Giant steam locomotive sets Louisiana stops on 10-state tour

Louisiana

Crews work on Union Pacific steam locomotive Big Boy No. 4014, Thursday, Aug. 12, 2021 in Vinita, Okla. The world’s largest operating steam locomotive has several Louisiana whistle-stops and overnight stays in two cities as part of a 10-state tour. (Mike Simons/Tulsa World via AP)

NEW ORLEANS (AP) — The world’s largest operating steam locomotive has several Louisiana whistle-stops and overnight stays in two cities as part of a 10-state tour.

Big Boy No. 4014 will be on display Saturday in New Orleans, where it will arrive Friday night and leave Sunday morning on its way back to Cheyenne, Wyoming. Before leaving Louisiana it also will spend a night in Shreveport.

“This is the biggest steam locomotive Union Pacific ever built and it’s the only one in operation today,” Union Pacific Railroad spokesman Mike Jaixen told The American Press.

At more than 130 feet (nearly 40 meters) long — longer than two city buses — and 560 tons (508 metric tonnes) in weight, the Big Boy locomotives are generally accepted as the largest steam locomotives ever built anywhere, according to the Guinness Book of World Records.

The most powerful, though, was a tank engine built by Baldwin Locomotive Works in 1916 for the Virginian Railway, according to Guinness.

The American Locomotive Co. built 25 Big Boys for Union Pacific in the 1940s to haul freight over Utah’s Wasatch Mountains on a route between Wyoming and Utah.

Eight remain. The others all are in museums, Jaixen said.

No. 4014 was retired in 1961. It underwent a five-year renovation for a yearlong tour in 2019 to mark the 150th anniversary of the transcontinental railroad’s completion.

This year’s tour includes whistle-stops ranging from 15 to 45 minutes in more than 90 communities.

“The whistle-stops give people an opportunity to briefly see the locomotive, while the crews perform routine maintenance,” Jaixen said.

The outbound route has gone through Nebraska, Kansas, Oklahoma and into Texas. From Louisiana the train turns back into Texas, then runs across Arkansas and into Missouri, spending a while on tracks near the Illinois state line and making one stop in Illinois before crossing Kansas and part of Colorado.

The train’s first Louisiana whistle-stops will be Thursday in Lake Charles, Kinder and Opelousas, according to the online schedule. It will stop briefly both on Friday and on Sunday in Plaquemine, Donaldsonville and Luling. Monday will take it through Bunkie and Natchitoches en route to Shreveport, where it will spend Tuesday.

People will be able to tour a rail car in New Orleans on Saturday — a ride in those cars to Plaquemine is sold out — but the train must be viewed from outside in Shreveport, according to the online schedule.

Jaixen said spectators are welcome to take photos at whistle-stops but must stay at last 25 feet from the tracks. The train is so big that the best photos are from 25 to 50 feet away, he noted.

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