Union Pacific Big Boy returns
Union Pacific’s Big Boy No. 4014 will return to the rails this week for a nearly month-long tour of Wyoming, Nebraska, and Iowa as it travels to Omaha, where it will be on display for the NCAA Men’s College World Series in mid-June. Steam fans will have a unique opportunity to see the fabled steam engine in many places during its trek, with multiple service stops and display days built into the schedule.
Union Pacific No. 4014 is a 1941-built 4-8-8-4 steam locomotive known as a “Big Boy,” which was restored to running service beginning in 2013 after spending nearly 60 years on display at the Rail Giants Train Museum in Pamona, Calif. The engine now is part of the Union Pacific Steam program.
This year’s excursion will depart from Big Boy’s current home in Cheyenne, Wyo., and take a week to travel to Omaha, where it will be on display until its return trip to Cheyenne on June 27. Big Boy will conclude its trip in Cheyenne on July 3.
Railfans have a great opportunity during this excursion to get up close and personal with the largest running steam locomotive in the world.
Here is a list of Big Boy’s planned stops. All times listed are local, and all timing is subject to change due to maintenance, train traffic, and unforeseen delays.
Wednesday, June 7
The Big Boy is scheduled to depart Cheyenne at 8 a.m. It will make the 50-mile run to Albin, Wyo., where a 45-minute service stop is planned. The public can view the engine from the Cheyenne Avenue crossing in town. From Albin, the train will continue to La Grange, Wyo., where a short stop from 12-12:15 p.m. is planned before a run into Gering, Neb., with a scheduled arrival of 4:30 p.m. The engine will be staged at Union Pacific Park on 7th Street.
Railfan note: Archer Hill, east out of Cheyenne is a favorite spot to catch working steam locomotives climbing the grade eastbound. Access it off the I-80 frontage road near East Pershing Boulevard. As this is a favorite location, expect large crowds in the area for this experience.
During the service stop at Ablin, Wyo., consider driving north on County Road 162 where the rail line has a series of wide-sweeping curves, including a tunnel with good viewpoints from the roadway.
Thursday, June 8
Departure from Gering, Neb., is planned for 9:00 a.m. for a fast run to Broadwater, Neb. The tracks will parallel Highway 92 for 20 miles, offering close-moving action for those who can catch the train. A 30-minute service stop in Broadwater is planned with an 11:00 a.m. departure.
The highway runs close to the rail line for over 50 miles, from outside Bridgeport, Neb., to Lewellen, Neb. From Lewellen, Highway 92 picks up the railroad for viewing locations continuing east.
In Lemoyne, Neb., Big Boy is scheduled for a 30-minute stop from 12:45 p.m. until 1:15 p.m., with good viewing access right in town. From Lemoyne, the locomotive will depart for North Platte, Neb. Arrival is planned for 4:45 p.m. at East Front Street and North Cottonwood.
Railfan note: During the service stop in Lemoyne, consider heading east a few miles at the Highway 61 overpass or the Highway 30 overpass just east of Sutherland for an elevated view of the locomotive.
Friday, June 9
An all-day viewing is planned at North Platte with no operations.
Railfan note: Be sure to visit the Golden Spike Tower, which offers views of the Union Pacific’s Bailey Yard, the largest classification yard in the world.
Saturday, June 10
With a planned 9 a.m. departure from North Platte, Big Boy will run east along the Overland Route mainline with a 10:30 a.m. stop in Cozad, Neb. No. 4014 will stay here for 45 minutes, then will travel to Kearney, Neb., arriving at 12:45 p.m. for a 30-minute stop.
The day’s final service stop, where the public can view the engine, is at Grand Island, Neb. After a 3 p.m. arrival, the locomotive will be viewable for 45 minutes before it is stored on railroad property overnight with no public access.
Railfan note: U.S. Highway 30 parallels nearly the entire length of the route. Buttermilk Curve, located just east of Brady, Neb., can offer a different view of the passing train from county dirt roads off Highway 30.
Sunday, June 11
Starting from railroad property with no public access at 8 a.m., Big Boy will run east with a 9:45 a.m. stop planned in Columbus, Neb. The locomotive will remain there for 45 minutes with engine viewing from the 26th Ave., crossing.
The last service stop of the day will be at 11:45 a.m. at Fremont, Neb., along South Main Street for another 45-minute break before the final push to Council Bluffs, Iowa, where it’s scheduled to arrive at 3 p.m. There will be no viewing upon arrival at Council Bluffs, as the engine will be on railroad property away from public access.
Railfan note: U.S. Highway 30 continues to follow the line closely east from Grand Island for nearly the entire route.
Monday, June 12 – Tuesday, June 13
The engine will remain in Council Bluffs with no public access or viewing available.
Railfan note: Be sure to take the time to visit the Union Pacific Railroad Museum in historic downtown Council Bluffs, Iowa. The museum has extensive displays illustrating the railroad’s 150-year history.
Wednesday, June 14
Departing from Council Bluffs, Iowa at 7 a.m., the Big Boy is scheduled to arrive in Omaha at 10 a.m., where it will be on display at 12th Street, outside of the Charles Schwab Field, home of the NCAA men’s college baseball championship.
During its Omaha display, the public will be allowed to see the locomotive up close June 15-21 and June 24-25 from noon until 6 p.m. daily.
Tuesday, June 27
After a 9 a.m. departure from Omaha for a run across the Missouri River, Big Boy will arrive in Council Bluffs, Iowa at 11:45 a.m. with no public access available. The Big Boy will hold over at Council Bluffs through Wednesday, June 28 before departing west the following day.
Thursday, June 29
An 8 a.m. departure from Council Bluffs, Iowa starts the trip home west towards Cheyenne with a planned first service stop in Fremont, Neb., at 10:45 a.m. for a 45-minute stop. Departing Fremont at 11:30 a.m. for the final service stop of the day at Columbus, Neb., arriving at 12:45 p.m. for another 45-minute display before arriving at 3:30 p.m. in Grand Island, Neb.
The train will be held overnight at Grand Island with no public access.
Friday, June 30
Departing Grand Island at 9:45 a.m. with a stop at Overton, Neb., at 11:45 a.m. departing at 12:30pm. The last stop of the day in Gothenburg, Neb., will be from 1:30 p.m. to 1:45 p.m. before a 3:30 p.m. arrival in North Platte, Neb., where the train will be on display at East Front Street.
Saturday, July 1
An all-day viewing in North Platte is planned.
Sunday, July 2
Departing at 9 a.m., the Big Boy will travel a different route toward Cheyenne, arriving in Ogallala, Neb., at 9:15 a.m. for a 45-minute stop with a 10:30 a.m. departure. A second stop at Chappell, Neb. from 11:45 a.m. until 12:15 p.m. will allow for viewing at the Vincent Avenue crossing.
A 1:30 p.m. arrival at Sidney, Neb., will position the train for viewing at 10th and Hickory streets, where it will remain overnight.
Monday, July 3
The final run to Cheyenne departs Sidney at 8 a.m. before a short stop in Kimball, Neb., at 9:15 a.m. A longer stop is planned in Pine Bluffs, Wyo. from 10:15 to 11 a.m. at the Main Street crossing.
No. 4014 is slated to conclude the trip in Cheyenne at 12:30 p.m. There will be no public access in Cheyenne.
As with all special railroad excursions, expect delays or issues that will cause arrival and departure times to fluctuate. Follow the Union Pacific Railroad Facebook and Twitter accounts for the most up-to-date information on the location and timing.
Steam excursions draw large numbers of people in both public displays and along the route. Safety on roadways while the train is moving is essential. There are always people wanting to pace alongside a steam locomotive when it’s moving at speed. These exuberant drivers will be distracted by attempting to view the train and drive their motor vehicle at the same time. Regard them with extreme caution.
Always respect private property. This trip will mainly be in rural areas, and you should always be respectful of private property owners. Just because you may see a large group of people standing in a field, do not assume they are on public land. Heeding this may help you avoid a trespassing citation or worse.
Union Pacific has stated key safety concerns about this excursion. They say to stand back at least 25 feet from all railroad tracks. Trespassing on railroad property – including tracks, trestles, yards, and equipment – is strictly forbidden. Never assume tracks are abandoned or inoperative … and always expect a train!
For more railfan safety tips, click here.