Union Pacific’s Big Boy locomotive in Houston Tuesday on its 10-state tour

Big Boy is currently at the Houston Amtrak station

HOUSTON – Big Boy No. 4014, a Union Pacific steam locomotive built in the 1940s to conquer mountains while carrying equipment in support of World War II, is embarking on a 10-state tour and is on public display Tuesday in Houston with free admission.

On Tuesday, people will get a chance to talk to the steam crew, tour the “Experience the Union Pacific” rail car -- a railroad museum on wheels -- and take a “selfie” with the world’s largest steam locomotive, one of 25 of its kind built and the only one still in operation, according to a news release about the event.

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Big Boy will be on display from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Tuesday at Houston Amtrak Station, 902 Washington Avenue. Admission is free. Union Pacific reminds all participants to be safe and stay 25 feet back from the tracks when taking a picture.

Big Boy No. 4014 was delivered to Union Pacific in December of 1941. The locomotive was built to cross the Wasatch Mountain Range east of Ogden, Utah. It was retired in 1961 after traveling a little over a million miles, reacquired by Union Pacific in 2013 and restored to service in 2019.

This is the first time Big Boy has gone on tour since its post-restoration debut in 2019 to celebrate the 150th anniversary of the transcontinental railroad’s completion. It is returning in 2021 with a tour that includes whistle-stops in more than 90 communities and one-day public display events in five major cities: Fort Worth, Houston, New Orleans, St. Louis and Denver.

Here are some of the highlights of the day’s event in Houston.

  • Meet the Steam Team – At 11 a.m., the Union Pacific steam crew that helped restore and now operates Big Boy will take questions from the audience for 30 minutes.
  • Experience the Union Pacific Rail Car – This restored baggage car now serves as a traveling history museum, providing a glimpse of the past while telling the story of modern-day railroading through sounds, images, and interactive technology.
  • Interactive Booths and Tents – There will be several exhibits set up where participants can learn more about model railroading, acquire a souvenir and receive a free Clifford and the Railroad Crossing book from Safe Kids Worldwide, an organization dedicated to protecting children from unintentional injuries.

Big Boy will depart Houston on Wednesday, Aug. 18 and will make two additional whistle-stops in Texas, with an overnight in Beaumont, before crossing into Louisiana en route to New Orleans.

The two whistle-stops Wednesday, Aug. 18, in Texas:

  • 10:45 a.m. – Huffman, Spanish Cove Road Crossing
  • 12:30 p.m. – Hardin, County Road 2009

Big Boy will then travel to Beaumont, Texas, on Wednesday, arriving at about 3:15 p.m., where it will spend the night near Hollywood St and I-10 Frontage Road.

On Thursday, Big Boy will make one additional whistle-stop in Texas before heading into Louisiana:

  • 9:30 a.m. – Orange, Holly Lane Crossing

A complete schedule of Big Boy’s 2021 multi-city tour, along with a map tracking its journey, can be found here. The public can also follow along with Big Boy’s adventure on Twitter.


About the Author:

Amanda Cochran is an Edward R. Murrow award-winning journalist. She specializes in Texas features, consumer and business news and local crime coverage.