Where are the Union Pacific Big Boys now?
Eight of the largest steam locomotives ever built remain. Here's where you can see them on display.
December 18, 2012
With Union Pacific 4-8-8-4 Big Boy being restored to service, interest in the largest steam locomotives ever built has never been higher in the post-steam era. Of the 25 Big Boys built by American Locomotive Company in 1941-42 (20) and 1944 (five), eight have been preserved. Today two of the engines are displayed indoors after lengthy outdoor displays. Only four of the locomotives are displayed along original historic UP lines (Cheyenne, Wyo.; Denver; Omaha, Neb.; and Pomona, Calif.), while two, in Dallas and St. Louis, are now on UP’s map after mergers enlarged the system.
Visitors take in the impressive Union Pacific No. 4012, one of only eight surviving Big Boys, in Scranton, Pa.
Photo by Jim Wrinn
Here are the surviving Big Boys, and where and when you can see them:
Holliday Park, Cheyenne, Wyo.
Hours: 24 hours a day
The surviving Big Boy with the lowest number, No. 4004, was officially retired in February 1962 after operating 1,060,402 miles. The locomotive was donated to the city of Cheyenne in 1963. While in the park, the locomotive has been flooded up to its running boards on a couple of occasions. Some parts have been removed from the engine and used on 4-6-6-4 Challenger No. 3985. No. 4004 is now being cared for by the Sherman Hill Model Railroad Club Inc., which recently repainted it.
Forney Museum of Transportation, Denver
Hours: Monday-Saturday, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.
One of two Big Boys displayed indoors, No. 4005 was retired in July 1962 after operating 1,043,624 miles. The engine was to be sold to a railroad in South America, but that deal fell through, and it was donated to the Forney museum in 1970. After being displayed outdoors, the locomotive was moved indoors at a new museum site in Denver, which opened in 2001. The museum also is home to Chicago & North Western 4-6-0 No. 444, one of only eight surviving C&NW steam locomotives.
Museum of Transportation, St. Louis
Winter hours (Nov. 1-Feb. 28): Thursday-Saturday, 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.; Sundays, 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Officially retired in May 1961, No. 4006 has the most mileage of the Big Boy series and type: 1,064,625. It was donated to the museum in June 1961.
Steamtown National Historic Site, Scranton, Pa.
Winter hours (Jan. 2-April 6): 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.; regular hours: 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.
No. 4012 was displayed at Steamtown’s original site in Bellows Falls, Vt., before making the move to Scranton in 1984. The engine was officially retired in February 1962 after operating 1,029,507 miles. It was donated to the Steamtown Foundation in 1964 and moved to Bellows Falls in 1965.
Visit our special Big Boy section to see where No. 4014 is on its road to restoration.
National Railroad Museum, Green Bay, Wis.
Hours: May-December: Monday-Saturday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., Sunday, 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.; January-April: Tuesday-Saturday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., Sunday, 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.
No. 4017 was built in January 1942, retired in May 1961, and donated to the National Railroad Museum in June 1961. It operated a total of 1,052,072 miles. After decades of outdoor display, it was moved indoors to the museum’s Lenfestey Center, which opened in 2001, where it is displayed alongside Pennsylvania Railroad GG1 electric No. 4890. No. 4017’s lights are illuminated, and visitors can sit in the Big Boy’s cab.
Museum of the American Railroad, Frisco, Texas
No. 4018 was built in January 1942 and officially retired in 1962 with 1,037,123 miles. It was donated to the museum, then the Age of Steam Museum, in 1964. The museum is in the process of moving its collection, including the Big Boy, from Fair Park in Dallas to a new location in Frisco.
Kenefick Park at Lauritzen Gardens, Omaha, Neb.
Hours: Daily, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., except for Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s Day
Probably the most visible of these eight Big Boys because of its location high above Interstate 80 and the Missouri River, No. 4023 is the only survivor of the five Big Boys constructed in 1944. The locomotive was officially retired in July 1962 after operating 829,295 miles, and UP retained it as part of the historic collection in the Cheyenne roundhouse. In the mid-1970s, it was moved to Omaha for display outside the Omaha Shops, complete with shop steam providing smoke. In 1989 the Big Boy and the first Centennial diesel, No. 6900, were moved to a display at the new Kenefick Park near the Omaha Shops. They were moved from the park to interim storage at the Durham Western Heritage Museum at the old Omaha Union Station in 2002 to accommodate redevelopment. In March 2005, the two locomotives were moved to a new Kenefick Park at Lauritzen Gardens featuring plazas, seating areas, a grand staircase, stone walls, interpretive signage, sculpture, and walkways. Named for former Union Pacific Chairman and CEO John C. Kenefick, the park documents UP’s role in the development of Omaha and the West. Lighted by spotlights at night with the marker lamps, headlight, and number boards illuminated, the Big Boy and Centennial are an impressive sight for westbound motorists on the interstate as they enter Nebraska.