Part 16: La Junta, CO to Laramie, WY


Navigation Links
 Trip Home Page     


The Trip

It was good to get rolling again.  We had been shop-bound for a bit over 4 weeks, so feeling the sway of the road was nice.  Our new (to us) air-ride seats performed as expected and we were pleased.  From La Junta we headed to Pueblo, CO and then north past Colorado Springs to Black Forest to see my niece and husband Becky and Peter.  We spent a few days in Black Forest and then headed north to see the Union Pacific steam locomotive X4014 AKA "Big Boy" in Cheyenne, WY.  We saw Big Boy in Colton, CA when it was being prepared to be towed to Cheyenne for a 5-year restoration.  Five years passed in a flash and now 4014 is functional and returning from Ogden, UT from the 150th anniversary of the completion of the transcontinental railroad.

The Photos

The photos below are what we saw.

Becky and Peter's place in Black Forest has a spectacular view of Pike's Peak when the weather is clear.

After a few days visiting, we headed north through Denver to Loveland, CO.  We spent the night there, took in a movie and some sushi.  The following morning we continued north and outside of Fort Collins we spotted this firefighting helicopter doing practice with a dipper basket.

The chopper made several passes as we rolled past.  The water was on a long cable dangling far below the chopper.

We rolled into Cheyenne for lunch and to do some intelligence gathering on 4014's schedule.  The UP posted the "official" schedule online, but the return to Cheyenne was not planned to be an official event.  After we parked on a side street, we hit the bricks to find some lunch.  We spotted this nice Victorian building.

We ate at the Albany restaurant next to the Cheyenne UP depot.  The depot was very well preserved and housed a museum and visitor center.  We spoke with the visitor center personnel and concluded that there were multiple paths that the train might take so we decided to do some field recon to find the best spot.

We decided that the best way to insure that we would see 4014 was to travel to Laramie, about 45 minutes west.  The train was in Laramie being serviced before departing at 0800 the following morning.  While we could not approach the train because it was in a restricted area, we could still take photos from a distance.  At the park next to the Laramie depot we spotted this sign.

The UP had constructed a pedestrian bridge to allow foot traffic to cross over the tracks.  From the bridge we got our first view of the train.

With full zoom on my lens and a tight crop we were able to see the crews attending to the train.  UP decommissioned track-side water towers years ago so water trucks were needed to fill Big Boy's water reservoirs at every stop.  Later in the day we decided that the only sure viewing point for Big Boy was next to the freeway overpass, so that is where we decided to camp for the night.

Big Boy was refurbished as part of the UP's "heritage program".  Along the way, they also refurbished some coach and sleeper cars.  These were the gold-standard of travel before airplanes.  As part of the trip to Ogden for the Golden Spike ceremony UP offered tickets for travel on the train.  Your choices were the cheap seats at $3,000 or the better seats at $5,000.  Ouch.  A once-in-a-lifetime trip, but ouch.

A vista dome car was part of the entourage.

From the bridge we could see some rolling stock currently at rest.  And, some fine abodes on the wrong-side-of-the-tracks.

We left the bridge and walked past the park to a fenced-off area.  We could see Big Boy, but had to shoot over the chain link fence to get an unobstructed shot.  This guy is huge, about a million pounds of steel and steam.  The crews were busy checking the mechanical systems and filling the various fluid reservoirs.

There was a whole team in the cab.  Below the road number is the wheel designation of the machine: 4-8-8-4

The tender has 7 axles to support the weight of the fuel oil and water used to drive the train.

Big Boy is so long that I had to get quite a distance away to get the engine and tender in one photo.

Look at all those moving parts and linkages!  Note the chain connecting one of the linkages with an automatic oiler.  These engines are very complex, very high maintenance and it is no surprise that the railroads migrated to diesel electric locomotives at the earliest opportunity.

At first look this is an "oh shit" party, but it turns out that it was just a simple inspection.

Traveling with 4014 is 844, also a steamer.  This unit is a 4-8-4 locomotive.

844 had its own tender for oil and water.

2650 was along for the ride "just in case" of a mechanical failure on the steam engines.  This is an active-duty motor and very powerful.

Next to the mail rail line was a small outdoor exhibit with another steam locomotive and a push plow for snow.  This must have been a ugly assignment for the engineer as the cut of the plow would surely direct a fire hose of snow right at the operator's windows.

These steam engines are a tinker's delight with plenty of linkages.

We stopped for coffee and considered our viewing alternatives.  In the end we both concluded that being close to the departure point was the only way to insure that we could see Big Boy in motion.  We traveled down the railroad service road and found an open area that was flat and set up for the night.  Our plan was to ascend the flanks of the freeway overpass for a better view.

It will be interesting to see Big Boy in motion.  We'll have to wait until 0800 in the morning to see.

Navigation Links
Previous Adventure
Top of this Page
  Next Adventure
Trip Home Page  
Bill Caid's Home Page

Photos and Text Copyright Bill Caid 2019, all rights reserved.
For your enjoyment only, not for commercial use.