News & Reviews News Wire Big Boy’s Home Run Replay (with video)

Big Boy’s Home Run Replay (with video)

By Lucas Iverson | July 19, 2023

Rare miles and helper service highlights Union Pacific No. 4014’s tour to the NCAA World Series

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Big Boy steam locomotive rounds curve on a sunny day.
Union Pacific Big Boy No. 4014 rounds a curve on the Yoder Subdivision between Egbert and Albin, Wyo., on June 7, the first day of the 2023 Home Run Express. Kevin Gilliam

CHEYENNE, Wyo. — Union Pacific’s Big Boy No. 4014 made its 2023 debut in June and July with the Home Run Express to the NCAA Men’s College World Series in Omaha, Neb. Though a tradition for the Class I railroad to showcase its various equipment at the 12th Street display site outside Charles Schwab Field, this year’s honor was given to the massive 4-8-8-4 in its very first attendance to the sporting event since the 2019 restoration.

In a nearly month-long tour filled with unique highlights, the locomotive performed very well, according to Austin Barker, Manager – Heritage Fleet Union Pacific. “We always try to keep it in top operating condition,” he explains. “It’s almost like new every time we take it out.

“It’s a very reliable locomotive, built well, designed well, and we got a great team that keeps it maintained to a standard.”

Big Boy steam locomotive approaches tunnel.
As part of the rare mileage over the Yoder Subdivision, No. 4014 approaches the Yoder Tunnel just north of Albin on June 7. Kevin Gilliam

The highlight of the eastbound tour took place right out of the gate after No. 4014 departed the UP steam shops in Cheyenne, Wyo., on June 7. At Egbert, Wyo., the train diverged onto the Yoder Subdivision for a rare-mile jaunt to Gering, Neb., before rejoining the transcontinental main line west of North Platte the following day. “Stuff you wouldn’t expect to see in the Wyoming/Nebraska area is a tunnel [Yoder Tunnel] out in the middle of nowhere,” said Barker. “It was isolated, peaceful, serene-type scenery, and having this huge locomotive that really wouldn’t have ever gone up there during regular service, it was unique taking it up that way.”

Of course, no one can talk about the tour without mentioning the morning of June 29 in Blair, Neb. Departing Council Bluffs, Iowa on the return trip to Cheyenne, the steam crew was contacted by the UP dispatch to see if assistance was possible with a stalled westbound manifest ahead of No. 4014. In an opportunity that set the online world buzzing, the Big Boy’s power was tested by pushing the freight train up Blair Hill with the sights and sounds Barker described as incredible.

“To put that kind of a load on the locomotive that it would’ve seen in regular service,” he said, “it was a highlight because we put so much time and effort to have it perform so well.”

— YouTube video contributed by Oliver Brehm.

According to Robynn Tysver, Union Pacific Spokesperson, an estimated total of 52,000 people came out to see the Big Boy during the entire tour. Of the total, approximately 30,000 visited the locomotive at its World Series display site during the June 15-26 stay. The attendance demonstrates the continual public-relations value of the railroad’s steam program and the goodwill presented by both Nos. 4014 and 844.

Even with the 2023 Home Run Express tour concluded after the train arrived back in Cheyenne on July 3, the work continues with thorough maintenance, inspections, and improvements to prepare the locomotive for its next assignment. “What we do when we come back from a trip is that it takes about seven days for the boiler to cool off,” Barker explains. “We’ll then completely drain it, go a bit further by taking apart every steam valve, and perform a boiler wash in association with a 31-day inspection by the Federal Railroad Administration.

“This will sometimes roll into an annual inspection, which goes even deeper with the locomotive and tender separated to inspect the drawbar and everything else rolled into it. It’s a lot of maintenance, but the way we do things, No. 4014 is almost like new every time we roll it out and even better than when we first rolled it out in 2019.”

Announcements, updates, and schedules for future trips can be found by visiting Union Pacific’s Steam website.

9 thoughts on “Big Boy’s Home Run Replay (with video)

  1. Normally the air would be cut in and the brake valve cut out on the helper locomotive so the head engineer would have control of the brakes. I don’t know what air pressure they run on this train though.

  2. Union Pacific Big Boy No. 4014 is truly a magnificent marvel of a machine to see, to photograph and to film while it is rolling down the shining rails.

    Dr. Güntürk Üstün

  3. The air is always handled from the front. So it would be cut through and the 4014 would be in following mode (or what ever the proper name is.) acting as a regular car.

  4. Any information about the manifest stalling? Under powered?
    If this happened in the past they’d just back east to the level stretch behind them and then make a run for it depending on what other issues there may have been.
    A lot of options with sidings a short ways ahead or wait for next westbound It is a problem with this area being single track over the Missouri river..

  5. During World War II Union Pacific operated some of the most modern and powerful steam locomotives ever built. Among them were the famous “Big Boys,” the largest steam locomotives in the world. Working with them were the “800-class” high-speed passenger locomotives, as well as hundreds of older class steam engines. Union Pacific’s steam legacy continues today with the preservation and operation of its historic fleet – No. 844 and No. 4014.

    Dr. Güntürk Üstün

  6. What a legendary locomotive! What a legendary design! What a legendary team! What a legendary performance! What a legendary rail passion!

    Dr. Güntürk Üstün

  7. A few questions on the mechanics of the shove up the hill – 1. When the manifest stalls, is it necessary to set a percentage of handbrakes after a certain time, or can the locomotives keep the car reservoirs charged without releasing the train brakes? 2. When 4014 couples on, is the air cut in through the entire manifest-4014 train, or not? 3. (related question) Once moving, does each respective engineer control the air on his portion of the train, or is it all handled from the head end, with radio advice to 4014?

    1. In thinking about #3, the air must be divided, because the passenger train would be running at 110psi, an the freight at something less. 90?

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