Railroad enthusiasts (train nuts as many like to be known) from Iowa and across the Midwest flocked to central Iowa last week to catch a glimpse of the world’s biggest steam locomotive.
Big Boy No. 4014, weighing in at 1.2 million pounds and stretching 132 feet, made its presence known in Boone Monday afternoon, July 15, as it steamed across Kate Shelley Bridge west of town.
The huge locomotive slowly rolled across Boone pulling a train of 15 cars, including four domed rail cars filled with paying customers, who had boarded in Omaha, Neb.
After unloading passengers, Big Boy rolled to the east part of Boone, where it spent the night. Following a late start the next morning, the train made its way to Ames and then to Nevada for a brief stop.
Soon, Big Boy had switched from an easterly to a northbound direction, and would eventually spend Tuesday evening in Mason City before traveling into Minnesota the next day.
Big Boy’s journey is part of Union Pacific’s observance of the 150th anniversary of the transcontinental railroad’s completion. This event also marks the time when two steam locomotives met nose-to-nose and the last spike (a golden one) was driven to complete the project.
Big Boy No. 4014 has undergone extensive restoration. Of the 25 Big Boys built in the 1940s, No. 4014 is the only one still operating. Before being originally retired in 1961, it had traveled more than a million miles.
Plans call for Big Boy to return to Iowa July 30, when it chugs into Clinton after touring Minnesota, Wisconsin and Illinois. July 31 will find it stopping at the Elkhart Main Street crossing at approximately 2 p.m. for a 15-minute rest. It will then proceed to Des Moines, where it will be on display from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Aug. 1.
The train will leave Des Moines at 8 a.m. Aug. 2 and arrive in Boone at around 10:30 a.m. Big Boy is set to arrive in Carroll at 12:30 p.m. It will make its last Iowa stop at Woodbine before continuing on to Omaha, arriving at approximately 6:45 p.m. Aug. 2.
Six days later it will steam into Cheyenne, Wyo., to complete the 150th anniversary observance.