Big Boy leads first public excursion up Wasatch Grade

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Big_Boy_0512_Wasatch_CKratvilleWrinn
Big Boy No. 4014 and 4-8-4 No. 844 lead Sunday's trip up the Wasatch Grade, the first public excursion for the restored 4-8-8-4.
Cate Kratville-Wrinn
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Fans swarm Union Pacific Big Boy No. 4014 in Evanston, Wyo., after Sunday's excursion from Ogden, Utah.
Justin Franz

EVANSTON, Wyo. — History was made Sunday when Union Pacific No. 4014 became the first Big Boy in six decades to attack the Wasatch Grade and the first 4-8-8-4 to ever lead a public excursion. 

After three days of celebrations in Ogden, Utah, to mark the 150th anniversary of the completion of the first Transcontinental Railroad, No. 4014 and 4-8-4 No. 844 kicked off what will be a week-long journey home to Cheyenne, Wyo. The locomotives and train will spend tonight in Evanston before continuing east on Monday to Rock Springs, Wyo. 

Thousands of people lined the Union Pacific main line through Weber and Echo canyons to see the train and traffic on Interstate 84 stretched for miles. 

Among the spectators was Rod Robinson of Arcata, Calif., who had staked out a spot in Weber Canyon with his son Ray and his two grandchildren.

“It’s a once in a lifetime trip,” Robinson says.

Calvin Robinson, 11, was more direct about why he came to Utah.

“I’m here to see Big Boy because it’s huge,” he says.

UP dispatchers were warning freight trains in the area to proceed with caution because of the crowds that had gathered to see the train. “We’ve got people all along the tracks, so lots of bells and whistle,” a dispatcher was telling crews.

Wes and Roni Hickey of Bridger Valley, Wyo. were heading to Ogden for Mother’s Day when they saw the hundreds of cars parked at Castle Rock, Utah and decided to stop and see the show.

“There are so many people out,” Wes says. “It’s a good Mother’s Day activity.”

Just 82 tickets, priced at $3,000 and $5,000 (the latter for dome-car seats) were available to the public for the 65-mile, one-way excursion. The funds raised benefit the Golden Spike Foundation, the organization coordinating Utah’s commemoration of the completion of the Transcontinental Railroad, and the Union Pacific Museum in Council Bluffs, Iowa.

 

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