Friday, May 2, 2014

Union Pacific #4014 Big Boy Steam Locomotive - Mojave, California

Big Boy - Barstow, California
My four-year-old son is nuts about trains. So when I found out that the Union Pacific was moving a Big Boy steam locomotive from Los Angeles, California to Wyoming, I knew I'd have to take him to see it.

The Big Boy is appropriately named. It is a huge machine, dwarfing large diesel locomotives. It's 132' long and weighs 1.2 million pounds. A total of 25 were built between 1941 and 1944 and operated until 1959. All of them belonged to the Union Pacific Railroad.
4014 Flag - Barstow, California
No Big Boy locomotives currently work. Eight still exist in museums and parks across the country. But one, numbered 4014, will be restored by the Union Pacific in Cheyenne, Wyoming. Once finished, it will be the largest operating steam locomotive in the world.

Big Boy #4014 was built in 1941 and hauled freight trains over one million miles (mostly over the Rocky Mountains) before retirement. It had been on display in Pamona, California since 1962. In January the locomotive was moved to a yard in Colton, California. Last Monday it began its long journey to Wyoming (it is scheduled to arrive on May 8th).
Casa Del Desierto - Barstow, California
The large locomotive was scheduled to arrive in Barstow, California at around 3:00 pm for a brief inspection stop at the historic Harvey House. Originally named Casa Del Desierto (which translates "The Desert House"), this old structure was built in 1911. Today the building is used as a train station by Amtrak and offices for the local chamber of commerce. A railroad museum and Route 66 museum also occupy space inside the large structure.

It was crowded and parking was scarce. I'd guess that around 200 people (ranging from newborn to elderly) showed up to see the old locomotive. It has probably been a long, long time since that many people were at this location.
Warbonnet Boy - Barstow, California
While waiting for the Big Boy to arrive, we took a closer look at the different locomotives, train cars and cabooses (cabeese?) on display. I didn't count, but my memory seems to indicate that there were four locomotives, a handful of cars and two cabooses on static display in various states of repair.

We also walked around the historic Harvey House. It's an interesting building with character. It is very large and (to an extent) resembles the old "union stations" found in large cities. It seems out of place in the small desert town of Barstow.
Big Boy Inspection - Barstow, California
The Big Boy was late to arrive, turning the corner around 3:40-ish pm (I didn't look at a clock to see exactly what time). A diesel locomotive (also numbered 4014) was pulling the locomotive and another diesel locomotive was behind it. Several passenger-type cars followed, then some flat cars. An air compressor must have been hooked up to the whistle, because the locomotive let out a loud WHOOO-WHOOO.

I was expecting the train to pull right up to the station, but it didn't. Instead it stopped on a track further away from the station. Railroad police kept the crowd on the platform. I was a bit disappointed that we were not going to get a closer view.
Joe Cool - Barstow, California
The train stopped and a couple dozen employees who were riding the train (many on the locomotive itself) hopped off. Several began to perform an inspection. After a couple minutes one of the railroad policemen announced that we could go up to the locomotive (but not past either diesel locomotive). He told us that we had 10 minutes before the train would leave.

Like I said earlier, there was quite a crowd. Everyone wanted their picture taken in front of the huge steam locomotive. I had my four-year-old son with me, so I avoided the mass of the crowd by going towards the tender.
4014 Crowd - Barstow, California
I talked briefly to one of the employees. It was a man in his mid-40's (just guessing, I'm not good at judging age) wearing a brightly colored vest. He's a mechanic for the railroad at the shops that this locomotive will be restored. The comment I remember him saying was, "This will be a big job."

After everyone got their pictures the crowd began to thin. I took this opportunity to see the locomotive a little closer. We eventually made it to the front. Even though there were less people, it was still a large crowd.
Tender Wheels - Barstow, California
Thinking that 10 minutes must surely be up we headed back to the Harvey House, finding a seat on a step in the shade. We still had a good (but distant) view. Two elderly men next to us were discussing the technical details of this locomotive. One said that he saw this locomotive once when it was still in service.

About five minutes after sitting down the crew climbed back on the train. Several minutes after that the diesel blew its horn and the Big Boy blew its whistle, and the train began to leave, heading east. My son shouted, "Bye Big Boy!"
Waiting Boy - Barstow, California
Photographing the Big Boy was a challenge. The lighting was less than ideal. The sun was high, but the scene was slightly back-lit. Basically I was photographing the shadow side of a dark object in contrasty light. I looked for opportunities to use that contrast to my advantage.

All of these photographs were captured using a Sigma DP2 Merrill. I like this camera because it is the digital equivalent to film. I converted all of the images to black-and-white in post-processing.
Brake Wheel Shadow - Barstow, California

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