The only operating “Big Boy” steam locomotive — Union Pacific No. 4014 — will be stopping in College Station on Friday, pulling the UP No. 4141 George Bush Locomotive along with it.
The stop is one of many along No. 4014’s “Great Race Across the Southwest” celebratory tour, which commemorates the 150th anniversary of the completion of the transcontinental railroad. The Big Boy will depart from Houston’s Amtrak station with No. 4141 at 10 a.m. on Friday. The two will make brief stops in Spring and Navasota before arriving in College Station at Wellborn Road and F&B Road. The trains will be available for public viewing from 4:30 p.m. to 6 p.m.
“We appreciate the community support as we bring these important pieces of history to College Station,” said Union Pacific senior director of corporate communications and media relations Raquel Espinoza.
In December, No. 4141 was used to transport Bush’s casket to the George H.W. Bush Presidential Library and Museum at the Texas A&M University campus, where he was buried. In April, the Associated Press reported that the George and Barbara Bush Foundation was working with UP to acquire the locomotive for a display at the museum.
The George Bush Locomotive was first unveiled in October 2005, according to the UP website. It’s painted to match the color scheme of Air Force One during Bush’s presidency, and the UP website said that it was the sixth time UP painted a locomotive in a color different than their usual yellow.
After its time in College Station, No. 4014 will continue on its tour, which began on Sept. 27 in Cheyenne, Wyoming. The Big Boy made its way through Utah, Nevada, California and Arizona before it entered Texas through El Paso at the end of October. It will be stopping throughout Texas until Nov. 12, then make its way through Arkansas, Oklahoma, Kansas, Missouri and Colorado before it returns home to Cheyenne.
The “Great Race Across the Southwest” is the Big Boy’s third and final 150th anniversary celebration of the year. The first was a trip to Ogden, Utah, for a ceremony to mark the anniversary and the other was a tour across the upper Midwest. It took UP two years to restore the Big Boy to working condition for the tours, using parts handmade by UP team members, the site said.
There were originally 25 Big Boys built for Union Pacific, and the first was delivered in 1941, specifically to deal with the steep terrain between Cheyenne and Ogden. There are only eight remaining today.
“This is a living breathing piece of history,” Espinoza said. “It gives us an opportunity to bring people closer to the country’s history and share information about how Union Pacific continues moving goods for American families and businesses.”
After traveling more than 1 million miles between 1941 to 1961,the Big Boy was put in the RailGiants Museum in Pomona, California, until UP took it back to Cheyenne for its restoration in 2013. The 132-foot-long locomotive, weighing 1.2 million pounds, will be driven by UP engineer Ed Dickens when it comes to College Station.
In a video on the UP website, Dickens said it is important for onlookers to remain safe if they go see the Big Boy pass through their town. Everyone must remain at least 25 feet away from all railroad tracks and are advised to wear hearing protection.
UP officials selected Navasota as a stop on the tour due to the high number of visitors and logistical support when the Bush 4141 locomotive went through in December, Navasota Mayor Bert Miller said. He said that Navasota residents are “eagerly awaiting” the arrival of Big Boy 4014.
“Our railroad heritage is part of what makes Navasota special and we have a number of investors and businesses starting up and under construction right along the route on Railroad Street — new barbershop, restaurant, tavern and boutique hotel — all investing in that heritage and the community,” Miller said.
Espinoza said No. 4014 has had a “flawless” journey so far — “a tribute to the hard work and expertise of the team,” she said. Turnout has been high, Espinoza said, with hundreds of thousands of people waiting alongside the tracks and visiting the stops that Big Boy is making.
“We’ve had an amazing experience sharing the Big Boy with the communities we serve,” Espinoza said. “We are very grateful for all of the support we’ve received along the way. We’ve had great turnouts during the Big Boy stops in Texas. It’s is a special place for Union Pacific.”
Visit up.com/forms/steam-trace.cfm to track Big Boy No. 4014 on its tour.