The day when two icons met in Iowa: Big Boy and the electric

Posted by Jim Wrinn
on Tuesday, July 16, 2019

There are certain events that bring dissimilar characters together for brief but unforgettable moments. They give us iconic moments. They give us lasting memories. One of those moments for Train World took place Tuesday in Mason City, Iowa, a place known as the hometown of “Music Man” playwright Meredith Willson and for its Frank Lloyd Wright hotel.

Shortly before 2 p.m., Union Pacific Big Boy No. 4014, traveling on the former Rock Island Spine Line, where no Big Boy has gone before, pulled into town and tiptoed into town across the diamond at Clear Lake Junction and settled for a short visit next to Iowa Traction steeple-cab electric No. 51. The bright orange Baldwin-built electric, just two years shy of its 100th birthday, and the 1941 Alco product must surely have exchanged notes on life as a downpour covered those of us who gathered to witness and record the event. No. 4014 blew smoke. No. 51 quietly hummed. And then, with two short blasts of the whistle, No. 4014 completed its journey from Boone, Iowa, to Mason City. One of the Iowa Traction folks hooped up orders to Dickens as he passed, and then it was over.

Moments later, after the tail car disappeared, the rain stopped, and a group of soggy but very happy enthusiasts departed to dry themselves out and celebrate being there on the day when Big Boy met a Hawkeye  icon under wires that shows no signs of slowing down.


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