Between Ogden and Wasatch the Union Pacific frequently had to rely on expensive helper engines to boost trains up the grades. During the 1930s UP ordered their R&D department to develop an engine that could haul 3600 tons over the 1.14% Wasatch grade without helpers, yet run like a deer along the Plaines. Thus was born UP’s mighty 4-8-8-4 “Wasatch” locomotive. Never heard of the Wasatch? That’s because the official name did not stick. As the first “Wasatch” was being moved out of ALCO, a worker scrawled “Big Boy” upon it. The graffiti became the mantle the engine will forever be known as.
Twenty-five Big Boys were built in two groups, starting in 1941. The first twenty were numbered 4000-4019. Number 4000 arrived at UP’s Omaha facility on 5 September, 1941. World War 2 traffic required a second group of five, numbered 4020-4024, started in 1944. The final revenue freight hauled by a Big Boy was in July of 1959.
I will not explore the debates as to whether Big Boy was biggest, most powerful, fastest, most efficient, etc. Those are topics I read about, not having the expertise or knowledge of. Some great websites for this are:
Steam Loco Group
Steam Tech Group
Here are photos I shot in the Big Boy’s cab at the St Louis Transportation Museum in Sept., 2002, while awaiting my trip on the Frisco 1522 Farewell Excursion. I scanned these, and you will find duplicates. This is because when I modified the pictures, some elements were enhanced, some were lost. Hopefully the element you seek will be obvious in one or another exposure. Enjoy!
Copyright ©2020 by Fred Boucher. Images and/or videos also by copyright holder unless otherwise noted. The views and opinions expressed herein are solely the views and opinions of the authors and/or contributors to this Web site and do not necessarily represent the views and/or opinions of Armorama, KitMaker Network, or Silver Star Enterrpises. All rights reserved. Originally published on: 2007-03-18 00:00:00. Unique Reads: 17588