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Union Pacific studying Big Boy restoration project

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POMONA, Calif. – Union Pacific may be bringing back the ultimate steam machine, an Alco-built 4-8-8-4 Big Boy, the last of which steamed more than 50 years ago.

Company spokesman Mark Davis told Trains News Wire Friday that the company has been approached by and is working with a third party interested in restoring and operating a Big Boy. He said the railroad is evaluating the condition of preserved UP Big Boy locomotives and that it believes two might be available for restoration. Davis declined to name the other party or give a timeline for the project. But at least one organization is already talking about its potential to put a Big Boy back on the main line.

The treasurer of the Southern California railroad club that owns a displayed Union Pacific Big Boy 4-8-8-4 says his group hopes to learn more Saturday about a UP offer to acquire No. 4014 for restoration and operation.

In an exclusive interview with Trains News Wire, John Mastrobuoni from Prescott, Ariz., said the Southern California Chapter of the Railway & Locomotive Historical Society is eager to find out if the railroad can meet its requirement that a replacement piece take the place of the Big Boy at the Los Angeles County Fairgrounds in Pomona. The engine is one of eight survivors of the 25 locomotives that Alco built beginning in 1941 for freight service between Cheyenne, Wyo., and Ogden, Utah until the last steamed in 1959.

Mastrobuoni said he participated by phone in a meeting Tuesday in which Ed Dickens, who manages UP’s fleet of historic operating steam and diesel equipment, appeared at a chapter meeting in California to pitch the idea. He said Dickens on Saturday is expected to provide more details about what UP would offer and called discussions “preliminary.”

The idea is already controversial, as some board and chapter members consider the Big Boy as the centerpiece of the club’s exhibit. The 4014 was donated to the chapter in 1962. The exhibit also includes a UP DD40X Centennial diesel No. 6915, UP 4-12-2 No. 9000, Southern Pacific 4-10-2 No. 5021, and Santa Fe 4-6-4 No. 3450.

“If we can come to an agreement with the railroad, an operating Big Boy is better than one on display,” Mastrobuoni said. “We’d lose the engine for display, but we’d be known everywhere as the group that helped make one run again.”

He added that rebuilding the No. 4014 would take several years with the aim of operating for the 150th celebration of the completion of the first transcontinental railroad in 2019. The coal-burning engine would be converted to oil firing.

The railroad has not publicly announced plans to expand its operating steam locomotive fleet, which includes the never retired 4-8-4 No. 844, which made an extensive systemwide tour this year for the company’s 150th anniversary of its founding, and 4-6-6-4 No. 3985, which is undergoing a major overhaul.

Contrary to Internet reports that UP has vetted the other seven Big Boys, representatives of the National Railroad Museum in Green Bay, Wis., the Forney Museum of Transportation in Denver, and the Steamtown National Park Service site in Scranton, Pa., said Friday that none have been officially contacted. On its face, the engine in southern California, with its dry climate, would be among the best condition.

In addition to 4014, the following UP Big Boys are still in existence:

4004, in Holliday Park, Cheyenne, Wyo.; 4005, Forney Transportation Museum, Denver, Colo.; 4006, Museum of Transport, St. Louis,Mo.; 4012, Steamtown, Scranton, Pa.; 4017, National Railroad Museum, Green Bay, Wis.; 4018, Museum of the American Railroad, Dallas, Texas; 4023, Kenefick Park, Omaha, Neb

http://trn.trains.com/en/Railroad%20News/News%20Wire/2012/12/Union%20Pacific%20looking%20to%20restore%20Big%20Boy%20for%20excursion%20service.aspx

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On 5/2/2019 at 6:48 PM, Imgursdownvote4love said:

Pic?

Do you one better :) 

 

 

 

Sadly my work schedule can't accommodate a trip to Cheyenne this week.  Will have to catch up with the 4014 later this summer.

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2 hours ago, Tom1122 said:

A little OT bus it appears that Challenger 3985 is retired.

This is one of those times were sources would be great. 

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The official messaging from UP has been that they are keeping 3985 on the roster and it's rebuild will take place after upcoming work on the 844 is complete.  They did get a bunch of running gear parts made for 3985 when they were overhauling 4014.  But honestly it wouldn't actually surprise me if 3985 was retired from excursion service.  I think it would be hard to justify the cost of maintaining 2 articulated steam locomotives after all the money and effort that went into the Big Boy project.  This is all pure speculation obviously, I can't claim any secret or mysterious sources of UP insider information ... lol 

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1 hour ago, cprted said:

The official messaging from UP has been that they are keeping 3985 on the roster and it's rebuild will take place after upcoming work on the 844 is complete.  They did get a bunch of running gear parts made for 3985 when they were overhauling 4014.  But honestly it wouldn't actually surprise me if 3985 was retired from excursion service.  I think it would be hard to justify the cost of maintaining 2 articulated steam locomotives after all the money and effort that went into the Big Boy project.  This is all pure speculation obviously, I can't claim any secret or mysterious sources of UP insider information ... lol 

What you've heard is along what I've been able to find. 

@Tom1122 posted something in reply to me, but, nothing shows up!?!?

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On 1/5/2020 at 5:56 PM, M. Parsons said:

What you've heard is along what I've been able to find. 

@Tom1122 posted something in reply to me, but, nothing shows up!?!?

The UP "Steam Club" sent out an update today, including information about the retirement of 3985. This is the first official confirmation of the Challenger's retirement that I've seen.  While not surprising at all, sad that we won't get to see a 4-8-8-4 and a 4-6-6-4 running together ... c'est la vie

 

Quote

The Challenger No. 3985 Will Remain Officially Retired

Since work was completed on No. 4014 people have asked about the fate of The Challenger No. 3985.

The short answer: There are no plans to restore No. 3985. Many years of hard operation have resulted in the locomotive requiring a complete frame-up restoration similar to what was needed to make No. 4014 operational. Historically, Union Pacific's steam program has had two steam locomotives on its roster, and that count will remain the same moving forward.

No. 3985 last operated in "regular" train service in 1957. It was retired in 1962 and stored in the roundhouse in Cheyenne, Wyoming, until 1975 when it was placed on display near the Cheyenne depot. A group of Union Pacific employees volunteered their services to restore the locomotive to running condition in 1981. 

Where No. 3985 will ultimately reside is still in question, but it's safe to say the locomotive will remain officially retired from service.

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