UPDATED: Southwest law enforcement officials largely unaware of Union Pacific Big Boy's pending arrival

'What steam locomotive?'
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UTAHSTEAMCHASE_3
Tail-gating vehicles are stacked up on a rural Iron County, Utah, dirt road paralleling the Union Pacific’s main line. A medical helicopter prepares to lift off with the most seriously-injured. A total of six drivers and 10 passengers were involved.
Iron County (Utah) Sheriff's Department
“What steam locomotive?”

That was the initial response when Trains contacted numerous law enforcement agencies in Arizona, Texas, Arkansas, Oklahoma, and Kansas, states and municipalities along the route of Union Pacific Big Boy No. 4014's Great Race Across the Southwest now underway.

The world’s largest operating steam locomotive is not commanding the same level of law enforcement attention as it did when the massive 4-8-8-4 steam locomotive debuted in Wyoming and Utah in May.

Train-chasers in southern Arizona, New Mexico, and Texas should expect to frequently encounter around U.S. Customs and Border Protection and U.S. Border Patrol vehicles and personnel that maintain a constant presence in the borderland.

“Speeding vehicles often signal drug and human smugglers,” said a former U.S. Border Patrol special agent.

When close to the border, there are multiple hidden ground and aerial surveillance devices. Train chasers should slow to a crawl when approaching and passing federal officers and vehicles.

Railroaders and law enforcement officers familiar with the area also warn train-chasers to start the day with a full tank of gas and to “drive on the tank’s top-half.”

Train-chasers in southern Arizona, New Mexico, and Texas should also expect to frequently encounter around U.S. Customs and Border Protection and U.S. Border Patrol vehicles and personnel that maintain a constant presence in the region.

After an overnight stop in Lordsburg, N.M., this coming Saturday, No. 4014 enters Texas on Sunday, Oct. 20, continuing its journey through Deming on UP’s Sunset Route. After traveling through Texas, the locomotive will spend four days in Arkansas, including public display on Nov. 14 in North Little Rock. Both the North Little Rock Police Department and Arkansas State Police say they will respond to emerging events but do not have plans to assign personnel to follow the locomotive.

In the Lone Star State, Big Boy frequently will be accompanied by Texas Department of Public Safety troopers, according to Lt. Elizabeth Carter, DPS Public Information Officer in El Paso.

“Our troopers will be around areas that are near train crossings and where tracks parallel roadways as a safety precaution,” Carter said. 

Oklahoma, and Kansas highway patrol spokespersons have not responded to Trains inquiries concerning special enforcement plans.

Meanwhile, additional information has emerged about a six-vehicle collision occurring on Oct. 5 in isolated Iron County, Utah, as train-chasers in pursuit of videos and photographs tangled on a dusty road paralleling the Union Pacific main line. Speeds too high for the narrow roadway, tail-gating, distracted drivers, and dust from other vehicles obscuring visibility were all factors in a chain-reaction collision on the frontage road near the ghost town of Beryl.

This is the only known traffic accident associated with Big Boy’s travels. Multiple highway safety officials warn that no photograph or video is worth risking a property damage or personal injury motor vehicle accident.

UPDATE: Comments from a former border patrol agent and Texas Department of Public Safety representative. 2:17 p.m. Central time, Oct. 17, 2019.

NEWSWIRETrains News Wire

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