Big Boy
July 30, 2013 6:31 AM   Subscribe

Not this guy. Not this guy, either. It's this little fella.

Union Pacific Railroad has announced that they have reached an agreement to acquire Big Boy #4014 with the goal of restoring her to operating condition. Noted for their combined engine and tender weight of 1,250,000 lbs, Big Boys were widely acclaimed as "the largest steam locomotives ever built". Imagine this, only a third again bigger.
posted by pjern (20 comments total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
 
Sweet.
posted by Thorzdad at 6:39 AM on July 30, 2013 [1 favorite]


Needs trains tag!
posted by cashman at 6:41 AM on July 30, 2013


I wonder what this guy would have to say.
posted by anewnadir at 6:45 AM on July 30, 2013 [1 favorite]


Operating condition!!!! Sweet. I can't even imagine what it would be like to stand next to one of those as it's starting up. The earth must shake.
posted by Elly Vortex at 7:00 AM on July 30, 2013


Weighs 1.25 million pounds, and runs at 60 mph.
posted by Old'n'Busted at 7:15 AM on July 30, 2013


Here's some old documentary footage of a 4-8-8-4 Big Boy in action.

What's the 4-8-8-4 mean? It's Whyte notation for the wheel arrangement of the engine. That's 4 unpowered leading wheels, two sets of 8 driving wheels, and then four unpowered trailing wheels. (Sorry for all the wikipedia links.)
posted by ceribus peribus at 7:26 AM on July 30, 2013


I'm five years old and I love trains. I'm giddy at this news.
posted by notsnot at 8:14 AM on July 30, 2013 [1 favorite]




I'm five years old and I love trains. I'm giddy at this news.


I feel like I've written this story before, but once I was on a Saturday morning errand run and a guy with his, like two year old kid seemed to have the same itinerary as me so we ran into each other a few times - grocery store, deli, womens' clothing store (something for his wife, I assume).

In each store as they entered the two year old would say, "Trains?" and his dad would say, "No trains in here, buddy." And the kid would be quiet and well behaved for the rest of the errand.

Then I ran into them AGAIN at the toy store and the kid said again, "Trains?" just because ALL HE WANTED WAS TRAINS and the dad was like, "yes, here there are trains."

CUTEST EVER.
posted by sweetkid at 8:19 AM on July 30, 2013 [4 favorites]


I'm gonna have to listen to some train songs now.
posted by entropicamericana at 8:22 AM on July 30, 2013


As long as you're not going to listen to some Train songs.
posted by jferg at 9:11 AM on July 30, 2013 [4 favorites]


I'm not a masochist.
posted by entropicamericana at 9:15 AM on July 30, 2013 [2 favorites]


As somebody who occasionally spends time designing user interfaces, this photo completely terrifies me.
posted by schmod at 10:13 AM on July 30, 2013 [4 favorites]


The Union Pacific has kept two steam locomotives in operation out of their Cheyenne, WY shops, a fast passenger train FEF-3 class 4-8-4 and a "Challenger" dual service freight and passenger 4-6-6-4.

Both are from the WW2 era "Super-fleet" locomotives optimized for moving goods and passengers across the American west, and had state of the art super-heaters, single-piece case frames (many tons of steel), roller bearings, and dual exhausts.

After Stephen Lee, the past head of heritage (steam) operations retired from the UP, the program was beset by a few setbacks, the drivers of the 4-8-4 suffered flat spots from poor braking (no longer round wheels), and the current powers that be decided that the Challenger's boiler needed expensive repairs that would sideline it for quite some time.

So one of the donated "Big Boys" is being dusted off and brought back into operation, a serious operation to deal with such massive technology where few original tools and spare parts exist. Also this engine needs to be converted from coal-firing to oil. The massive articulated frame and tender of this engine still push the limits of where this engine will be able to operate.

Time will tell if they can pull it off. The Union Pacific continues to support it's private steam program, a task that requires special talent and resources, one of the only railroads in the world to do so.
posted by nickggully at 11:05 AM on July 30, 2013


nickggully: "The Union Pacific continues to support it's private steam program, a task that requires special talent and resources, one of the only railroads in the world to do so."

I know it makes me giddy so I'm not an unbiased observer, but I think it's smart on the UP's part. Outreach of this sort, which attracts men and boys of all ages and sexes (so to speak) is a wonderful goodwill gesture both to history and to help recruit the next generation of railroad workers.
posted by notsnot at 11:22 AM on July 30, 2013


Since Iowa Interstate was formed in 1984 it doesn't have a a steam heritage to look back on. So, of course the only thing to do was buy a pair of Chinese knock-offs.
posted by ckape at 11:43 AM on July 30, 2013


I love a good steam engine, but that black smoke gives me the pollution shivers.
posted by gjc at 6:42 PM on July 30, 2013


As somebody who occasionally spends time designing user interfaces, this photo completely terrifies me.
posted by schmod


Why? They all work the same- Lefty Loosey, Righty Tighty.
posted by pjern at 10:39 AM on July 31, 2013 [1 favorite]


Great post, pjern.

"... I can't even imagine what it would be like to stand next to one of those as it's starting up. The earth must shake."
posted by Elly Vortex at 10:00 AM on July 30

Bringing a steam engine up to operation temperature and pressure involves hours of careful work, before any earth shakes. The beast creaks and groans and pops and hisses as steam and heat begin to circulate; the boiler expands, the firebox expands, safety valves and throttles and charge lines all chime in with their own moans and shrieks, whenever they need to do so. It's like waking up a bad tempered dragon, so there should be some earth shaking when the thing finally gets under way...
posted by paulsc at 11:33 AM on July 31, 2013 [1 favorite]


Bringing a steam engine up to operation temperature and pressure involves hours of careful work

...as I wrote about back in 1990 or so...
posted by pjern at 12:52 PM on July 31, 2013 [3 favorites]


"...as I wrote about back in 1990 or so..."
posted by pjern at 3:52 PM on July 31

That was a really worthwhile article, pjern. Thanks for linking!
posted by paulsc at 4:50 PM on July 31, 2013


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