Big Boy 4014 Gets Big Welcome At First Whistlestop In Laramie

In the world of steam engines, Big Boy 4014 is a rock star, and it got a rock star welcome on Sunday. Hundreds of people lined up in downtown Laramie for the first whistlestop on its 2024 summer tour.

GJ
Greg Johnson

June 30, 20244 min read

Big Boy 4014 makes the first stop on its 2024 summer tour in Laramie, Wyoming, on Sunday morning, June 30, 2024. Hundreds of curious people and serious train buffs waited for more than two hours to get a good viewing spot.,
Big Boy 4014 makes the first stop on its 2024 summer tour in Laramie, Wyoming, on Sunday morning, June 30, 2024. Hundreds of curious people and serious train buffs waited for more than two hours to get a good viewing spot., (Greg Johnson, Cowboy State Daily)

LARAMIE — In the world of steam engines, Big Boy 4014 is a rock star, and there’s nothing subtle about this behemoth of a locomotive that has a larger following than some religions.

The only thing that could’ve upstaged the largest operating locomotive in the United States as it pulled into the station in historic downtown Laramie, Wyoming, on Sunday would have been if it were carrying The Beatles.

People crowded onto a large pedestrian bridge that spans the railroad tracks, while those who didn’t arrive hours early packed the depot platform and gathered behind a chain-link fence separating Big Boy from its eager fans.

“Oh boy, I just love trains, and this is as ‘trainy’ as it gets,” gushed Chris Evans, a New Mexico resident who took a detour from her vacation in Idaho to be at Big Boy’s first whistlestop on its 2024 summer tour.

“I’ve never seen it before. I just know it’s one of the biggest steam engines ever made and I want to see that,” she told Cowboy State Daily.

After watching Big Boy pull in, then leave about 30 minutes later, Evans was grinning from ear to ear and shaking two enthusiastic thumbs up.

“Wow, so worth it,” she said. “I’d do it again in a second.”

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Yup, It’s A Big Boy

At 132 feet long and weighing in at 1.2 million pounds, the Big Boy locomotives were among the largest ever made in America, and Big Boy 4014 is the largest that’s still running.

The Big Boys were made in 1941 to provide some domestic muscle to the United States during World War II, and 4014 remained in service for 20 years before it was retired in 1961.

But perhaps the real reason these loud, earth-shaking monsters of the American rails are called Big Boys is the effect they have on adults, who revert into their big boy selves when geeking out over them.

“Oh yeah, this stuff is so cool,” said Ken Kang, who was on the bridge waiting for Big Boy with his young family. Kang seemed more excited than his 3-year-old and infant.

“Every boy at some point wants to have trains,” said Kang, who was visiting from Redondo Beach, California, for a family reunion. “The inner child in me loves this.”

Kang’s wife Allison Noies is from Laramie, but said this was her first time seeing Big Boy in action. Until Saturday, her only encounters with the large locomotives was the defunct 4004 in Cheyenne’s Holiday Park.

“We just got lucky to be here for a family reunion and this was going on,” she said.

‘Make My Whole Life’

Even career railroaders get starstruck around the Big Boy.

Clint and Hillary Johnson drove to Laramie from Douglas, where they work in the railroad industry. Even being around trains all the time, experiencing the Big Boy in action is something special, they said.

“I’m a railroader and I like all things trains, but steam trains are the best, I think,” Clint said. “It’s unique every time we see the Big Boy. … We’ll chase it across the state if we can.”

In fact, the couple met on the job and were married in front of the steam locomotive museum in Douglas, Hillary said.

Actually working a Big Boy run would be the ultimate bucket list personally and professionally, Clint said.

“That would make my whole life,” he said.

Where To Next?

After running from Cheyenne to Laramie on Sunday morning, Big Boy 2024 chugged on to Rawlins.

On Monday morning, it leaves for Rock Springs, making a whistlestop from 10:30-11 a.m. in Wamsutter.

From there, it’s Evanston before crossing into Utah, Nevada and California before swinging back into Rock Springs on July 23.

Fans of Big Boy 4014 can follow its progress online.

Contact Greg Johnson at greg@cowboystatedaily.com

  • Big Boy 4014 makes the first stop on its 2024 summer tour in Laramie, Wyoming, on Sunday morning, June 30, 2024. Hundreds of curious people and serious train buffs waited for more than two hours to get a good viewing spot.,
    Big Boy 4014 makes the first stop on its 2024 summer tour in Laramie, Wyoming, on Sunday morning, June 30, 2024. Hundreds of curious people and serious train buffs waited for more than two hours to get a good viewing spot., (Greg Johnson, Cowboy State Daily)
  • Big Boy 4014 makes the first stop on its 2024 summer tour in Laramie, Wyoming, on Sunday morning, June 30, 2024. Hundreds of curious people and serious train buffs waited for more than two hours to get a good viewing spot.,
    Big Boy 4014 makes the first stop on its 2024 summer tour in Laramie, Wyoming, on Sunday morning, June 30, 2024. Hundreds of curious people and serious train buffs waited for more than two hours to get a good viewing spot., (Greg Johnson, Cowboy State Daily)
  • Big Boy 4014 makes the first stop on its 2024 summer tour in Laramie, Wyoming, on Sunday morning, June 30, 2024. The loud steam whistle was a hit, but a little too much for some of the youngsters.
    Big Boy 4014 makes the first stop on its 2024 summer tour in Laramie, Wyoming, on Sunday morning, June 30, 2024. The loud steam whistle was a hit, but a little too much for some of the youngsters. (Greg Johnson, Cowboy State Daily)
  • Big Boy 4014 makes the first stop on its 2024 summer tour in Laramie, Wyoming, on Sunday morning, June 30, 2024. Hundreds of curious people and serious train buffs waited for more than two hours to get a good viewing spot.,
    Big Boy 4014 makes the first stop on its 2024 summer tour in Laramie, Wyoming, on Sunday morning, June 30, 2024. Hundreds of curious people and serious train buffs waited for more than two hours to get a good viewing spot., (Greg Johnson, Cowboy State Daily)

Greg Johnson can be reached at greg@cowboystatedaily.com.

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Greg Johnson

Managing Editor

Veteran Wyoming journalist Greg Johnson is managing editor for Cowboy State Daily.