Candy Moulton: The Big Boy is Headed Out

Columnist Candy Moulton writes, "On June 30, Big Boy No. 4014, the largest operating steam engine in the world, will roll out of Cheyenne headed west with the first stop in Laramie that same day. Wamsutter and Green River are next and then off to Utah, Nevada, and California."

Candy Moulton

May 28, 20245 min read

Candy moulton 4 16 24
(Cowboy State Daily Staff)

This month I had a chance to ride a Burlington & Ohio train in Baltimore – on the first mile of railroad track laid in the United States. It was a short ride in a train car where every seat was full and everybody seemed to be talking at once. To say it was noisy is an understatement.

Back in March we did a family trip on Amtrak from Denver through the Rocky Mountains (via the Moffatt Tunnel), and along the Colorado River to Glenwood Springs for a Spring Break getaway.

Traveling by train in the United States is not generally the way leisure travelers get from one point to another. The unpredictable schedules make it challenging for business travelers, which is too bad because it is a great way to travel – there is far more seat and legroom than on an airplane. Plus, you can get up and walk around anytime you want. Or you can sit back, relax, watch the scenery, and let someone else do the driving.

There has been no Amtrak service in Wyoming for decades, but I sure wish it would resume.

Of course, railroad operations in Wyoming date back to 1868 when the Union Pacific pushed the tracks across the country to join with the Central Pacific tracks at Promontory Utah in May 1869.

Among the most impressive of the Union Pacific engines are those known as the Big Boys. Twenty-five of the steam locomotives were built, weighing over a million pounds and built on hinged frames that articulated to allow them to negotiate curves. The articulation was necessary because the locomotives were 132 feet long.

When in regular use, their route was normally between Cheyenne and Ogden, Utah.

Big Boy No. 4014, the largest operating steam engine in the world, is now permanently housed in Cheyenne where it was restored. And occasionally this locomotive steams its way out of Cheyenne and across the country.

This year is one of those times.

On Sunday June 30, the 4014 will roll out of Cheyenne headed west. There will be whistle stops along the route, with the first in Laramie that same day. On July 1 there will be a stop in Wamsutter and July 3 another is scheduled in Green River.

The route will continue to Utah, across Nevada and to California in mid-July. Then this Big Boy will turn around and head for home base in Cheyenne. On the return trip, there will be whistle stops in Kemmerer on July 23, at Point of Rocks on July 25, and in Medicine Bow on July 26.

As the locomotive crosses the West, you will have plenty of opportunity to see it. A schedule with more specific times for each whistle stop will be announced closer to the events.

But take the time now to stake out your favorite viewpoint along the Union Pacific railroad tracks so you can see this piece of history rolling across Wyoming.

The thing about this locomotive is that it is massive. Reading the statistics doesn’t really do it justice.

The Union Pacific Railroad built 25 Big Boys, with the first delivered in 1941. These locomotives have a 4-8-8-4 wheel arrangement. That means there are four “pilot” wheels to guide the engine, two different sets of eight driving wheels, and then another four wheels that support the rear of the locomotive.

Big Boy No. 4014 was delivered in December 1941 and retired 20 years later. During its “working” period the engine traveled just over a million miles. After retirement it was at the RailGiants Museum in Pomona, California, until 2014 when it was returned to Cheyenne for a multi-year restoration. I saw it that year on a whistle stop in Medicine Bow – at the time it was pulled by a UP Diesel engine because it hadn’t yet been restored. I stood in the rain with dozens of school children and adults wanting just a glimpse of the big engine.

After years of work by the restoration team in Cheyenne, Big Boy 4014 returned to service in May 2019 in time to commemorate the 150th anniversary of the completion of the transcontinental railroad.

For this year’s tour, in addition to the whistle stops – and the chance to see the engine steaming over the line – two public display events will be held. One is in Roseville, California, July 12-13 and the other is in Ogden, Utah, July 20-21.

At those events visitors can have an up-close look at the locomotive and visit the new “Experience the Union Pacific” rail car – a multi-media walk-through exhibition that provides a glimpse at the past while telling the story of modern-day railroading. This experience is in a retired UP baggage car.

I might not make it to Ogden for the new experience car, but I will be somewhere in Carbon County in July watching for Big Boy 4014 to steam over the tracks. 

Candy Moulton can be reached at

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Candy Moulton

Wyoming Life Columnist

Wyoming Life Columnist