By VERNON ROBISON
Moapa Valley Progress
The site where the historic Moapa railroad station was once located was a regular stop for both passenger and freight trains on the line between Las Vegas and Salt Lake. The old spot hadn’t seen so much action in decades as it did on Thursday morning. On that day, about 100 people, young and old, lined the track waiting for the Big Boy No. 4014 to arrive.
The historic train engine, one of the world’s largest steam locomotives, was due to arrive in Moapa at 9:15 a.m., towed by two modern diesel engines. It was to be just a brief half hour stop in a 1,293 mile journey which would take the engine from a museum in Colton, California to its new home in Cheyenne, Wyoming. There it is scheduled to undergo a full restoration over the next five years.
The Big Boy had spent the previous day on display in Las Vegas where the public was allowed to see the engine up close. The stop in Moapa was just for a brief inspection and the public was not allowed to approach the locomotive for safety reasons.
It arrived nearly two hours behind its schedule. It wasn’t until after 11:00 that the old engine’s distinctive whistle could be heard as it pulled to a stop in Moapa. But that didn’t stop people from coming. And most of them stuck around waiting until this grand-daddy of all locomotives arrived.
Almost as soon as the train had stopped, Union Pacific crews got down to business lubricating the side-rods of the old steam engine. Spectators stood along both sides of the tracks watching and snapping photographs.
Big Boy No. 4014 was one of 25 Big Boys built exclusively for Union Pacific Railroad, the first of which was delivered in 1941. These huge locomotives were 132 feet long and weighed 1.2 million pounds.
Because of their great length, the frames of the Big Boys were “hinged” or articulated to allow them to negotiate curves.
The Big Boys had a 4-8-8-4 wheel arrangement. This means that they had four “pilot” wheels at the front which guided the engine, then there were two sets of eight drivers in the middle, and finally fourwheels following which supported the rear of the locomotive.
These massive engines operated were used primarily for freight service on the transcontinental route beginning in 1941. The Big Boy No. 4014 was retired from service in 1961.