Five things you can do right now to see Big Boy No. 4014 in action this May

Posted by Jim Wrinn
on Thursday, January 31, 2019

Welcome to February, the month Union Pacific says it plans to announce its schedule for Big Boy No. 4014’s inaugural run from Cheyenne, Wyo., to Ogden, Utah, and back in May.


Just typing those words is exciting to this old steam fan (first steam experience at age 5 in 1966 with Graham County Shay No. 1926 and Southern Railway 4501) who’s seen a lot of locomotives in steam (from the Tom Thumb and Best Friend of Charleston replicas to UP Challenger No. 3985 and Norfolk & Western 2-6-6-4 No. 1218) but never dreamed this miracle of the West would happen in a million years. For us steam geeks, this is like Christmas eve and the thought of ripping open all those packages in a few hours. To say I am excited is the an understatement bigger than a centipede tender.

But enough about me. Let’s talk about you.

You know you want to see this in person. Many of you have told me so over the last five years. Some of you are traveling to UP land for this from all over the country and from foreign countries. Some of you folks of advanced age have even promised just to stay alive just to witness the spectacle of an operating 4-8-8-4 that hasn’t been available in 60 — yes, sixty! — years. It’s important to be there.

We already know that No. 4014 and 4-8-4 No. 844 are going to be in the spotlight on Thursday, May 9 in Ogden. Nobody is going to do much of anything with those two locomotives while everybody is at the National Park Service site at Promontory Summit on Friday, May 10, Golden Spike anniversary day. So, start thinking of your plan for the Big Boy journey being before and after those days.

When the big moment when the Internet explodes with the full schedule, you’ll want to be ready to make real plans. Here’s a check list of important items you’ll want take care of in advance so you will be ready to join the party.

1. Take care of the home fires. This one is real important, more so, my friends, than if you have a place to sleep at night. So, pay attention. Is Aunt Gertrude’s 87th birthday in early or mid-May? Any kids graduating from college around this time? How will you handle these situations? I hate to even bring it up, but I have to because there’s no way around it or there will be serious problems at home and you’ll be mad at me for not reminding you: Will you take your family with you so everyone’s together on Mother’s Day, Sunday May 12, or send the most bodacious bouquet of flowers with an IOU and tell the kids to take mom out? As always, abide by the “don’t ask grandma for a bicycle at 3 a.m.” rule, which means find the right moment when your spouse or family is most likely to respond positively to the idea of you being gone for the blessed steam event of the century — or invite them to come with you.  

2. Figure out which buddies you want to invite to go with you on this once-in-a-lifetime adventure. Work out now who is going. Who’s driving? Who’s making reservations, etc. Also, be prepared for what you’ll say to your friend who’s annoyed you one too many times on previous trips, who you love like a brother, but don’t want to be trapped with for multiple days on what should be an otherwise pleasurable experience.

 3. Make sure you got a bunch of vacation time and that you can hit the send button with your time off request to your boss as soon as the schedule is out. Does your company need an important report in May? Are they planning a computer upgrade? Figure it out now. Don’t let work get in the way of your steam fun.

 4. Have frequent flier and hotel guest rewards numbers handy. Flights and hotels will fill up. Fortunately, most of the route parallels I-80 so if one city’s hotels are booked, look at the next place 30 miles away. Wyoming and Utah are still the west, but they’re not the wild west they once were.

 5. Remember, if you’re flying in for the westbound trek only, reserve a car in Denver and drop it off in Salt Lake City. Vice versa for the eastbound trek. Don’t waste time with short commuter flights to Cheyenne or Ogden: There will be fewer seats and scarce rental cars in smaller markets.

 That's what you need to do to prepare. If you're not crazy about chasing yourself because you don’t know the territory and the anticipated zoo of chasters, don't worry. We have you covered. Visit, where we are sponsoring the official Trains Magazine Big Boy Chase Bus that includes hotels, lunch, and views of the engine in operation. We’ll have recommendations for the best viewing locations soon. Stick around. Watch Still not crazy about coming out for the chase? No problem. We’ll livestream on Facebook significant portions of the trip. If you do go, keep a sense of humor. Remember this is supposed to be fun. Let's keep it that way. See you trackside!









To leave a comment you must be a member of our community.
Login to your account now, or register for an account to start participating.
No one has commented yet.