(Friesland) The largest operating steam engine in the world made a stop in Friesland Thursday morning. Big Boy is making the rounds as part of the 150th anniversary of the transcontinental railroad. There were only 25 built and the 132-foot-long, one million-plus pound, recently-restored engine is the only one on the tracks.
Jay Peeper of Fall River joined hundreds upon hundreds along the Union Pacific railroad waiting for their opportunity to see No. 4014.
“I think people are being drawn back by the trains, traveling by train” Peeper says, “I’m not surprised at all by the turnout.”
Brian Cazel of Milwaukee is a lifelong train enthusiast and member of the National Railway Historical Society who is seeing Big Boy for the first time on the “high irons.”
“Being able to see it move, that’s the treat,” he says, “I always tell people, if you ever get a chance to see something like this you might never get a chance to see it again.”
“This thing here stands above the rest mostly because of the immense size of the locomotive itself,” Cazel says, “and the fact that Union Pacific Railway took the time and spent the money to get the thing rebuilt.”
Tom and his wife Sandy Steward of Reedsburg were at Wednesday’s stop in Adams, where onlookers were held 75-feet back behind fences guarded by law enforcement because the locomotive was parked in an active rail yard. Spectators in Friesland were able to get close enough to admire the restoration work.
“It’s awesome,” Tom says in reference to the restoration efforts, “to get it back, to do what they did, it really speaks to people’s commitment…and probably after they finished, they thought they should be committed.”
Most of the people we spoke with said they have loved trains since their youth. Jen Van Baren of Randolph brought her five children to see Big Boy.
“I’ve got two boys who think trains are really neat,” Van Baren says, “they’ve seen a couple videos but seeing it in person is really neat.”
“Really big,” says Isaac Van Baren.
“Really big,” says Amos Van Baren.
Dick and Pat Luckert of Horicon were not train enthusiasts until their grandson Paul developed a passion. They stood along the tracks with a handmade sign welcoming Ed, the engineer who pilots Big Boy. When Ed saw the sign, he greeted the boy, let him wear his conductors’ hat and posed for a photo.
“We got a super-dooper picture worth a million bucks,” Pat says, “this is something that these kids, and I think adults, are going to remember forever.”
Grandson Paul, who traveled from Butler, was grinning from ear-to-ear. When asked if he was expecting a train so big, he replied, “yes.”
Spectators still have opportunities to see Big Boy in Illinois, Iowa and Nebraska before Union Pacific 4014 pulls back into the station where it started in Cheyenne, Wyoming.
Watch our video of the arrival and departure of Big Boy here:
Watch video of the arrival from DailyDodge.com’s Mike Throndson here:
Listen to our entire interview with train enthusiast Brian Cazel here:
Photo’s from Mike Throndson:
Photos of Paul Luckert courtesy of Richard Luckert: