Union Pacific Big Boy basics
Q: Why is a diesel with Big Boy 4014?
A: The diesel serves many purposes. Its dynamic braking saves brake shoes. Its power provides a boost that saves on No. 4014 fuel stops. It’s a much-preferred power source in tunnels. And if Big Boy were disabled on the main line, the diesel could still move the train. In 2021, the diesel is also a part of the Positive Train Control safety system for No. 4014.
Q: What does Big Boy 4014 burn for fuel?
A: No. 4014 was built to burn coal but was modified to burn No. 5 fuel oil in 2019.
Q: When will it make it to the East Coast?
A: It won’t. No. 4014 runs on the tracks the Union Pacific Railroad. The UP doesn’t go to the East Coast. In fact, the UP system basically stops at the Mississippi River with a few exceptions. The eastern-most tracks that UP runs are in Illinois and Louisiana. Key UP system eastern cities are Chicago, St. Louis, Memphis, and New Orleans. So, if you live in the East and want to see the Big Boy run, go west.
Q: What’s the steam coming out of the pipe under the cab?
A: The continuous flow under the right side of the cab is the discharge from one of two blowdowns. Originally, the valves were actuated by exhaust steam pressure, which means they operated only when the throttle was open. The large one up top was controlled by a system that was detecting the presence of foam in the steam space in the boiler foam trough. The railroad redesigned these so they can both be controlled from the cab using air pressure that is easily manipulated with two small air valves.
More Big Boy questions
Q: Where do I get tickets to ride this?
A: Big Boy No. 4014 is on rolling exhibition when it is on tour. It does not pull regular public excursions. However, usually once a year, the locomotive pulls an excursion to benefit the nonprofit Union Pacific Museum in Council Bluffs, Iowa, from where the transcontinental railroad started west. The 2021 excursion is from New Orleans to Plaquemine, La. Details and ticket information are available at uptraintix.com.
Q: How fast can it go?
A: Big Boy was built to go as fast as 70 mph, but the locomotives rarely ran more than 50 mph, a speed the UP still finds convenient.
Q: How much can it pull?
A: With more than 6,000-horsepower, Alco and Union Pacific designed Big Boy to pull a 3,600-ton train across the mountains of Utah and Wyoming.
Q: Where can I see this one or one of the others?
A: Big Boy No. 4014 is not on regular display when it is in the UP-Steam Shop in Cheyenne, Wyo. The Cheyenne Depot Museum arranges occasional shop tours. The best place to see No. 4014 is on the road, and the current schedule is available from Union Pacific. As for the other survivors, you can find them easily.