Are Wyoming cities prepared for the Big Boy 4-8-8-4 steam locomotive visit?

Trains finds that three communities are aware of Union Pacific's plans to place a giant steam locomotive in their midst, but have few plans for tourists
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BigBoy4014steamlocomotivenearRockSpringsWyoming
Big Boy steam locomotive 4-8-8-4 No. 4014 is in tow between two Union Pacific diesel locomotives in April 2014 near Rock Springs, Wyo. Small cities along the route of the Big Boy this year say they've not specifically prepared for tourists.
TRAINS: Jim Wrinn
EVANSTON, Wyo. — Union Pacific’s move of restored Big Boy No. 4014 from Cheyenne, Wyo., to Ogden, Utah, in May promises to be the railfan event of the young 21st century.

After the Big Boy schedule was released in mid-March, Trains wanted to know: Are the cities and towns along the way ready for onslaught of humanity expected to accompany 4-8-8-4 No. 4014 and sister 4-8-4 No. 844 across Wyoming?

Trains contacted three Wyoming cities where the locomotives will make overnight stops: Evanston, Rawlins, and Rock Springs. The answers were decidedly mixed.

In Evanston, where No. 4014 will stop overnight on May 6 to 7 and the 844-4014 duo on May 12, the city is planning an event at its roundhouse museum according to Mieke Madrid, Community Development Coordinator for the city of Evanston. The city is restoring the former Union Pacific roundhouse into event and office space, and the restored machine shop at the roundhouse will be the site of a private event on May 8. The Historic Preservation Commission has also been working on other plans for the visits.

“We are just now taking about it because now we have the schedule," Madrid says. "We are making some plans to host many tourists that we will be receiving those days.”

Officials with the City of Rawlins were unavailable to comment, but Pam Thayer of the Downtown Development Authority was unaware of any special plans at this time.

At Rock Springs, the city’s Urban Renewal Agency, which would coordinate any events just heard the news and the dates the engines were coming the week of March 18, said agency manager Chad Banks. No. 4014 will stop overnight in Rock Springs on May 5, and Nos. 844 and 4014 on May 13 to 15. The agency is developing “marketing materials such as posters more for the community rather than tourism,” Banks said. “The plan is to develop information so people in the community and the region will know what’s going on. A couple of blocks from the main line where the engines will be parked is our museum with an extensive collection of railroad artifacts which will be doing additional displays on UP’s history and historic model trains,” he said.

During the week of March 25, Banks says, a committee will be meeting to brainstorm ideas on what more the city could be doing and capitalize on the visit so tourists have the best experience.

When asked about crowd control, Banks said there had not been discussion of that. The city is expecting crowds for the visit of the Experience the Union Pacific Rail Car on May 14, the only stop of the baggage car turned into a multi-media walk-through historic exhibition in Wyoming.

While these cities are naturally making plans for their own residents to celebrate, it appears none are aware or prepared to handle the huge crowds expected to follow the locomotives on their historic journey. Those planning to come to Wyoming in May would be well advised to prepare for congestion, traffic tie ups and huge crowds in cities and towns along the route, especially where the engines make lengthy stops.

— UPDATED: Additional information from Mieke Madrid. March 22, 2019, 2:14 p.m. Central time.

NEWSWIRETrains News Wire

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