Union Pacific’s 4014 ‘Big Boy’ Steam Locomotive

The Union Pacific’s Engine 4014 ‘Big Boy’ Steam Locomotive was passing through Arizona this week, so I thought I’d take my drone out to video it. The largest steam engine built, weighing in at over 1,200,000 pounds, it is the only one functional today. Only 25 were built and they were retired in 1961 when diesel-engine locomotives became prominent. Restoration on this engine began in 2014 and after it was completed in 2019, it was sent out touring the country.

There were quite a few people out in the desert along the route it was taking through Arizona. I set up at a place called Shawmut, Arizona, about 13 miles miles east of Gila Bend. Back in the era of the steam locomotive, the community of Shawmut was where “Y-Spurs” off the main line were located so “pusher” locomotives could help heavy freight trains up the 1% grade, then turn around and get in position to help the next heavy train. When more powerful diesel locomotives arrived and steam engines vanished, the “pusher” locomotives were no longer needed and the community where the “pusher” engines were located and maintained was abandoned.

The train got of to a late start that morning as it was about 90 minutes getting into nearby Gila Bend. Cellular service was a bit spotty where I was, but I was able to sporatically get updates on where the train was. Finally, it was approaching Shawmut, then stopped on a siding about 2000 feet from where there were now many of us waiting for the train. After a faster train passed it on the main line, it finally started moving again.

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