Requiem For a Heavyweight

Written by William C. Vantuono, Editor-in-Chief
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FROM THE EDITOR, MAY 2019 - By the time you read this, the largest steam locomotive ever built will have thundered her way from Union Pacific’s Steam Shop in Cheyenne, Wyo., to Ogden, Utah, to take part in ceremonies marking the 150th anniversary of the Golden Spike, which completed the nation’s first transcontinental railroad.

I’m talking about the locomotive that graces this month’s cover: “Big Boy” 4014, built in 1941 by the American Locomotive Co. to UP specifications for hauling heavy trains over the Wasatch Mountains between Ogden and Green River, Wyo., on a 1.14% ruling grade.

A UP design team led by Mechanical Department Research & Mechanical Standards Vice President Otto Jabelmann, working with ALCO, re-evaluated the railroad’s 4-6-6-4 Challenger locomotives. They enlarged the Challenger’s firebox to 235 x 96 inches (1,880 square feet), increased boiler pressure to 300 psi, added four driving wheels and reduced driving wheel diameter from 69 to 68 inches. The resulting single-expansion, articulated, 975.75-ton (with tender, in working order) 4-8-8-4 featured an axle loading of 67,800 pounds, and a maximum starting tractive effort of 135,375 pounds with a 4.0 factor of adhesion.

ALCO manufactured 25 Big Boys for UP, 20 in 1941 and five in 1944. They saw service until their fires were dropped for the last time in 1961. Eight survived; UP re-acquired 4014 in 2013 from the RailGiants Museum in Pomona, Calif., and meticulously restored her to operating condition.

A nine-page Railway Age article (Oct. 4, 1941, pp. 519-526, 528) describes the Big Boy in detail, listing all component suppliers, some of which are still in business: Adirondack Foundries & Steel. American Arch. American Brake Shoe and Foundry. American Throttle. Barco Mfg. Bethlehem Steel. Buckeye Steel Castings. Carnegie-Illinois Steel. Champion Rivet. Chase Brass & Copper. Elastic Stop Nut. Electro Chemical Engineering. Flannery Bolt Co. Franklin Railway Supply. Garlock Packing. Gatke Corp. General Steel Castings. Gustin-Bacon Mfg. Hewitt Rubber. Homer D. Bronson. Johns-Manville. Jos. T. Ryerson & Son. Lunkenheimer Co. Masonite. Nathan Mfg. National Lock Washer. National Tube. New York Air Brake. Phelps Dodge Copper Products. Pittsburgh Plate Glass. Prime Mfg. SKF Industries. Standard Stoker. Superheater Co. Symington-Gould. Timken Roller Bearing. Tube-Turns Inc. T-Z Railway Equipment. Ulster Iron Works. Union Asbestos & Rubber. U.S. Rubber. Waugh Equipment. Westinghouse Air Brake. Wm. Sellers. Wilson Engineering.

We salute Union Pacific, its Steam Team, and all suppliers, past and present, who returned 4014 to glory.

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