News & Reviews News Wire Union Pacific No. 4014 can now run on its own

Union Pacific No. 4014 can now run on its own

By Trains Staff | May 24, 2024

New PTC system allows operation with diesel support

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Engineer in steam locomotive cab looking at Positive Train Control screen.
Ed Dickens, manager of Union Pacific’s heritage operations, glances at the PTC screen mounted in the cab of Big Boy No. 4014. The screen is situated so both engineer and fireman can read it while the locomotive is in operation. The new system, recently installed, will allow operation without a trailing diesel locomotive. Bob Lettenberger

CHEYENNE, Wyo. — This week the Union Pacific made a short run with 4-8-8-4 No. 4014 to test the new PTC system installed on the locomotive. While Big Boy has operated with a LeaPTC system since 2021, says a UP statement, the new equipment permits operation without support of a diesel locomotive.

The original PTC system installed on the world’s largest operating steam locomotive utilized the computer aboard the diesel locomotive. The new system, similar to that installed on CPKC No. 2816, is self-contained. Although the diesel locomotive is no longer needed for Big Boy to travel, it is not certain if the steam locomotive will be permitted to travel without such support. The diesel locomotive was also present for added braking capability.

Big Boy’s new PTC equipment travels in a cabinet on the side of its tender.

When No. 4014 made its restored debut in 2019, it did not carry PTC equipment. The FRA granted a waiver for the locomotive to operate in PTC territory even without the system. Big Boy became the first mainline steam locomotive with PTC after a 2021 installation of the equipment.

10 thoughts on “Union Pacific No. 4014 can now run on its own

  1. So basically all the stories by Mr. Ed that using a diesel to save “brake shoes” was just smoke and mirrors? Hmmm…🤔

  2. Of course, not mentioned is that CP’s 2816 is already out and running with a stand-alone PTC system, although it too does have diesels along for its Mexico adventure. I imagine the steam crews from both CPKC and UP may have been collaborating on developing this technology, but CP was first in the field.

    For both roads, having diesels along does have certain advantages, protection in case of mechanical breakdown, fewer water stops, and perhaps most importantly, dynamic brakes to reduce brake shoe wear on the following cars.

  3. Great pictures out there in the ether of Big Boy on a test run with a cut of hoppers sans diesel

  4. For the love of all that is holy get a Centennial running to travel with Big Boy! Go big or go home.

    1. Railroading Heritage of Midwest America acquired Centennial 6936 in 2022 and has since been working on necessary repairs to bring it to mainline standards. RRHMA took it on a successful test run last August.

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