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Original Big Boy tender to be restored by Railroading Heritage of Midwest America

By Cate Kratville-Wrinn | May 13, 2022

Project announced at UP Historical Society meeting will allow current tender to be rejoined with Challenger No. 3985

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Man speaking at podium with smiling man standing to his right
Man speaking at podium with smiling man standing to his right
Steve Sandberg, president and chief operating officer of Railroading Heritage of Midwest America, announces plans to restore the tender for Big Boy No. 4014 as UP’s Ed Dickens looks on. (Cate Kratville-Wrinn)

CHEYENNE, Wyo. — Railroading Heritage of Midwest America will restore the tender for Union Pacific Big Boy No. 4014, the Union Pacific Historical Society learned Thursday at its annual meeting.

Restoration of that tender will allow the tender currently used by the Big Boy to be rejoined with its original locomotive, Challenger No. 3985, which the RRHMA is planning to restore.

Steve Sandberg, president and chief operating officer of RRHMA, outlined the tender project as part of a separate agreement with UP, which last month donated the Challenger, a 2-10-2, and other equipment to the Midwest group [see “Railroading Heritage of Midwest America, Union Pacific agree …,” Trains News Wire, April 28, 2022].

The tender for No. 4014 was used for coal firing and needs to be converted to support the engine’s conversion to oil firing, which came during the restoration that returned it to operation in May 2019. Since the Challenger had already been converted when it was restored to operation in 1981, UP used that tender to save time in working to meet the Big Boy’s restoration deadline.

The tender to be restored was originally paired with Big Boy No. 4015. It was common in the steam era for tenders to be changed out between engines.

7 thoughts on “Original Big Boy tender to be restored by Railroading Heritage of Midwest America

  1. Awesome to marry the correct tender to the locomotive. It is the way I would also do it. Good work Steve and Ed.

  2. 3985’s tender holds 25,000 gallons of water. That model of tender was used on the 4884-2 Big Boys 4020-4024.

    4014’s tender holds 24,000 gallons of water. That model of tender was used on the 4884-1 Big Boys 4000-4019.

    Tenders were swapped between Big Boys, Challengers, and Northerns quite frequently, in particular the FEF-2 and FEF-2 Northerns.

    There are also pictures out there of FEF-1 Northerns hauling pedestal tenders instead of their original 6-wheel-trucked tenders.

  3. The Challenger’s tender wasn’t converted to oil when restoration to operation concluded in early 1981.

    She returned to service as a coal burner, helped along significantly by the discovery of a forward conveyer auger off a modern UP steamer in the weeds at Cheyenne’s DPW (The 3985’s was missing, cannibalized to keep another UP steamer running in the last days of regular steam operation). It had been rescued from the scrapyard in the early 1960’s by the city of Cheyenne that had envisioned using it to create a post hole digger.

    Conversion to oil firing came at the end of the 1980’s during the winter of 1989/1990, and included extracting the oil tank from the tender of preserved Challenger 3977 in North Platte. There’s a news picture in the May 1990 issue of Trains showing the lowering of the 3977’s tank into the 3985’s tender, in January 1990.

  4. 3985 as a coal burner was notorious for cinders setting lineside fires. I suspect when they were in regular service, everything that could burn had long since done so. I remember stomping out several small fires after photo stops. One trip 3985 wasn’t allowed in Colorado and had to wait for us at the Wyoming border.

    No one was upset. Pinch hitting in Colorado was DD40X 6936 which did a photo stop of its own.

  5. It is important to note the historical representation in regards to this decision. As a fan, it’s great to know UP3985 and UP4014 will be complete, but more so, historically correct!

    *Tender numbers for the UP 844 and UP 3985:
    UP #844 Tender Classification Number: 23-C-201
    UP #3985 Tender Classification Number: 25-C-311

    *Tender numbers coupled with the surviving UP Big Boy Locomotives:
    UP #4004 Tender Classification Number: 25-C-103
    UP #4005 Tender Classification Number: 25-C-4xx
    UP #4006 Tender Classification Number: 25-C-104
    UP #4012 Tender Classification Number: 25-C-114
    UP #4014 Tender Classification Number: 25-C-116
    UP #4017 Tender Classification Number: 25-C-404
    UP #4018 Tender Classification Number: 25-C-101
    UP #4023 Tender Classification Number: 25-C-105

    *Tender 25-C-311 is UP3985 surviving tender from its decommissioning in late 1957, then 24 years in static preservation, to restoration in 1981. It was originally built as a coal tender but converted to oil in 1989. It was temporarily borrowed by UP4014 Big Boy for the 2019, 2021 excursions. It will now return to UP3985 which is historically is correct for these 300 class tenders were built and delivered with the Class 4664 – 4 Challengers in 1943.

    *Tender 25-C-116 is UP 4014’s museum tender that RRHMA will rebuild for the Union Pacific. Pairing this tender with UP 4014 is historically is correct for these 100 class tenders were built and delivered with the Class 4884 – 1 Big Boys in 1941.

    *UP #4005 lost tender plate number: It is on record that Tender No. 25-C-403 was last assigned to #4022 until about 1956. It was then assigned to #4005 and was photographed from 1956 thru the remainder of UP steam revenue service. Verified by a 1953 photo, the tender, still mated with #4022 at the time, is identified by the large long dent on the fireman’s side of the tender.

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