A look at Big Boy's home turf on the eve of No. 4014's return

Posted by Jim Wrinn
on Tuesday, May 7, 2019

WAHSATCH, Utah – While Union Pacific Big Boy No. 4014 laid over in Evanston, Wyo., Tuesday, we went west to explore the original grade for which UP designed these locomotives. We stood at the top of Wasatch grade and then drove Echo and Weber canyons through which it passes in a most model railroad-like landscape. It is a heavy-duty railroad with an abundance of scenic charms – steep canyon walls, red rocks, boulders that seem to defy gravity. The combination is alluring and unbeatable.

The first stop of the day was the summit, where the original 1868-1869 mainline is joined by the second main line built in 1916 to lessen the eastbound grade. A tunnel on the second mainline is here too, retired soon after the Big Boy locomotives came along in 1941 in favor of a deep cut. An original water tank stands here. It no longer holds water but plenty of water is ponding at its base. Once, this was a place to turn helpers, but today, it is a lonely spot on the railroad, a place to stack old ties and for hi-rail maintenance trucks to set down.

Down grade at Castle Rock, we ran into several fans here to see the Big Boy. They’re using they’re day off like we are, to explore and scout. At Castle Rock, we watched an eastbound roll right up the 1.14 percent grade of the new line, an improvement from the original with its 1.72 percent grade.

Echo Canyon remains as impressive as ever. I expect the westbound rest area overlook will be jammed.

From there, we went into the community of Echo, where the Park City branch once split off from the main line, and where the mainline changes to a mostly westward course. There are a few miles before the railroad begins to wind and curve through Weber Canyon and past the 1,000-mile tree, the Devil’s Slide rock formation, and the twin bridges at Taggarts.

The rain was falling after lunch as we left Taggarts Grill and returned to Evanston for the night. We’d witnessed Big Boy territory. Tomorrow, we will witness a Big Boy in its native environment for the first time in 60 years.  

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.