Aim beyond 2018. The year of the articulated is ahead

Posted by Jim Wrinn
on Sunday, June 24, 2018

A few months ago, 2018 was looking good for mainline steam. The famous and iconic American locomotives that were going to fill the spring, summer, and fall with smoke and steam -- 261, 611, 765, 844, 4449 -- promised to make this a year to remember. I was expecting to have to choose among trips this fall. Then, Amtrak in March decided to end charter trains, and in a day the year in steam went from grand to grim.

There is a flicker of hope. Milwaukee Road No. 261 announced over the weekend plans for a gourmand train on shortline partner Twin Cities & Western in September (, and Nickel Plate Road No. 765 will return to Chicago on Metra (and conceivably repeat its now annual appearance at Cuyahoga Valley in Ohio) in September ( Union Pacific 844 will pull the sold-out Frontier Days train from Denver to Cheyenne on July 21 and perform a one-way trip (with bus return) as a benefit for the UP Museum in Council Bluffs, Iowa, the following day (tickets are still available for this trip No. 611 says it’s out for the year.

Those of us without a need for immediate gratification ‑- and to be a true steam fan in this day and age, you almost have to be of a patient breed in line for sainthood ‑‑ can take heart in thoughts of 2019. If all goes well, we will experience not one, not two, but three articulated locomotives in operation: Union Pacific Big Boy 4-8-8-4 No. 4014, Chesapeake & Ohio 2-6-6-2 No. 1309 at Western Maryland Scenic, and 2-4-4-2 Skookum on Oregon Coast Scenic (join us: and later at a California location TBA. That’s an incredible show of force. It’s twice as many cylinders, pistons, and sets of drivers. It’s boilers aiming west while the running gear turns north. It is twice the locomotive under one boiler. It’s everything you and I, Mr. or Ms. Steam Fan, hope and dream of.

Yes, two of the locomotives will not be on the mainline, but they are fascinating machines, and of the three, No. 1309, whose restoration restarted recently, will run on a regular basis. So, my steam friends, wait for it: the year of the articulated is just around the bend. Stay strong.


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