• Will we ever see a "big boy" run again?

  • Discussion about the Union Pacific operations past and present. Official site can be found here: UPRR.COM.
Discussion about the Union Pacific operations past and present. Official site can be found here: UPRR.COM.

Moderator: GOLDEN-ARM

  by airman00
I sort of know the answer to this question already, it boils down to money, (and lots of it), but will we ever see a big boy run again? Just curious of your thoughts.
  by kaiserworks
I was watching a show on the history channel about the restoration of a B29 superfortress to flying condition, the Boeing company dedicated part of their Wichita factory and countless man hours to make it a reality. Short of that kind of support from the rr industry, these big steam engines will remain static displays.
  by trainwayne1
I would guess, for the UP, it's a balancing act between cost and public relations value to the company. That, in turn is probably another balancing act between members of the board of directors who are either pro or con about steam. IMHO, I think that the chances may be better on the BNSF are better because of Warren Buffet's pro rail stance, or perhaps if someone can talk someone with the resources of Steve Gates to get involved. That's the kind of major $$$$ it would take.
  by westr
I really doubt it. It's not just the money, but the fact that if you restore it, you need a place to run it. If you restore a B29, you can fly it pretty much anywhere, but there aren't a lot of lines that could handle a Big Boy and that would be open to the operation of one today. Even back in the day, UP only used them between Ogden and Cheyenne, whereas they used Challengers on all their main lines. No musuem or preservation group would expend the effort to restore to operation a locomotive that would be essentially limited to running on mainlines when there are plenty of smaller, more versatile locomotives out there. It would take the direct support of Union Pacific, but since UP already has the Challenger, which can be used across the system and looks very similar to the Big Boy to the point that the general public probably couldn't tell them apart, there's no incentive for them to restore one.
  by trainwayne1
Westr.....I don't doubt what you say at all, but I'm wondering if the way track is built and maintained today for all the higher weights of modern cars and locos, wouldn't there be other lines that a Big Boy could run, especially on a special occasion frequency?
  by slchub
When you say "run", do you mean from a PR point of view, or actual over-the-road operations pulling freight?

I would say you would see one from the "friendly" Were The Big Old Rolling Railroad PR standpoint, but with the costs vs. velocity, maintenance & TE&Y crews to operate, this is one company who will bend over backwards to ensure that 11,000' manifests DPU'ed with one crew remain intact. We (Amtrak #5 & 6) got shoehorned 3 times in one night between Elko and Salt Lake City with no-fitter manifest trains DPU'ed.
  by SemperFidelis
I don't think it is a matter of track standards being robust enough to allow Big Boy operations, but rather one of curvature and clearances being wide enough. I recall reading about the trip the unit located at Steamtown NP in Scranton, PA took from Bellow's Falls, VT when the former operator decided to relocate. Rails on curves were greased to allow passage and parts of the locomotive were damaged while passing through a tunnel. Of course, that's here in the east. The rail system here is much older, is located in more densely populated areas, and is built in challenging terrain with limited space for alternatives.

I don't see it happening...and that's a shame because it would be incredible.
  by John_Perkowski
IIRC Steve Lee made a comment at the time 3985 was returned to service that no Big Boy would be returned to service. The biggest reasons were engineering in nature: Most of the turntables used to turn a 4000 class are gone, and many of the remaining wyes have tighter radii than they did in the steam era.

UP 4004 gave up its stoker augur to the initial rebuilding of 3985. Lord knows what happened to that after she was converted to oil in 1990.
  by Desertdweller
I doubt if we see one of there run again, for the reasons Steve Lee gave.

I live on the UP main line between North Platte and Cheyenne, and, believe me, the track is more than up to it. How do you suppose the engines got to Cheyenne in the first place?

We have the 3985 and the 844 now, plus a few more inactive on the property. They will have to do.

But if any railroad could put the Big Boy back in steam, it would obviously be the UP. They have the capability to do this, and have the best steam program of any Class One.

  by v8interceptor
Back in the late 90's a would be film producer proposed restoring Big Boy 4018 to full operating condition for the filming of an action movie to be entitled "Big Boy". This effort got as far as making an inspection of the locomotive which included moving it on the tracks it was stored on to check the running gear..
Sadly, it turned out the production company "High Ball Productions" didn't have anywhere near the funding to do the restoration (IIRC, there was speculation that it was a scam operation) and the project died a quiet death..

http://www.trainweb.org/jlsrr/bigboy/40 ... 204018.htm
  by Wayside
Do not be surprised if the UP steam program (which is actively restoring a big boy) gets cancelled out some time in the semi-near future.
  by Backshophoss
While that "accident" at Greeley Co,may have put a damper on the steam program,there's a current progress report on the UP 4014 rebuild
in he Sept '18 issue of Trains(pg 60).UP is planning to run 4014 to Ogden Ut,the SD70m that is # 4014 now is due a repaint and renumber shortly.

Figure on a heavy UP Police presence in the future whenever any steam loco is on the move.