Rochelle Railroad Park: Union Pacific Big Boy steam train # 4014

Sarah Kanas, Staff Writer

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Tains. We see different kinds wherever we are. Some are trolly cars, some are diesel locomotives. But the one of the popular types of trains we see in books and train videos are steam locomotives.

One of the biggest steam locomotives that became the main attraction to many rail fans today is the Union Pacific Big Boy # 4014.

The Union Pacific Big Boy came to Visit Rochelle IL on July 30th, 2019. There were 3,000 people flocking at the Rochelle Railroad Park to see it and take pictures of it. The main reason why the Big Boy returned to the mainline in operation condition is not just for railfans to see, but the celebrate the 150th anniversary of the completion of the Transcontinental Railroad through six states. Those six states are Illinois, Iowa, Minnesota, Nebraska, Wisconsin and Wyoming (www.saukvalley.com).

 

The Union Pacific Big Boy was built around November of 1941 by the American Locomotive Company of Schenectady, New York. The massive steam engine was the only operating BIg Boy steam engines of the eight BIg Boys in existence until it retired from service in 1951.

In late 1961, the Big Boy was donated to the Railway and Locomotive History Society and put on display in Fairplex in Pomona, California.

After being silent and still in Fairplex, the steam engine was reacquired by the Union Pacific company and launched to restoration project at the Steam Shop in Sheyenne, Wyoming in 2013.

In May 2019, the Big Boy was restored and returned to the mainline for the first time in more than fifty-nine years.

During that time, the steam engine joined another restored steam engine called Union Pacific # 844 in excursion service and returned to Cheyenne on May 19th (en.wikipedia.org).

 

Today, the Big Boy is said to return to South California and take passengers on a Southern California excursion which is scheduled for October from the twelfth to the thirteenth of this year. For more information, visit railgiants.org/bigboyexcursion or the union pacific website online (up.com/heritage/steam/schedule).

 

The experience I had with the Union Pacific Big Boy 4014 was an amazing experience at the Rochelle Railroad Park and the highlight of my summer. It all started on July, 30th, 2019; which is the very day the iron horse would arrive in Rochelle, IL.

I traveled to Rochelle with a friend of my dad and we found a parking space somewhere in town. We then took a bus to the Rochelle Railroad Park and found a spot in the parking lot that is at a safe distance. There, I took some time to set up my video camera on a tripad with the help of my dad’s friend.

Out of nowhere came the sound of a long and loud horn from a diesel engine. A long freight train passed by at the time the Big Boy 4014 was supposed to be coming at.

The horn was so loud that I had to cover my ears, but I knew that the engineer had to blow the horn; because the railfans and other people were close to the tracks and safety around trains is a must when it comes to seeing something special on the rails.

The freight trains was not only loud, but it traveled at a slow speed and there was an diesel engine in the middle helping six diesel engines up front with the long and heavy load. it went on and on until it finally disappeared in the distance.

Finally, the Union Pacific Big Boy 4014 steam engine arrived at the Rochelle Railroad park thirty-five minutes later. The sound of the whistle was so epic that I couldn’t help but cheer with joy and happiness. Even some railfans were excited.

I took seven videos and took some pictures of the steam engine as it came into Rochelle and was brought to a forty-five minute stand still.

As much as I worried for my safety around trains, I got up close and personal with the Big Boy despite the fact that there were so many people on the tracks that I had to step through the crowd with both excitement and fear running through my head.

I finally managed to get a good picture of me with the locomotive and to quickly head back to the spot where my dad’s friend was waiting. After forty-five minutes of visiting, the Union Pacific Big Boy # 4014 left Rochelle Railroad Park and continued on its way to Iowa.

Afterwords, my dad’s friend and I took a bus back to the spot where we park and he took me to the Hub City Senior Center; which is where I volunteer to help out on Tuesdays and Thursdays during the summer.

 

Seeing another steam engine in the present year today is so amazing that I couldn’t help but smile when I hear the whistle of the Union Pacific Big Boy. Some rail fans call it the “King of Steam”, but I called the “Iron Horse”; which is a name inspired by a song called “Iron Horse” by an music artiest named Christie.

Although I had seen the Big Boy for a short time during the summer, I’ll still have the pictures to look at and the seven videos to watch. I will never forget that massive steam engine and how historic the experience I had turned out to be rememberable and amazing.

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