I was recently transported back to the age of steam.
Big Boy 1404, the largest steam locomotive in the world, has been touring the country to celebrate the 150th anniversary of the completion of the Trans-Continental Railroad. There are eight Big Boy locomotives still in existence. The Union Pacific chose the one in the best shape, took it to Wyoming, and spent two years bringing that huge monster back to life.
I found out that the locomotive was going to visit Marshall, Texas. So, last Sunday, November 10, I traveled to Marshall to see the steaming giant. My vantage point when it arrived was not the greatest. However, after waiting for the Union Pacific workers to get the locomotive parked in the train yard, all of us spectators were allowed to get closer.
I have seen a Big Boy in Frisco, Texas at the Museum of the American Railroad. However, it is impressive to actually see the locomotive moving and to hear that deep whistle. And getting the chance to see the engine up close while still putting off steam was well worth the hour long wait.
I returned to the train yard on Monday to see the Big Boy again. I also lined up to view the information car. The souvenir line was very long, and I thought they might be out of t-shirts in my grandson’s size (he is a five-year old train fanatic). I didn’t wait in that line and decided to look on line for a t-shirt for my grandson. I left after about an hour and a half. I still think that the best part of the experience was seeing the train on Sunday after it arrived. The weather last Sunday was beautiful in Marshall, Texas. By Monday, it was cloudy and cold. By the time I left Marshall for the drive home, it was drizzling rain.
The drive home was a challenge. The rain kept changing from light mist to a heavy drizzle. I had to keep adjusting my windshield wipers. Huge gusts of wind kept trying to push me off the road. Leaves were blowing everywhere. In fact, there were spots when leaves limited my ability to see the road. Trucks kept slowing down traffic by getting in the passing lane and then taking forever to pass (and going 10-15 mph below the speed limit). Interstate 20 is always busy at any time of the day in the Dallas/Fort Worth area, especially at rush hour. I kept thinking about how a train has the right-of-way. I’m sure Big Boy would not have to be worried about being blown off the tracks or trucks being in its way.
Seeing that marvelous piece of engineering was awe inspiring. It’ll be no wonder that by the time it completes its tour, millions of people will have flocked to see it.
It’s interesting to me that trains are still important as a means of transporting goods and people. Long live trains. If I rode a train from here to Marshall, it would only take a little big longer than driving. Something to think about. Steam can have its advantages.