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Admiral Biscuit


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Nov
19th
2021

Chapter Notes: Big Boy (Destination Unknown) · 12:22am Nov 19th, 2021

While this statistic probably doesn’t exist, I’d put money on the Lauritzen Gardens/Kenefick Park having more locomotive by weight than any other public park in the US. Sweetsong was right to guess you’d put them where traffic on the highway can see them; in fact, they’re on a hill overlooking I-80.


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Special thanks to AlwaysDressesInStyle for pre-reading!


Constructed between 1941 and 1944, the Big Boys were built by Alco to get Union Pacific freights over the Wasatch Mountains and over Sherman Hill. They were monsters, perhaps the biggest locomotives built in the US [this is contentious*]. 4-8-8-4 wheel arrangement, and the sixteen driving wheels were each 68 inches high (1.7 meters). 85 foot overall length (26m) for just the locomotive; add in the tender and it’s 132 feet (40.5m) long. Total weight of the locomotive and tender (I’m assuming loaded, although don’t know for sure) was 1.2 million pounds, or 548,000kg. Top speed of 80mph (130kph) although that was hardly useful for shoving trains up hills. All were retired in 1959.


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To give you an idea of how legendary they were, twenty-five were built, and eight of them were preserved . . . nearly a third. Meanwhile what was likely the fastest American steam locomotive,** the 52 Pennsylvania Railroad’s T1—styled by no less than Raymond Lowey—were all scrapped.***

Few railroads were overly interested in their history, at least when it came to preservation. Only two American roads that cared come to mind, the Baltimore and Ohio (which founded a museum in Baltimore near the former Camden Yards), and the Union Pacific. I won’t say that the UP was the first railroad to think of keeping steam alive as a way of embracing their history or public outreach, because I legit don’t know, but I will say that they have the honor of having the oldest steam locomotive never retired from their fleet in UP 844 (or 8444; it’s carried two road numbers in its long life).

They didn’t have an operational Big Boy. However, unlike some other railroads (and as mentioned above), they didn’t rush them all off to the scrapper’s torch when they were no longer useful, and as they approached the anniversary of the completion of the Transcontinental Railroad, they started looking for a preserved Big Boy that could be restored to full operation, and they found one.

____________________________________________________

*How you measure which is the biggest is the first point of contention. Longest? Heaviest?
*It is unknown how fast they actually were, since the Pennsylvania Railroad saved money by not putting speedometers in them. Certainly over 100mph, possibly over 140mph.
**There is a preservation group interested in constructing a full-scale replica, and you can learn more about them and their project here.


As we all know from reading Silver Glow’s Journal, the easiest way for a pegasus to make a decision involving three choices involves bird-spotting, based on type. Chirpy bird, ducky bird, or hawky bird. Now I know you’re thinking first of some obvious examples of category, such as chickadees being chirpy, ducks being ducky, and falcons being hawky. And now that I’ve said that, most of you are thinking of edge cases, but there really aren’t any. If it floats it’s a ducky bird, everypony knows that, and the other two categories are clearly distinguished.


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More than any other American railroad I’m aware of, the Union Pacific always wanted big equipment. They had their Big Boys in the steam era, but when it came time for diesels, there was nothing that had quite the oomph of a Big Boy. Sure, you could easily couple together as many locomotives as you needed to get a train up Sherman Hill, but that wasn’t as good as having one locomotive that could do it by itself.

Do yourself a favor and read up on UP’s turbine locomotives, those were a solution in search of a problem and they found it. UP’d probably still be running them if it weren’t for rising fuel costs; they did everything they were supposed to, but burning 700 gallons of fuel per hour idling wasn’t a good look. Both in terms of public relations and in the accounting department. They needed a replacement.

Anyway, their more conventional solution was looking at EMD’s wildly successful SD40-2 and wondering what would happen if two of them were made into one, and thus was born the DDA40X Century.


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The Century is in the lead.

In some ways it was futuristic, offering the wide-nose safety cab long before that was a staple of locomotive design in the US. In other ways, it was stupid; they made a single two-unit locomotive when they would have been ahead of the game to just have two SD40-2s for each Century they bought, since if you lost one Century due to mechanical failure you effectively lost two locomotives.

It came in shorter than the Big Boy at only 98 feet (30 meters) long, and was significantly lighter, only 545,000 pounds (247,000kg), but it made more power, 6600 HP vs. the Big Boy’s 6200. It was powered by two EMD V16s displacing a whopping 20,640 ci (338.2L) and it did have a passageway in the middle. They were successful and in fact had a longer service life than the Big Boys, 1969 to 1986. Of the 47 built, 13 survive, including one that never went off UP’s roster . . . perhaps they’re thinking ahead.


The Bob Kerry Bridge is a cable-stayed pedestrian bridge across the Missouri River which opened in 2008. It’s 3000 feet (910) meters long and has programmable lights which were donated by Gallup, which has a university just north of the bridge on the Nebraska side. You can follow the bridge on Twitter.


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Restoring a steam locomotive is hard work. Parts are hard to come by, and if you want it to be operational, it needs to pass various safety checks. The UP also had to enlarge their steam shop so that the locomotive could fit in it.

In some cases—and this was done with the Big Boy—the type of fuel is changed (4014 was converted from burning coal to burning to run on fuel oil. While they were exempt from the Positive Train Control requirements, UP eventually decided to install PTC in the locomotive.

Obviously, getting parts for a steam locomotive is a challenge. Some of the required parts were fabricated by the Union Pacific, as they surely would have done back in the steam days as well. Some of them were sent to other shops who had the right equipment; for example, the driving wheels were sent to the Strasburg Railroad in Pennsylvania since they had a lathe big enough to fit them. In case you don’t remember, the drive wheels are 68 inches in diameter, so they can’t be put on most lathes. (Also they’re almost certainly very heavy.)


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If you haven’t seen one, getting a sense of scale of a big locomotive is difficult. I feel like this video does a good job of it.
Viscose and Flagg are small switching engines, and Pere Marquette 1225 has only got half the drivers the UP’s Big Boy does. Chevy Tahoe for scale.


It was once said that in the early days of railroading, a proper railroad had Pacific, Chicago, or an ampersand in its name. Chicago, Central, and Pacific had all three, and it did go to Chicago (and I suppose ‘central,’ whatever that means). Besides the Union Pacific, there was also the Northern Pacific, the Southern Pacific, Missouri Pacific, the Chicago, Milwaukee, St. Paul, & Pacific (Milwaukee Road), Chicago, Rock Island, & Pacific (Rock Island) and probably more.

And in fact some railroads were named for the towns they went to or the places they aspired to go—the Chicago, Milwaukee, St. Paul & Pacific went all those places (eventually).

Most of the longer names got shortened over time, since nobody wants to say that they’re riding the New York, New Haven and Hartford Railroad, they just call it the “New Haven” and are done with it. The Atchison, Topeka, & Santa Fe, known as the Santa Fe (and now the “SF” part of the BNSF). The New York, Chicago and St. Louis Railroad, known as the Nickel Plate Rd.


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Likewise for the Cleveland, Cincinnati, Chicago and St. Louis Railway, known as “The Big Four.” It was formed of mergers and can you imagine if they kept all the names? Here’s a brief history:
Formed by the merger of the Cleveland, Columbus, Cincinnati and Indianapolis Railway, the Cincinnati, Indianapolis, St. Louis and Chicago Railway and the Indianapolis and St. Louis Railway.

A year later, they got the Indiana, Bloomington and Western Railway.

Therefore if they kept the full name, they’d’ve been the Cleveland, Columbus, Cincinnati, Indianapolis, St. Louis, Indiana, Bloomington, Chicago and Western Railway if they combined them; if they just kept adding ampersands as new lines were acquired (which, I’ll be honest, I’d do if I was running a railroad) they’d be the
<deep breath>
Cleveland, Columbus, Cincinnati, and Indianapolis & Cincinnati, Indianapolis, St. Louis and Chicago & Indianapolis and St. Louis & Indiana, Bloomington, and Western Railway.
(I bolded the railroad names here ‘cause it gets confusing otherwise)

Which leads us to the Manehattan, Paisley & Greenock Northern . . . that’s their short name. Joe knows that their full name (or at least what they print on the tickets) is The Manehattan, Paisley & Greenock Northern Steam Railway & Mumbles and Pit Wagonway.* That is, of course, mentioned in my own Field Notes from Equestria and now’s as good a time as any to admit I’m being a little self-indulgent in this story and there are references, sometimes subtle and sometimes not, to other stories of mine sprinkled throughout. Good luck!
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*For human railroads back in the day, it wasn’t that uncommon for the railroad’s name to include modes of transport, usually ships, barges, or canals.


I’ll be honest, this is a song I’d never heard before by a band I’ve never heard of. However, given the subject of the song, I could hardly have chosen anything else.



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Comments ( 28 )

I want one of those live steam mini Big Boys. But they cost a fortune.

This one is not as big but was a treat to ride managed to take my son on it once also on the 611 a passenger type
https://youtu.be/i-okGmDHccQ

I like to watch the YouTube videos where the steam engine is going down the middle of the highway and it is passing all the cars when they are not in gridlock.

How old am I?
Things that happened in my lifetime are referred to as 'ancient history". :applecry:

Big Boy. The locomotive they cant airlift.:moustache:

Intresting on the TP1 steam engine speed. Just imagine if they had run a dynamometer car only on it to check its minimum laden on track top speed. Mallard wuldve been hit for a duck,

Then again, Im sure someone wouldve retooled it with forced water cooled roller bearings, shipped it to Australia, and said, We have over a thousand miles, the scoop troughs are full, and we have history to make.

Hit It.:pinkiecrazy:

5608864
I want one of those HO scale T1s but they also cost a fortune. One of these days. . .

On the plus side, I did get the Broadway Limited California Zephyr set back in the day. That also wasn’t cheap, Still, someday I’ll have a layout where they can run.

5608869
Ooh, that’s a big ‘un!

Biggest steam locomotive I’ve ever ridden behind was PM1225, the one being towed in the video above. I’d like to get to see the Big Boy some day and maybe ride behind it.

5608870

I like to watch the YouTube videos where the steam engine is going down the middle of the highway and it is passing all the cars when they are not in gridlock.

Oh, yeah, I remember those. Like this one:

5608872

How old am I?
Things that happened in my lifetime are referred to as 'ancient history".

Heh, we’ll all be there sometime.

5608878

Big Boy. The locomotive they cant airlift.:moustache:

I bet the Super Guppy could carry it.

<reads specs on Wikiedia>

Never mind, it wouldn’t fit. And it’s too heavy. Maybe a bunch of helicopters? A whole bunch?

Interesting on the T1 steam engine speed. Just imagine if they had run a dynamometer car only on it to check its minimum laden on track top speed. Mallard would've been hit for a duck,

Yeah, it’s a shame they never actually recorded its top speed. I’ve heard a first-hand account of one running 120, give or take, I think Reese shared a link to that article some time back. I’d have to go digging to find it, though.

Then again, Im sure someone wouldve retooled it with forced water cooled roller bearings, shipped it to Australia, and said, We have over a thousand miles, the scoop troughs are full, and we have history to make.

Apparently, as with a lot of things, it wasn’t so much the distance needed to accelerate, it was other mechanical limitations. Apparently the poppet valves didn’t like going over 100 mph and were a high failure item on those locomotives, typically from excessive speed.

It’s no T1, but here’s Union Pacific 844 at 75mph (120km/h):

EDIT: just noticed it’s got a Century tagging along for the ride

5608933
ya. I remember when high tech was a rock with a handle. Damn those little sabretooth kittens were cute.

The Big boy locomotive is about as long as a Polish Pt47 with its tender. Or the Big Boy with its tender is about twice as long as the Pt47. The Pt47 is rather big on its own, so yeah, the Big Boy is huge.

Though I wonder how the visibility is from the footplate. I mean having such a long boiler you don't see what's on the rails unless it's way in front of the locomotive.

5608929
Mad and I were talking about it and I was getting all excited to buy one... then I saw the cost and the crazy labor that goes into them.

"this is contentious*"
What do you think of the Allegheny locomotives in comparison? I was actually able to see one in person in Baltimore (on the same trip as Bronycon 2019, in fact), and apparently there's a second one at the Henry Ford Museum in Michigan.
(To clarify, I don't consider myself a partisan for either one in the fight, if there's a fight. :D)

(Two asterisks appear to have gone missing from the footnotes, by the way.)
(Ah, the first footnotes, I see.)

"If you haven’t seen one, getting a sense of scale of a big locomotive is difficult."
And now I'm definitely thinking of the aforementioned railroad museum trip in Baltimore. I remember the experience of the locomotive just seeming to go on and on...

"Good luck!"
In finding them, you mean? Ah, well, sorry in advance if I don't get many, and I suppose in retrospect as well for any I haven't gotten.

re that song:
Oh, hah, I found that the other day myself, I think possibly even from the sidebar on another train music video you linked, and naturally I was thinking of it again here; I was planning to link it if you didn't, since, as you say, it's rather appropriate. :D

Thank you, as usual, for writing!


5608935
"I think Reese shared a link to that article some time back. I’d have to go digging to find it, though."
Here you go, again. :D
(The search phrased I used, based on what I remembered, was "PRR T1 pilot's license", if that's useful to you.)

The New York, Chicago and St. Louis Railroad, known as the Nickel Plate Rd.

Why? I like nickel plating, but why name a railroad after it? I wonder if maybe their main freight was stuff to be plated.

Thanks for an interesting read. One of the stories steam train nerds love to tell me is that while the LNER Mallard is the official record holder for a steam locomotive (at 126mph), it is very likely some American trains reached even faster speeds, but the companies running them would never admit it as that would have broken the speed limit on American lines. They usually talk about the Milwaukee road class locomotives. I'll have to ask them about the Pennsylvania Railroad T1 next time they try to tell me the story.

Do yourself a favor and read up on UP’s turbine locomotives, those were a solution in search of a problem and they found it. UP’d probably still be running them if it weren’t for rising fuel costs; they did everything they were supposed to, but burning 700 gallons of fuel per hour idling wasn’t a good look. Both in terms of public relations and in the accounting department. They needed a replacement.

Oh my god.

5608965

Though I wonder how the visibility is from the footplate. I mean having such a long boiler you don't see what's on the rails unless it's way in front of the locomotive.

I’ve never been in the cab of a Big Boy, but I’ve been in the cab of an Alleghany (2-6-6-6) and I can report it’s simply terrible. Of course, if it’s close enough you can’t see it, you couldn’t stop in that distance anyway, so maybe it doesn’t really matter all that much.

5608983

Mad and I were talking about it and I was getting all excited to buy one... then I saw the cost and the crazy labor that goes into them.

Oh yeah, they don’t come cheap. Lots of fiddly little bits and tiny plumbing and all that, plus of course whatever control system’s going to be jammed in the thing. Or the ones that you can ride behind seem to cost as much as a decent new car.

5609042

What do you think of the Allegheny locomotives in comparison? I was actually able to see one in person in Baltimore (on the same trip as Bronycon 2019, in fact), and apparently there's a second one at the Henry Ford Museum in Michigan.

I like them, and I’ve seen both of them (Baltimore and Henry Ford). From what I understand the Alleghanies may be heavier than the Big Boys, hence the contention in the ‘biggest.’ Big Boys certainly got better marketing and memorability, even though more Alleghanies were built for more railroads (two instead of just one) and according to the Wikipedia they had more horsepower, too. I guess hauling coal through the mountains wasn’t as sexy or something.

And now I'm definitely thinking of the aforementioned railroad museum trip in Baltimore. I remember the experience of the locomotive just seeming to go on and on...

Yeah, it’s hard to get a sense of it in a picture, but when you see it for yourself. . . .

In finding them, you mean? Ah, well, sorry in advance if I don't get many, and I suppose in retrospect as well for any I haven't gotten.

Heh, no worries. It’s certainly not required for story enjoyment.

Oh, hah, I found that the other day myself, I think possibly even from the sidebar on another train music video you linked, and naturally I was thinking of it again here; I was planning to link it if you didn't, since, as you say, it's rather appropriate. :D

I think that’s how I came across it, too. Wasn’t looking for it, never had heard of them, and I guess the algorithm bots did good for once.

Thank you, as usual, for writing!

:heart:

Here you go, again. :D

Thank you!

5609367

Why? I like nickel plating, but why name a railroad after it? I wonder if maybe their main freight was stuff to be plated.

According to WIkipedia (and other sources I vaguely recall), they were nicknamed that by a newspaper. And the powers that be at the railroad liked the nickname, so that’s what they used. According to an excerpt from a book about the railroad, quoted in Wikipedia:

Numerous legends have grown about when and how the name "Nickel Plate" was first applied. The accepted version is that it appeared first in an article in the Norwalk, Ohio, Chronicle of March 10, 1881. On that date the Chronicle reported the arrival of a party of engineers to make a survey for the "great New York and St. Louis double track, nickel plated railroad."

Later, while attempting to induce the company to build the line through Norwalk instead of Bellevue, Ohio, the Chronicle again referred to the road as "nickel plated" - a term regarded as indicative of the project's glittering prospects and substantial financial backing.

5609783

Thanks for an interesting read.

You’re welcome!

One of the stories steam train nerds love to tell me is that while the LNER Mallard is the official record holder for a steam locomotive (at 126mph), it is very likely some American trains reached even faster speeds, but the companies running them would never admit it as that would have broken the speed limit on American lines.

It’s almost certain that some American locomotives topped that, but only ever unofficially. From what I understand, a lot of competitive railroads had an unofficial policy of ‘if you can make up time, do it however you need to but keep the train on the tracks.’ Obviously, there are a lot of places in the US with decently long straightaways to stretch the locomotive out. Both the T1s and Milwuakee’s (steam) F7s were designed to run at speed reliably . . . I think that the Milwaukee’s steamers were more reliable overall, but probably didn’t have quite the top speed the T1s were capable of. Regardless, there’s no official record, so we’ll never know unless someone builds a time machine and takes a stopwatch back with them.

5610070

Oh my god.

Modern locomotives have, I think, 3,000 to 5,000 gallon fuel tanks (obviously varies depending on how that locomotive is to be used). The turbines had a 7,200 gallon fuel tank.

And towed a tender with an additional 24,000 gallons.

5610242
I have been in the cab of a Pt47 (a 2-8-2, which is probably half as long as the Big boy), the visibility is not that bad (interestingly, smoke deflectors do not really affect visibility) going forward. Going tender first, the visibility is much worse. Also, if the tracks are curving left, only the fireman can see anything.

The New York, New Haven, and Hartford Railroad is one of the ones used in the railroad board game 1830, and I normally heard players shorten it to "ninnyhaha".

5610247
[shrugs] Yeah, I don't know why things worked out the way they did.

[nods]

Aye, I've certainly been enjoying the story. :)
And thanks. :)

:D

:)

You're welcome. :)

5610245
Even starting basic is a pain. You have to cut out the wheels yourself or some crap. :twilightangry2:

This is a good piece on the Big Boy.

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