It was hot inside the cab, the roar of the fire inside of the massive firebox was deafening, so loud that no one could probably hear themselves think! The fireman began to check over his gauges, checking to see if the pressure inside the boiler was to the desired pressure, that the injectors were performing right to bring the water from the massive centipede tender to the boiler, and that the fire was burning just right and the oil was transferring from the oil bunker in the tender to the locomotives fire. And from what he was seeing and from what he felt as he did his duties, everything was a hundred percent and ready to go.
The engineer began to read his instructions that he had been given from the head of operations for the Union Pacific railroad, and also looked at his orders for where he was to stop to let freight trains pass by either going to or from their destination to where they were going. Ogden Utah to participate in a very special event, the celebration of the one hundred and fiftieth anniversary of the driving of the golden spike of the two transcontinental railroads. The engineer knew that this was going to be a very special event, and that there was going to be thousands of people attending the festivities and as well as the awaiting railfan's standing track side to get a glimpse of this special event.
The steam locomotive that everyone was waiting for and excited to see was the mighty Union Pacific 4-8-8-4 steam locomotive, which is known to everyone as the Big Boy! This mammoth of a machine was built by Alco in 1941 along with twenty four of her sisters till 1944. These iconic marvels were built for one purpose, to move as much freight and supplies as they could for World War Two. These locomotives turned out to be a huge success and they became the prime movers of heavy hauling trains for the U.P, and would hold the record as the largest and most powerful steam locomotives ever built! It has also been said that a Big Boy could pull a fully loaded train on level track up to five miles in length.
But as the years passed, the use of steam locomotives throughout the country was starting to decline and the more modern diesel electric engines began to take over, and many steam locomotives including the Big Boy's were sadly withdrawn from service and cut up for scrap. Of the twenty five that were built, eight luckily survived the scrappers torch and were sent to different parts of the USA to become nothing more than static displays for museums.
But for the #4014, that was about to change! In 2014 the Union Pacific re-acquired the loci, which had been silent since it's last run back in 1959. For the Union Pacific which already had the distinction of operating two steam locomotives, one that is the only steam engine to never be retired and the other being the largest operating steam engine in the world at the time. For the Union Pacific, this was a great leap to the future and to make history.
After four years of blood, sweat and tears the volunteers managed to complete the task and bring the 4014 back to life. The test run they had was a success and no major problems were found. But to the amazement of the crew working the test run that day, was the amount of people that seemed to follow the train to every stop that they had scheduled to stop at. Even as it turned dark out and the sun disappeared the crew still managed to see some very dedicated and hardcore railfans getting a good look at the steamer.
But now it was the big day! Time to bring out the 4014 onto the mainline for her maiden trip to Ogden. Soon the call came over the radio, the line ahead was clear and the crew could now proceed to take the engine and their train of nine passenger coaches to their overnight stop several miles away. The engineer blew two long blasts of the whistle to indicate the trains departure, and with the reverser moved forward, the cylinder cocks opened and a light tug on the throttle, the Big Boy began to make history as she began to pull her train out from the station and towards the open mainline. The fireman began to attend to the fire inside the firebox by adding some fuel to it and kept a eye on every single gauge that was there to prevent something bad from happening.
The engineer looked over at his good friend who was the fireman and could nothing but sport the biggest grin he could put on his face as he pulled back on the throttle a little bit more. This was the moment when the little boy inside him began to show, the giddiness of being behind the throttle of the largest steam engine in the world, and the excitement growing ever more higher as he pulled on the whistle cord to hear the engines voice be heard. It was the most amazing moment he had ever experienced, and before he knew it a slight tear began to form in the corner of his eye and then it trickled down his cheek to which he would wipe off with his arm.
'I bet he's watching me and smiling right now.' He thought to himself as they approached the level railroad crossing in the distance. The train was doing only ten miles an hour as it was still in the yard limit, but once the train would be clear of the crossing was when he knew he could open her up even more. With the signals showing green and making sure the crossing was clear from any intruding passengers, he pulled on the whistle cord again to warn the onlookers and letting 4014's voice be heard once again. All the crew members held their breath as the train passed through the crossing by all the people who where cheering, shouting and waving as the train went past. The conductor who was sitting in the cab with the rest of the crew could of sworn that there was over five thousand people standing there to get a glimpse at this historic moment. But seeing all those people made him, the engineer, the fireman and the rest of the crew smile from ear to ear.
The engineer sighed with relief as he then pulled back on the throttle, and then the one point three million pound behemoth started to work hard and the speed began to increase. The train was now on her way to it's first stop along the way, where the train would take on some water and impress those of the thousands of happy rail roaders who were sure to be there and waiting.
A few hours later. Departing Laramie Wyoming:
The crowds in Laramie were amazing. All along the railway right of way there was crowds of rail fans doing everything they could to take a picture or just get a glimpse of this special occasion. As the train stopped in the railroad town to take on water and do a quick servicing stop, the crew all had nothing but smiles on their faces even as they greased up every joint that they could get their hands on. Soon the train was given the go ahead to leave and head back out onto the mainline.
The engineer blew two long blasts of the loco's whistle and the mechanical bell on the front began to ring as the train began to pull out from the station. White wisps of steam exited from the every single one of the engines cylinder cocks as the trains speed began to increase and the 4014's sixty nine inch driver wheels began to move even faster. The people waved and shouted as the train passed by as it left town and headed for it's overnight stop. For these dedicated railfans, they would have to wait just a bit longer to see their new favorite steam locomotive return back to town from it's destination.
On the high iron:
The train was now moving along at a steady speed of thirty miles an hour, which is slow considering these machines could move along the mainline with heavy loads of freight and travel at speeds up to at least seventy! But with this being the engines first mainline run and the bearings being brand new, the crew members didn't want to overdo the work that had been done and break the engine in safely.
The train was now near the town of Rawlins, the trains first overnight stop. The engineer then did a quick stretch and reached down to get his thermos of coffee, but as he grabbed his thermos and sat back up he saw something that he didn't see before. A bright light in the distance! He quickly grabbed the radio and called to dispatch.
"UP 4014 to dispatch. Come in dispatch."
"This is dispatch. Go ahead 4014."
"Dispatch, was there any trains making their way out of Rawlins tonight before our arrival?"
"That's a negative 4014. There are no trains allowed to be on the main until your arrival."
The engineer then began to panic. "Then why is there lights approaching and heading in our direction?!"
There was nothing afterwards. There was only static coming from the radio and when this happened the crew inside the cab became very nervous and uncomfortable. Quickly the engineer started to slow the train down and he then started to blow the whistle long and loud! But the light just kept coming and it started to become bigger and brighter than ever. The crew then full out panicked and the engineer slammed the brakes into emergency. The Big Boy's drivers stopped moving and sparks began to spray out everywhere.
"EVERYONE BRACE FOR IMPACT!" The engineer shouted to his crew in the cab as the light was now mere feet away from them. And before any one of them could have another thought, it all went black. And it all went cold and quiet.
One of the crew members on the train had seen the light and ordered the crew in the coaches to bail out and save themselves. All of them did what he said and jumped clear from the steps alongside. He then stood up and began to call for his crew members.
"Is everyone okay? Answer me if you are okay!"
Then shortly afterwards, all of his crew called out and began to walk towards him. Luckily all of them had survived and were surprisingly okay with no serious or minor injuries. But as they then regained themselves, they then saw something that made them shiver to their bones and had them completely speechless.
There was absolutely no sign of the Big Boy, her nine coaches that were being pulled, and her crew up front were also missing. Even the bright light that they saw earlier that they thought was another train was also not to be seen. Everything was gone!!!!!
"What the fuck just happened?" They all said at once.
End of Chapter One......