On the road with No. 4014, Grand Island-Omaha

Posted by Jim Wrinn
on Saturday, July 13, 2019

OMAHA, Neb. – Big Boy No. 4014 is in residency today at UP’s Homeplate display outside the baseball park where the College World Series is played. Even at this early hour for a weekend, crowds are already making their way into the display for the city’s Railroad Days festival. Late Friday we watched No. 4014 and its canteens, backup diesel and three tool cars arrive, link up with their passenger train, and take a zig-zag route across downtown to reach this location. It was the end to a long day for the crew, but it provided some great glimpses of this gentle giant in territory far from traditional Big Boy operating territory.

Some notes from Fridays trek from Grand Island to Omaha:

*The ageless friction between iron horses and horses made of flesh and blood continues. Just outside of Grand Island, Neb., on Friday, Big Boy sent a small herd running in a pack when engineer Ed Dickens started blowing a grade crossing signal on the whistle. We watched this struggle continue. 

*A steam locomotive still brings out a crowd, especially in small town America. The employees at the Case and John Deere dealerships all stop what they’re doing and turn out. Old men in pickups gather with their dogs at the end of dirt roads and U.S. 30. Dads still put their kids on their shoulders so they can get a better look. People still want to stand at the pilot steps for their portrait with these machines. For proof, see pictures of the crowds in Central City, Columbus, or Fremont, all stops along the way.

*If you work hard enough, you can still work one of the last stretches of the original Lincoln Highway with brick pavers into the view at Elkhorn, Neb., on the western outskirts of Omaha. 

*There are still a lot of UP employees in headquarters city for whom the company’s commitment to its history and its use of the steam locomotive as a public relations tool is a point of pride. They came out to give their heroes in the steam shop at Cheyenne a warm welcome. It’s great to see people who are in the railroad business because it is a railroad.

* The homeplate display site is well illuminated at night and makes for an easy night photo session. Take advantage of it. Enjoy! 


We’ll live stream on Trains’ Facebook page No. 4014’s journey from Omaha to Boone on Monday and from Boone to Mason City on Tuesday and from St. Paul to Duluth next Friday. Meanwhile, if you need more Big Boy, be sure to pick up Big Boy Back in Steam, our 100-page special issue, and the almost 2 hour DVD of the same name at www.kalmbachhobbystore.com/shopbigboy



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