How do you move a dead million-pound locomotive? Very carefully.
November 28, 2013 7:24 PM   Subscribe

Much like the animated train in the old Gumby television series, the UP 4014 Big Boy is moving along hopscotched panel track on the first leg of its trip to restoration (previously) at the Union Pacific's Cheyenne Steam shop.

The first attempt to move the 4014 in August left the score at Big Boy 1, Union Pacific Railroad, 0, the attempt moving the 4014 precisely zero inches.

The UP steam crew went back to the drawing boards. There would need to be a little work to move the locomotive, it seemed. After all, it had been sitting in its current location for 25 years.

August 14 - Bearing Inspection

August 15 - Leading truck bearing inspection and lubrication, cab, and rod brasses.

August 21 - The first greasing of the main cranks and side rods

September 3 - Need to remove a main rod on a million-pound locomotive? No problem! (they actually were able to move the locomotive a little bit at this point, to move the side rods to where they needed to be.)

September 6 - Elesco steam injector and oil check valve.

September 9 - Wrist pin and thrust management components. Removed components stored in tender.

September 27 - Steam and water piping, main rod, and sand pipes.

October 2 - Examining the Timken roller bearings on the 14-wheel centipede tender.

November 6 - building a transition to panel track from the sunken track at the museum.

November 8 - Rehabbing and inspecting the rear coupler and draft gear.

After all that work, the 4014 took its first steps recently, moving towards a nearby Metrolink track. It even caught the attention of local news.
posted by pjern (18 comments total) 28 users marked this as a favorite
I work in the freight railroad industry and a lot of the older management types worked their way up from conductors and engineers, not through business school. As a consequence of this, the Class 1 railroads are very slow to change and management has a real love for old pieces of gear. Most of these guys are near retirement age and I'm guessing something like this won't be possible ten years from now when MBA's run everything because they'll be more focused on increasing shareholder value and the company museum will be an afterthought. Kudos to you UP.
posted by Grumpy old geek at 7:48 PM on November 28, 2013 [5 favorites]

It reminds me of a certain novel by China MiƩville.
posted by smrtsch at 8:02 PM on November 28, 2013 [1 favorite]

7-year-old me is squealing as intensely as 34-year-old me.
posted by Theta States at 9:05 PM on November 28, 2013

The Austin Steam Train Association has been attempting to restore a 1916 2-8-2 for the past 13 years. It ran from '91 to '98 & was a sight to behold the couple of times they brought 786 downtown. I miss hearing her whistle, ad hope she gets rolling again soon.

It's a baby next to this beast, though - there's a crazy amount of work ahead of the restorers here-- sounds like a dream job.
posted by Devils Rancher at 9:09 PM on November 28, 2013 [1 favorite]

That's a real thing of beauty.
posted by KokuRyu at 9:11 PM on November 28, 2013

That Gumby short is way too significant a nostalgia trigger.
posted by DoctorFedora at 10:33 PM on November 28, 2013 [2 favorites]

I notice that this post id ends in 4277, which is of course a train.
posted by Phssthpok at 11:19 PM on November 28, 2013 [1 favorite]

posted by pjern at 11:45 PM on November 28, 2013

Pjern's interesting article on How to Boot a Steam Locomotive.
posted by Harald74 at 12:17 AM on November 29, 2013 [10 favorites]

Fantastic post, pjern. I love steam locomotives, and the Big Boys never cease to fascinate me.
posted by Thorzdad at 5:22 AM on November 29, 2013

Recently, Terry Pratchett published Discworld #40, Raising Steam.
posted by mikelieman at 6:52 AM on November 29, 2013 [1 favorite]

People standing by the engine surely have a lot of faith in their large woven tow strap.
posted by hat_eater at 6:53 AM on November 29, 2013 [2 favorites]

That plywood flip-flopping reminds me that 150 years ago they used to lay track across frozen rivers in the winter. (OSHA was less strict then.) "Thub-thub" is more reassuring than "CRACK!!".
posted by Twang at 9:49 AM on November 29, 2013

This is a weird train. Let's get off.
posted by bicyclefish at 11:08 AM on November 29, 2013

Fantastic post, pjern.

That was an amazing read! Sure makes me appreciate the ride on the steam engine I took last summer. I guess you better know what you're doing, or things could get pretty ugly.
posted by BlueHorse at 12:40 PM on November 29, 2013 [1 favorite]

Love steam. Mostly I'm involved with steam traction engines (I'm steering the first engine), but I've managed to get aboard a couple of local steam locomotives. Nice to see another old lady being restored.
posted by jgaiser at 3:24 PM on November 29, 2013

(I'm steering the first engine)

I've driven a couple of those as well, used to go to the Midwest Steam Threshers thing in Iowa. The thing I liked is that the steering mechanism was more like inputting steering suggestions, which might or might not be acted upon by the front axle :)
posted by pjern at 5:39 PM on November 29, 2013 [1 favorite]

@pjern's article on how to boot a steam locomotive just blew my mind. Fantastic.
posted by gkostolny at 8:37 AM on November 30, 2013 [1 favorite]

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