I Wuz Just Thinking: Memories of the Big Boy

A Union Pacific Big Boy steam engine barreling across the country. (Otto Perry image via Denver Public Library)

When the Big Boy came to this area that we would go to most of the overpasses in it’s path to stand and take pictures as it approached. 

Seems almost yesterday that the Union Pacific railroad Big Boy No. 4014 steam engine, came through East Texas, making stops in Overton and Longview.

Jimmy and I both love trains.  His dad was a telegraph operator (telegraphist) for many years in Kilgore, as well as in other towns in Texas.  After school and weekends, Jimmy would walk from his home to the nearby Depot and “help” his dad, “Buddy” Baker.

Betty Mahurin Baker

Me? I think part of my fascination was learning to count numbers by watching the railcars go by.  I also loved the rhythm the train made. It was like music to my ears with a little kettle-drum sound thrown in when the railcars would shake.

Jimmy and I was so excited when the Big Boy came to this area that we would go to most of the overpasses in it’s path to stand and take pictures as it approached.  After the train passed, we got into our pickup truck and raced ahead to get to the next over pass to take more pictures of the front and length of the train.

When Big Boy stopped, we took turns taking pictures of each other with the train locomotive in the background.

The news article in the Kilgore News Herald  stated Big Boy was delivered to Union Pacific in December, 1941.   The locomotive was retired in in December 1961, having traveled 1,031,205 miles in its 20 years in service.

“There were 25 Big Boys built for UP, and the first was delivered in 1941. At 132-feet-long, the locomotives 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 thy had four wheels on the leading set of ‘pilot’ wheels which guided the engine, eight drivers, another set of eight driver and four wheels following which supported the rear of the locomotive.  The massive engines normally operated between Ogden, Utah, and Cheyenne, Wyoming.”

Yesterday, while in Longview, we passed by the Gregg County Museum.  I thought of the times, near Christmas, when we would go inside and watch the miniature trains set up.  Very entertaining.

Years ago, Jimmy and I would lay out some of our own train sets to enjoy in the evenings. We had lights in the miniature churches, stores, and homes.

A recording would play as if the Salvation Army band was performing,. Children were laughing and dogs barking.  Another recording was music of theWalbash Cannon Ball.

Those were such happy days….as I wuz just thinking. 

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