Attention all Rail Buffs…One of the Big Boys is moving to a new home.

After several days of cooking for a large Thanksgiving meal and gathering– poof! It was all over!  And yes, we were able to eat outdoors. Warm and dry, we gathered under the tent, and spent several hours leisurely visiting and sharing family time.

As host, I was running a little too quickly to also function as house photographer. As well, my family is primarily camera-shy when it comes to sharing our experiences more publicly. So I can only give you a little glimpse of how we assembled, but you’ll at least be able to see that we enjoyed the nice warm sunshine.

We extended our outdoor time into the evening around a blazing wood fire. And then do you know what happened? It rained the next day! It was the best of all possible situations.

As busy as we were in the days leading up to the “main event,” we were also closely following a local news story about one of the 25 Big Boy locomotives built exclusively for Union Pacific Railroad in the 1940s.


We are a railroad family. Jay hired out with Southern Pacific Railroad in 1973…40 years later, he continues his career as a switchman for the Union Pacific Railroad.

Big Boy 4014

The Big Boys, with a 4-8-8-4 wheel arrangement, were the largest steam locomotives ever built. Numbers 4000 through 4019 were built in 1941 and five more were added in 1944.

No. 4014, the heaviest single-expansion steam locomotive ever built, was retired in December 1961 and donated by Union Pacific to the Southern California Chapter of the Railway and Locomotive Historical Society, and has been inside the Los Angeles County Fairgrounds since 1962.

No. 4014

There is a great deal of local excitement as Big Boy No. 4014 is once again on the move. Union Pacific reacquired it and is in the process of a massive restoration project with the goal of moving the engine to Cheyenne, Wyoming for use in its Heritage Steam Locomotive fleet.

No. 4014 Wheels

Restoration includes a nearly complete disassembly, an inspection of parts and then re-assembly with restored and repaired replacement parts, including the conversion of fuels from coal to No. 5 fuel oil.

To understand a little bit about how this wonderful old engine is being moved to its final destination, click HERE, and be sure to watch the very brief video. The overall plan is very impressive.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

We watched some of the track being placed in front of No. 4014, a tedious job reminding me of child’s play. A few feet of track…move the engine…place more track…move the engine and pull up the track that’s left behind…this is a BIG job for a BIG engine.

Eight of the original 25 Big Boys still exist. The dry Southern California climate has served to preserve the No. 4014. It is in very good condition.

Notice the size of the engine as compared to this giant tractor.

Notice the size of the engine compared to this giant tractor.

Rail Buffs might be interested in a few specifications of  Union Pacific No. 4014.

  • Total Weight: 600 tons
  • Length: 132 ft. 9.875 in.
  • Fuel: Soft Coal
  • Coal Capacity: 28 tons
  • Water Capacity: 24,000 gallons
  • Steam Pressure: 300 psi
  • Top Speed: 70 MPH
  • Builder: American Locomotive Company, Schenectady, New York

Rail Buffs

It’s an impressive part of American Railway history.

You should see all the “little boys” with their noses right up against the chain-link fence just hoping to catch the moment when “Big Boy” No. 4014 makes a move. I think it’s a little sad it will be leaving us, but the idea that one of these powerful engines will be on the move for the first time in 50 years is really quite exciting, don’t you think?

48 thoughts on “Attention all Rail Buffs…One of the Big Boys is moving to a new home.

  1. Trains and food. Food and trains. I wish I could walk alongside that engine to Wyoming. Might walk off my holiday debauchery.

    Glad the rain held off for your feast. The tent looks like it held up well.

    Looking forward to seeing you and Jay tomorrow.

    • Have you and MTM ever traveled cross-country by train? We have done it a couple of times and I loved being s-l-o-w! it’s tremendously difficult to find that kind of time, but I’d like to do it again. Maybe one of these times we’ll come your way. 🙂

  2. What a perfect Thanksgiving Day for you and your loved ones. I think that having that canopy is such a clever idea and makes the occasion feel special.. and handy if it ever rained. I’m so glad your weather held out for you all, Deb! Those trains looks incredibly heavy, I can just imagine the amount of work moving it. Would they ever connect with existing tracks to get it going faster? xx

    • It’s been delightful to see so much excitement around these steam engines. These “Big Boys” are such a link to the past. I’m thrilled with the idea it is being restored. Thank you for your interest, too, Rob.

  3. Glad Thanksgiving was dry after all! I love old steam trains and in the UK we occasionally take a trip on a short line where one has been restored as a tourist attraction. There are quite a few dotted around the UK, but Germany doesn’t seem to have the enthusiasts dedicated enough to restore them. Have never seen one this big though!

    • I wouldn’t have known a thing about this large steam engine if it weren’t for all the recent publicity, Cathy. I don’t think too many people did! My husband works with several men who are the true enthusiasts, and they’d been keeping us informed. I’m glad we had the chance to get a glimpse. 🙂

    • Charlie you would just laugh at our very traditional Thanksgiving meal. I would do absolutely anything (and I’ve tried) to change the dishes and do something just a bit more elevated, but my family demands the old favorites. Nothing varies from year to year to year to year…can you hear my consternation? LOL! The truth? I hardly eat…it’s just not my favorite food at all, but even though all of that is true, I’m tremendously grateful for my family, and if they are having a good time with frozen green beans and Costco rolls, it’s all okay with me. A nephew did make three very good pies from scratch! I was quite excited about that! I read blogs such as your own to dream of wonderfully catered affairs. Hahaha! (The weather was perfect!)

    • Our family Thanksgiving meal is very basic and extremely traditional. I do not come from a family of foodies. LOL! But the weather was perfect and everyone stayed until quite late. As long as we are together we seem to have a good time. I hope you, too, had a lovely Thanksgiving, Meg.

    • Hansi, I was enjoying the conversation at the fence, with so many men (mostly) discussing their love of trains. Some had been out to the fairgrounds every day for the week prior, just hoping they’d see the engine move a few feet. There is something very nostalgic that seems to hit home with trains, and I’d think your old Lionel trains would certainly bring out the child in you–we need that from time to time! 🙂

    • Wasn’t that something about the rain coming in on Friday, Nancy? By Wednesday we’d been told there wouldn’t be any rain at all, so I felt a little guilty crabbing about the possibility of Thanksgiving showers! But we got the best of both. My family is so camera-shy! I think it’s kind of funny….and it may be “funnier” that at my age I still worry about upsetting them. LOL!

  4. I’ve always loved trains. When I lived in England in the early 1960s those trains were still in service there, puffing out their black smoke all over the country side. And now I live in a railroad town, loving it. Thanks for sharing this, I had no idea about this magnificent engine being moved.

    • We love trains, too, Inger. I’ve traveled across country by train twice, and I’d love to do it again. There is something very nostalgic that comes over me, and I think I also respond to s-l-o-w! Often it’s just too slow to be practical, but I would love to do it again. I wouldn’t have known about this particular engine except my husband has friends who have been following it closely. I couldn’t believe how huge it is, and the fact they’re going to retrofit it with the current EPA standards and safety features needed today is no small undertaking. I’m glad I could share it with you. 🙂

  5. I was so thrilled to read about the Big Boy restoration a few weeks ago. I fondly remember seeing him at Fairplex.

    Of course (being from a railroad family) I have great memories of chasing and seeing (and hearing and feeling) other restored steam locomotives that have come through southern California on excursion trips at times in the past. But I never thought I’d see another one restored and running, much less THIS one. I’m also very glad that my dad is still around to enjoy the restoration process. My brother is keeping him well informed of all the details I haven’t had time to follow.

    From here forward I think I’ll pay closer attention. Thanks for the reminder!

    • I think it’s great that your dad is being included in the story of the Big Boy’s restoration, Lori. I wish it were possible for him to see it! One thing that isn’t yet clear to us is the plan for a multi-state tour. As we understand it now anyway, there is a goal to take it out on the rails before it is permanently moved to Wyoming. Let’s follow that itinerary if it’s published, and wouldn’t it be great if he could just get a glimpse. These old steam engines are so nostalgic even for those of us who didn’t really grow up in that era. I can only imagine for your dad. I’ll put Jay on some of that discovery. He’s interested, but he has a few friends that can’t get enough! They’ll know! 🙂

  6. Hi Debra on this Sunday morning, thank you for your thoughtfulness. We would love to be with everyone one year. It sounds great. Count me in for bringing pumpkin pies. I love to make them!!! Love, Kathy

    • The Big Boy engine is just so huge! Prior to seeing it I didn’t really have a concept that anything that size was ever pounding down the tracks. And you’re so right…as I stood at the fence I thoroughly enjoyed the discussion taking place around me. There were men and women (mostly men) spouting facts and figures, dates and details I couldn’t imagine knowing. They were such enthusiasts! It was delightful to feel their total exhilaration. 🙂 I hope we hear more about how the locomotive makes it’s journey to Cheyenne.

  7. Interesting post! I’ve emailed the link to this post to my longtime blogbuddy Barefootheart, whose husband is a rail buff.
    Big Boy 4014 reminds me of the satellite I saw through my binoculars once; it resembled a silver soda pop can.

    • Oh my goodness! Now I want to know about the satellite you saw. That had to be cool! Your blogbuddy Barefootheart is in good company, I think. Some of the rail buffs that I know either through my husband or blogging really “know their stuff.” I’m amazed at what they absorb and can recite in facts and rail history. This Big Boy was just a beautiful locomotive from the past and I really enjoyed it thinking of the history it represented. Thank you for stopping by and for sharing the post with your friend. 🙂

  8. Pingback: Private Conversation | The Accidental Cootchie Mama

  9. Glad to know your sweat, careful consideration, anxiety, and lots of prepations paid off. I was sure you’ll be a great host, and an event photographer at that. Boy! How lucky they are. It might be useless to ask. Have you gone to Philippe’s The Orginal in Chinatown? They have a very little railroad museum in the back.

    • You know what? I have been to Philippe’s, but not in recent years, and I had no idea there was a railroad museum in the back! Thank you for telling me. I said the other day that we should go have a French Dip…(specifically so I could blog about it! LOL!). My husband’s entire railroad career has been in Los Angeles, so maybe he knew about the museum, but I didn’t! Very cool!

  10. Wow, now there’s a locomotive that lives up to its name! I love seeing some of the preserved locomotives in the UK, though I’ve never sen one this size. Tjhere’s something so nostalgic about the sound of them and the smell of the smoke. 🙂

    So glad you had a lovely Thanksgiving gathering, Debra. Those blue skies and short sleeves look marvellous to me as I sit here, swathed in layers of winter clothing. 🙂

    • I haven’t had too much exposure to the steam locomotives, Perpetua, except in some railroad museums. The lore and excitement that comes with the idea that this one is being preserved is really exciting, although they are converting it from steam to motor oil. At first I wondered if they couldn’t just keep ONE that still operated by steam, but that isn’t the plan. It is a gorgeous HUGE engine, though. I am delighted to know it will have a good home, and eventually be used as part of a very elite fleet of engines that will pull private cars. Wouldn’t that be wonderful to be one of those “elite” for a day. 🙂

  11. So glad your Thanksgiving gathering went as perfectly as you’d hoped, with Mother Nature’s full cooperation! That would be exciting to see one of the big rails moving after 50 years; I’d probably have my nose up to the fence as well for such a historic occasion. 🙂

    • I do wish we could be at the point where the Big Boy meets the Metrolink line and begins on its homeward journey! I’m sure there will be a lot of press and some community fanfare, but we probably won’t be able to get that close! I hope to get some news footage, and if I do, I will be sure to share. 🙂

  12. I don’t claim to be a train expert in the least, but I have to say, I do enjoy seeing old train cars. I’ve had the chance to ride in a few steam trains and it’s always so exciting. Mr. N would love this too. He’s a big history buff. I’m so glad you all enjoyed a beautiful Thanksgiving together. The photo of all the hands at the table made me happy and reminded me of our old family Thanksgivings. 🙂

    • I haven’t had much exposure to steam engines and yet I so appreciate the history connected. It’s wonderful that Mr. N has a love of both history and the trains, since as you well know, there are so many ways that the railroads created the infrastructure to our country. I grew up in a railroad family, yet for some reason have only recently become more interested. I have said over and over that it’s a shame I didn’t ask my grandfather more questions! We thought of him when we went to see this particular engine, and knew he’d have been enthralled! I hope you had a lovely Thanksgiving, Kristy. I was so happy to have a full table. Some years we are a bit “divided up” between homes, but this year it worked out for more of us to be together. It’s a blessing when that happens! ox

  13. I am finally getting around to reading all that has piled up after a busy week, Debra, and realized I had missed this post.

    How grand it is that you had your Thanksgiving outdoors, on such a beautiful day, and then the rains came the next. I enjoyed sitting here, viewing you warmth and hospitality through the sturdy limbs of that marvelous tree.

    Union Pacific. Known well in these parts as well. The station I chugged into when I take the train downtown is non other than Union Station. How fascinating it is to watch these rails being laid. Can you imagine seeing them laid the first time, when the west was opening up because of rail travel? There is a railroad club and museum in an unassuming place above one of my favorite coffee shops in Elmhurst, the town we used to live in. They meet on Sundays. We would see mostly men going up the stairs, and, because it is right across from the tracks, we would often see photographers setting up their tripods and staking their territory for an old engine that was scheduled to go by. I loved watching them – as I loved reading this.

    • I am glad you didn’t miss this post then, Penny, since you have an appreciation for these old engines! I grew up in a railroad family but for some reason didn’t have a lot of interest until a very few years ago. On a very basic level I knew the role of the railroads connecting across the country and of course, with Henry Huntington, Stanford and others being big names here in California, I could spout a few facts, but I didn’t connect a lot of the dots! It’s been recently that I’ve started to think I have some major catching up to do!

      I took a train from Chicago home one time! I remember the train station very well. Some day I’d like to reverse that trip…and when I do, you know I’ll be calling you! 🙂

  14. I don’t care how far into the Future you travel, there will be train enthusiasts there waiting for you. That “link to the past” will only grow stronger as time passes, Debra. Those Big Boys were massive engines, weren’t they? It must have been something to see one barreling down the tracks. I bet the earth moved …well, shook a little.
    It looks and sounds like you had a wonderful Thanksgiving and how wonderful that the weather gods were kind. Living here, I know what it’s like when they get nasty. 😉

    • I would love to learn more about the history of the railroads and these wonderful World War II vintage steam engines, John. I think most of us have a real connection to the power of these beautiful engines. I wish I’d had the maturity to have asked my grandfather more questions. He retired from the Southern Pacific in the late 60s and had some wonderful stories collected over his long railroad career. I understand that there will be some kind of tour of this big engine before it is finally housed in Cheyenne. We’ll try to find out more about it. It’s very possible it will make a stop in Chicago!

  15. Yes, we DID have glorious Thanksgiving Day weather indeed! And as you say, it rained the next day…and got cold! I loved your end shot of your table and food (with the delicious looking brew on the left)! Such excellent photography from the host! As for the Big Boy… all I can say is that is one HUGE crescent wrench!

    • You noticed that crescent wrench, Koji! I’m glad you did. The men working on the railroad track were using some of the most interesting tools. Ordinary and recognizable, but very large. And then they just worked together with such precision. I enjoyed watching the cooperation! Thank you for stopping by to say “hello” and I hope you are enjoying this festive season, too. 🙂

  16. Debra – apologies for not commenting earlier on this. What a wonderful beast of a machine 🙂 It’s great to see Americans taking pride in their railroad history. She’s a lot bigger than our largest locomotives (mainly because our loading guage is smaller). It’s always interesting to compare notes regarding speeds and loads – the Big Boy could shift huge loads but its top speed is somewhat lower than those expected in the uk. My pride and joy of UK steam is the Duchess – a real pocket battleship of a machine. The full capacity of its boiler (inclined within the frames to keep it inside the loading guage) was never realised because no human fireman could provide the required amount of coal! Sounds like they had the same issue with the Big Boy 😉

I always enjoy hearing from you!

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.