Boy Steam Locomotive

After traveling over one million miles across the United States in the span of 20 years, the largest steam-run locomotive will make its comeback to the railroad tracks. 

In celebration of the 150th transcontinental railroad anniversary, the largest steam locomotive, Big Boy No. 4014, will visit Nevada in the middle of “The Great Race Across the Midwest.”

The tour started July 8, and the locomotive traveled through Illinois, Iowa, Minnesota, Nebraska, Wisconsin and Wyoming.

The Big Boy was built in 1941, exclusively for Union Pacific railroad, followed the 4-8-8-4 design, which means the locomotive has four leading wheels guided by eight drivers followed by four more wheels and another set of eight drivers. The locomotive weighed in at 1.2 million pounds and 132 feet long, and the frames were hinged in order to turn safely. 

The locomotive has operated for 20 years and retired in December 1961 after 1,031,205 miles of service. The locomotive has 135,375 pounds of maximum tractive power. 

The Big Boy arrived at Industrial Park Road and Argo Street in Boone on Monday and will head to Nevada at 8 a.m. Tuesday. It is expected to arrive at 11th Street by 9:15 a.m. 

Since the locomotive is one of the only operating steam locomotives, many enthusiasts have followed the Big Boy since its visit to Omaha, including Ames resident, Dennis Todey. 

“It’s an exciting thing because steam locomotives used to be a major part of life that moved people of commerce around the country — it was a big thing for Ames, Nevada and Boone," Todey said. "Boone had three railroads in it, and now that the steam locomotives have gone away and you don't get a opportunity to see them operating nearly as much as you see diesel locomotives operating." 

One of the aspects that makes diesel locomotives more popular is the efficiency, according to the Saturday Evening Post, those that were operated by diesel were more fuel-efficient and could run faster and work longer compared to the steam locomotives.

“It's part of our history, and it's a chance to see part of our history operating," Todey said. "The steam locomotive is a bit different from current locomotive because much of what happens to power the train happens on the outside so you can actually see it operating. Whereas all diesel everything that happens is electronic and it occurs inside the locomotive so there's virtually not much to see." 

During the visit, the Union Pacific will also have an exhibition with multimedia exhibits within one of the locomotive’s rail cars and feature interactive technology. Visitors can learn more about the history of the Big Boy and its evolution at the exhibit.

More information about the schedule of the steam locomotive can be found on the website

Editor's note: An earlier version of this article included an incorrect reference to the Big Boy No. 4014's standing in history and an incorrect operation. The article as since been updated to include the correct reference and the operation of the locomotive. The Daily regrets this error. 

(1) comment

John Buckley

Um, no the description of the Big Boys drive is incorrect. A 4-8-8-4 means there are 4 wheels leading, then 8 drive wheels followed by 8 more drive wheels, then 4 trailing wheels. The report has it as a 4-8-4-8.

Welcome to the discussion.

Keep it Clean. Please avoid obscene, vulgar, lewd, racist or sexually-oriented language.
Don't Threaten. Threats of harming another person will not be tolerated.
Be Truthful. Don't knowingly lie about anyone or anything.
Be Nice. No racism, sexism or any sort of -ism that is degrading to another person.
Be Proactive. Use the 'Report' link on each comment to let us know of abusive posts.
Share with Us. We'd love to hear eyewitness accounts, the history behind an article.