Exclusive video: Watch the ‘Big Boy’ steam locomotive cross the St. Croix

The huge train engine rumbled across the Hudson Swing Bridge as it tours the country for the first time in more than 50 years.




3 minute read

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See the whole Big Boy St. Croix River crossing unedited when you support St. Croix 360 at $5/month or more.

The largest operating steam engine in the world passed through the St. Croix Valley yesterday. The Big Boy locomotive is touring the Western United States this summer to celebrate the 150th anniversary of the completion of the Transcontinental Railroad.

Its route from St. Paul east to Wisconsin took it across the St. Croix River on the Hudson Swing Bridge, located just north of the I-94 highway bridge. The railroad bridge was built in 1912, replacing a previous span. The first rail crossing at the location was built in 1872.

The chance to see a historic steam locomotive crossing a historic bridge on a beautiful river was a unique opportunity. Thank you to Tom Darrow of Sunnyside Marina for providing the boat necessary to document this sight.

There were a few other boats waiting at the bridge, and a pair of osprey parents with a nest nearby busy calling and fishing, oblivious to the special occasion. The train came through Lake Elmo and Bayport before traveling down the river a short ways to the bridge.

Last era of the steam locomotives

No. 4014 was delivered to Union Pacific in December 1941 — the same month as the attack on Pearl Harbor. It was part of a first batch of 10 locomotives that were built, out of 25 total. It cost $245,000 at the time, which is the equivalent of $4.5 million in today’s dollars.

The locomotives were built by American Locomotive Company in Schenectady, New York. They were almost only used on the route between Ogden, Utah, and Cheyenne, Wyo., across the Wasatch Mountains. It would typically consume 35 tons of coal and 35,000 gallons of water on such a trip.

With the nation entering World War II, they became essential to moving troops and equipment across the nation as part of the mobilization effort.

“Big Boy locomotives rendered important service in the Second World War, especially since they proved so easy to fire that even a novice could do a fair job. Since many men were unsuited for combat service or otherwise exempted from military service, they were hired by the railroads to replace crewmen who had gone to war. This proved advantageous for the military and the railroads. During the war, U.S. railroads hauled countless servicemen, huge volume of vital raw materials, war cargo, and essential military equipment around the country. When Union Pacific required expansion of their locomotive fleet to haul additional tonnage, U.P. requested permission from the U.S. Government to procure diesel-electric locomotives. The resources required for diesel-electrics could not be spared. However, raw materials were approved to build five additional Big Boy steam locomotives. Their performance in moving a huge volume of war material throughout WWII was repeatedly cited and the Big Boys are generally acclaimed as having made a huge contribution to the war effort.”

RailGiants Train Museum

But the huge locomotives were soon outdated, as more cost-efficient diesel engines became the norm. A Big Boy hauled its last load in 1959. No. 1404 put on more than a million miles in its twenty years of operation.

Back on the rails

Engine No. 4014 was housed at the RailGiants Train Museum in Pomona, California from 1962 until 2013. That’s when Union Pacific transported it to Cheyenne, Wyo., where it underwent extensive renovations to bring it back to the rails.

As part of its restoration, No. 4014 was converted to burn fuel oil instead of coal, which means it doesn’t have the huge plume of smoke that was typical of such engines.

The locomotive weighs in at 380 tons. With its tender, it’s more than 1.2 million pounds.

More information:

See the whole Big Boy St. Croix River crossing unedited when you support St. Croix 360 at $5/month or more.


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4 responses to “Exclusive video: Watch the ‘Big Boy’ steam locomotive cross the St. Croix”

  1. Tim Lange Avatar
    Tim Lange

    Lousiest video ever made. The constant screen blanking interruptions are annoying. Could not allow the user to simply enjoy the sight and sound. Great way to wreck the video.

    1. Greg Seitz Avatar

      Donate here to see the full unedited video: http://www.stcroix360.com/support

  2. Johny G Avatar
    Johny G

    You got permission from Union Pacific to use their copyrighted material in your fundraising, right?


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Exclusive video: Watch the ‘Big Boy’ steam locomotive cross the St. Croix