Planning to see the Big Boy in May? Let's talk

Posted by Jim Wrinn
on Monday, March 25, 2019

I meant to comment on UP’s May 2019 schedule for steam locomotives Nos. 844 and 4014, the day it came out. Instead, that was the day we were just ramping up things for Trains’ Skookum Last Dance in Oregon photo charter at the Oregon Coast Scenic Railroad. I was literally standing in front of Polson Lumber 2-8-2 No. 2 in Tillamook, Ore., when word came out. A few minutes later, the engine left in a great cloud of steam. Radian afternoon sun was shining along the Pacific shores. And, well, you know the rest.


Anyway, let’s get back to the UP schedule.


You need to make plans to see this beast. Nobody ever thought this would happen. The engine is steaming on its original territory where it ran 1941-1959. Let me state that in another way, it’s the original cast on the original stage. Understand? Yes, you’ll be able to see it on other parts of the UP system later this year, but why not see it where it made history in the first place? It’s like watching Norfolk & Western No. 1218 on Christiansburg grade or Southern Pacific No. 4449 on the Coast Line. It is oh so right in so many ways.


Besides, you don’t want to be sitting at home while your friends plaster social media with selfies of themselves standing in front of 600-tons of smoldering metal in Green River, Wyo.


So, let’s talk about what’s important.


  1. Make plans today. Hotels will be the first thing to go, and many of the premium brands are sold out, but when I checked this morning, there were still rooms available. Here are the alternative locations if you cannot get into the city where you want to be or the type of lodging that you want:


For Cheyenne, look at Fort Collins, Colo., or Laramie, Wyo.


For Rawlins, look at Laramie or Rock Springs.


For Rock Springs, look at Green River.


For Evanston, Wyo., look at Park City, Utah, or Ogden, Utah.


For Ogden, look at Layton and Bringham City first, then Logan and Salt Lake City second.


Laramie on the eastbound trip is sold out because of university graduation, so you’ll need to book Cheyenne in that direction. I tried, and couldn’t get in.


  1. Carpool if you can. The buddy system still works, and expect the roads and popular viewing locations to be packed.


  1. The skinny on must-have locations:




Sherman Hill will be difficult because the westbound train will be going via Track 3 the Harriman cutoff and most private ranches are posted no trespassing. There is an industrial park at Speer where you can stand beside UP’s fence with a short ladder and get a view of the train sweeping around a curve to the west. They’re also stopping at Harriman. That allows some recovery time.


Peru Hill. Just west of Green River, this one will be loaded with spectators but worth it.


Places that are on railroad or private property that will be off limits: Hermosa tunnels, Aspen and Altamont tunnels near Evanston, and Curvo on Wasatch grade.




Echo Cayon will be packed so pick the I-80 rest stop, the Castle Rock exit, or the top of the grade at Wasatch and plan to shoot there and nowhere else. They all have plenty of room for dozens of spectators, and the rest stop has restrooms and drink machines!


Again, Sherman Hill will be difficult, but the return via track 1 and 2 will make it easier for viewing.


The bottom line: Pick your best shots, go early, and in the immortal words of the late Bill Kratville, the famous UP steam photographer and author (and my wife’s father), once you’ve found a shot you like, stick with it.  Don’t abandon your shot.


See you on the hunt for 4014!




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