman of the Evanston Historic Preservation Commission said. "We all have family members and relatives and friends that one way or another worked for the railroad.”

As a lifelong Evanston resident, Davis remembers all the trains that have come through. From the tracks that run through town, to the signs, and even the city's flag, it all points to the railroad.

With announcements over the speakers, people started to line up along the tracks like John Hoffmeister and his family.

"We’ve been out here getting a chance to explore,” he said. "I mean, it's a piece of history. They won't get a chance to see this anywhere else."

With style, Big Boy 4014 made its grand entrance with the crowd cheering and wowing at the behemoth before them.

"It's quite an honor for the Big Boy, the largest steam engine ever built, to be housed here today,” James said.

Hopping off the engine was Ed Dickens, Manager of Heritage Operations for Union Pacific.

In the video below, Dickens gives a tour of the Big Boy cab

big boy ed video

"I mean look at the size of this thing. I mean, this thing is enormous,” Dickens remarked. "The ground shakes, you know. You can feel it reverberating in your chest when that whistle blows. I mean, it is exciting. People are cheering. It's like a festive rock concert type of atmosphere.”

If this was a rock concert, Ed would certainly be the star, with many hoping to pose for pictures and get his autograph as the man behind this machine.



The locomotive measures 132 feet long and weighs 1.2 million pounds, which is as much as three conventional diesel locomotives today.

According to Union Pacific, because of their incredible length, the frames of Big Boy are actually "hinged," or articulated, to allow them to negotiate curves.

The engines measure in at a mighty 7,000 horsepower and can hold 56,000 pounds of coal and 25,000 gallons of water.

4014 specifically rolled off the assembly line in November of 1941 and was manufactured by the American Locomotive Company.


As a special treat, Ed invited FOX 13 News reporter Spencer Joseph up into the cab of Big Boy.

The cab is loud, so it is a little hard to hear but Ed walked us through everything up in the control center of 4014.

Alongside Ed, Jimmy Thompson, the fireman, gets to operate the train.

In the video below, Thompson explains his role on the train

jimmy thompson video


The trip down to Salt Lake is one this train in the 40s and 50s would have often completed

It also offers some picturesque views captured by FOX 13 News viewers.

Watch drone video from FOX 13 viewer Scott Taylor of the grand appearance!

Big boy scott taylor

After making a brief stop in Morgan Utah at their newly refurbished station, it was on to Salt Lake Central Station where a crowd of hundreds was waiting.

"It runs so well, it's like a Swiss watch coming into town.” Ed said about the engine adding, “It’s so graceful and smooth and powerful. You can probably hear the enthusiasm when you talk to us because it's exciting.”

4014 backed into the station, switching tracks to bring the train closer to the crowd, and then pulled in with style.

UTA also pulled in two of their Front Runner Trains to pull alongside the engine to show just how far we’ve come in technology.

Smoothly bringing the train to a halt, and with a blow of the whistle, the crowd erupted into cheers.


So, as the public marvels, and takes all the selfies, each one has a big smile on their face.

“That is perhaps the greatest part of the entire experience for all of us,” Ed said.

That makes all the hard, dirty work that goes into this behemoth all worth it.

"We're all very proud that we can do this,” Ed reflected. “There's a heritage of the Union Pacific, the heritage of our country."

If you missed the amazing machine on July Fourth, it will be back in just a few weeks making a big stop in Ogden to show off even more vintage charm.

Visitors will get the chance to experience the Union Pacific Rail Car which restored baggage car that now serves as a traveling history museum.

On July 20, the train will be available to the public from 10 a.m. until 6 p.m. and then on July 21 from 11 a.m. to 4 pm.