Union Pacific Big Boy No. 4014's Midwestern tour and what the trip means

Posted by Jim Wrinn
on Wednesday, July 3, 2019

Big Boy No. 4014 goes out on the road again next week. It’s the first time for the newly restored locomotive to tour a big chunk of the Union Pacific system, and this time we’ll see a Big Boy in steam in places we don’t associate with a 4-8-8-4: Iowa, Minnesota, and Illinois.

OK, it’s not the rugged west. There are no Wasatch Mountains, Peru or Sherman hills to climb. But this outing does have its attributes. It’s a 30-day, 1,500-mile extravaganza that will see the locomotive visit to Chicago, where UP steam has not been since 2002, and St. Paul, Minn., where UP steam has not been since 2008. 

But that’s not all. Consider these:

• This is a fish out of water story — OK, a very BIG fish — this is. Here we have a UP 4-8-8-4 traveling east of traditional of Big Boy territory (generally defined as Ogden-Green River and later extended to Cheyenne with occasional visits to North Platte, Neb.). Starting in North Platte, it’s a new story for Big Boy legend. People in small towns in Nebraska, Iowa, Minnesota, Wisconsin, and Illinois will talk for years about the day the “really big steam engine” came to town. Some of them will be inspired to go into the business of railroading. 

• It will visit UP world HQ in Omaha for the city’s Railroad Days festival. Hey, all you folks in the office building on Dodge Street, while it’s in town, visit the display site to see what made your railroad the best in the 1940s and 1950s and what will draw the attention of a public today that badly needs to know what a railroad is in the 21stcentury and what it does for them.

• It will pull the second Big Boy excursion in history to benefit the UP Museum in Council Bluffs over the famous Kate Shelley Bridge on former Chicago & North Western tracks near Boone, Iowa. For those lucky 174 passengers, enjoy the ride and know that the rest of us are envious of your day in history. 

• It will travel the former Rock Island Spine Line to Minneapolis. The last public excursion there was 2002 when Challenger No. 3985 made a two-day St. Paul-Kansas City run (I know. I was on board. And yes, it was grand!).  

• It will use BNSF Railway trackage rights to reach Duluth, Minn., and the shores of Lake Superior. Who would have ever imagined this as a destination for Big Boy? While there, the locomotive will preside over a special event at the Lake Superior Railway Museum. I hope to see No. 4014 and the museum’s Missabe 2-8-0 No. 332 side by side. Details here: https://duluthtrains.com/event/festivalofsteam/


For those who photographed No. 4014 on its home turf in rugged Wyoming and Utah on the inaugural run in May, this will be a significantly different journey. Think of it was Big Boy in the Cornfields (That is if you can find any corn — the Midwest’s unimaginably wet spring means that the plant that is normally “knee high by the Fourth of July” this year is ankle high — if farmers have been able to reach their waterlogged fields to plant.)


We will live stream No. 4014’s trip on the Trains Facebook page the following days:  


• July 11, North Platte-Grand Island, Neb.

• July 12, Grand Island-Omaha, Neb.

• July 15, public excursion, Omaha, Neb.-Boone, Iowa

• July 16, Boone-Mason City, Iowa

• July 19, St. Paul-Duluth, Minn., via BNSF

• July 25, Adams-Milwaukee, Wis.

• July 26, Milwaukee-West Chicago

• July 30, West Chicago, Ill.-Clinton, Iowa


We’ll also post videos, blog posts, and news wire items from the trip at www.TrainsMag.com


Enjoy the summer of Big Boy! And don’t forget that our 100-page special issue, Big Boy Back in Steam, and our almost 2-hour DVD of the same name are both available now at 




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