A piece of history stops in Orange

Published 6:06 am Saturday, August 21, 2021

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By Dawn Burleigh

Big Boy No. 4014 stopped for approximately 30 minutes in West Orange on Thursday morning as residents young and old marveled at the size and beauty of the locomotive.

To comprehend the size of the train, the No. 4014 is 133 feet long, or the same length of three and one-third schools buses lined up bumper to bumper.

One member of the crew, John Kovatch, who grew up in Orange, was greeted by several classmates. As this reporter spoke with him, it was discovered that he was also related to another individual present to see the train, Chris Kovatch.

“I was surprised to discover I had a relative on the train today,” Chris said. “It’s a small world. It is a neat claim to fame for the day.”

Union Pacific Big Boy 4014 Engineer Ed Dickson said he was too young to remember steam engines in operation but his father and grandfather would talk about them.

“In the 1970s I was able to see one and fell in love,” Dickson said.

He also enjoys seeing the faces of the younger children as the train pulls into a new town to stop.

“At one point that was us when we were young,” Dickson said.

Twenty-five Big Boys were built exclusively for Union Pacific Railroad, the first of which was delivered in 1941. The 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. They had a 4-8-8-4 wheel arrangement, which meant they had four wheels on the leading set of “pilot” wheels which guided the engine, eight drivers, another set of eight drivers, and four wheels following which supported the rear of the locomotive. The massive engines normally operated between Ogden, Utah, and Cheyenne, Wyo.

There are seven Big Boys on public display in various cities around the country. They can be found in St. Louis, Missouri; Dallas, Texas; Omaha, Nebraska; Denver, Colorado; Scranton, Pennsylvania; Green Bay, Wisconsin; and Cheyenne, Wyoming.

Big Boy No. 4014 was delivered to Union Pacific in December 1941. The locomotive was retired in December 1961, having traveled 1,031,205 miles in its 20 years in service.  Union Pacific reacquired No. 4014 from the RailGiants Museum in Pomona, California, in 2013, and relocated it back to Cheyenne to begin a multi-year restoration process. It returned to service in May 2019 to celebrate the 150th Anniversary of the Transcontinental Railroad’s Completion.


PHOTO GALLERY: Big Boy No. 4014 in Orange