The Big Boy, part 6

Posted by John E. Bush
on Wednesday, February 6, 2019

Let’s resume the story of the Big Boy locomotives, going back to the early 1940s. Always interested in economic matters, social trends, industrial doings, and public opinion Union Pacific carefully monitored the media. Subscribing to virtually every important newspaper or magazine in the nation and many foreign countries, specific employees were assigned to comb publications on a daily basis. Today UP also monitors various internet sites.

I’m going to assert here that the 4000s received more publicity than any other newly constructed steam locomotive in this country. Period.

In the trade press magazines such as Railway Age and Railway Mechanical Engineer there were references to the 4-8-8-4s even as 4000 was being constructed. This trickle turned into a flood in the national press the minute photos were available from Alco and the railroad, such was the interest in these engines.

It has been written that Union Pacific found more than 500 press articles about Big Boy. I’m not certain if this figure includes the period after delivery of 4000 or not, but it might. More, I doubt this figure includes the myriad articles and advertising references in the trade magazines noted above, which followed in nearly every issue for two further years. Not only did both Alco and Union Pacific feature the 4-8-8-4s in many articles and speeches but very nearly every single supplier of appliances utilized photos and sometimes descriptions of the Big Boy.

Some of the very earliest articles already referred to the engines as Big Boy. Clearly the famously marked smokebox door on 4000 while still at Alco had struck a nerve in the national press, not merely Union Pacific which, of course, immediately decided this was the logical name for the 4-8-8-4s.

Railway Age and Railway Mechanical Engineer magazines featured large descriptive articles which included construction photos. Most articles in the national press referred to the size and weight, and the 7,000 h.p. boiler. As mentioned above, the locomotive component suppliers associated with construction of the engines immediately began using one or more images of the 4000 in their advertisements which touted the appliances, components, castings or parts the company provided to help build the locomotives. The names of some of these companies may be found in Part 3. Not surprisingly, the American Locomotive Co. made full use of the Big Boy in a line of advertisements.

In the spirit of blogging, how about some questions now?

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