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Union Pacific Big Boy

Image of IAN GARNHAMIAN GARNHAM looks at this enormous US Steam Locomotive.


A locomotive that I’ve always been fascinated by, if only by its sheer size, is the Union Pacific 4000 Class Big Boy. They were built between 1941 to 1944 and with its 4-8-8-4 wheel arrangement it was the largest most powerful steam locomotive ever built.

Union Pacific Big Boy.
This image shows the full scale of the Big Boy.

Constructed by the American Locomotive Company, the 4000 Series were built over this three-year period for the purpose of hauling heavy freight over the terrain of the route through Cheyenne and Wyoming. Sometimes the trains were a mile in length and anything up to and in excess off one hundred freight cars. All this at a steady 35 to 45 mile an hour.

The nickname came from an unknown workman who chalked 'Big Boy'' on the front of the engines smoke box door and the name stuck.

At over 132 feet in length, the Bog Boy had a top speed of 85 miles per hour - though probably not when hauling freight cars! A total of twenty-five were constructed and the last revenue run was in 1951. By 1961 the whole class had been pensioned off, but fortunately eight were saved from the scrap man and live on in preservation around the US.

Restoration work to 4014's cab.
Restoration work to 4014's cab.

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In 2013 Union Pacific Railroad decide to return one to full working order and 4014 was reacquired by Union Pacific for this prestigious honour. Work started on the mammoth task of return it to traffic. This was completed very recently and has been flexing its muscles around the Union Pacific network alongside FF-3 Class 4-8-4 number 844. This double act has been drawing in crowds from near and far, some never experiencing a steam locomotive in action before, let alone the biggest!

This year marks the 150 anniversary of the US Transcontinental Railroad being completed and the Big Boy will be playing an active part in the celebrations.

HR2753 Union Pacific Big Boy.

You will soon be able to own your own HO Scale working model of the Big Boy from Hornby International under the Rivarossi banner. HR2753 is available to pre order now.

If you prefer to build your own, Revell make a HO Scale static model kit; under part number RL02165.

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