Locomotive Lovers Take Ride of a Lifetime, Benefiting the Union Pacific Railroad Museum

Big Boy cab riders photo 2 | LR

Train lovers Christine Williams (middle) and Dave Claunch (right) share their excitement for a ride in the Big Boy No. 4014 with Union Pacific's Austin Barker (left).

Hitching a ride on Big Boy No. 4014, the world’s largest steam locomotive still in operation, could be considered a dream come true for many. For two lucky rail fans, that dream recently came true.

Union Pacific’s famed locomotive departed June 7 for its Home Run Express Tour to Omaha, Nebraska. After being on display for 11 days during the 2023 College World Series, Big Boy returned to the Steam Shop in Cheyenne, Wyoming, on July 3. This time, the steam engine was accompanied by rail fans Christine Williams and Dave Claunch.

On the last leg of its trip home, the Union Pacific Railroad Museum offered two exclusive tickets to ride in the cab from Pine Bluffs, Wyoming, to Cheyenne, with all proceeds benefiting the nonprofit.

Christine Williams, a Virginia native, has been a train lover since she was a young girl, recalling her dad’s 1932 Lionel circling the Christmas tree every year. Williams currently volunteers for various heritage railroad organizations, including being involved with the Nashville Steam Preservation Society’s 576 locomotive restoration.    

Although Williams has ridden in the cabs of many historic locomotives before, there’s something about Big Boy No. 4014 that captivates her.

“This experience was inspiring and one I couldn’t miss,” Williams said. “The best part was watching people’s reactions and feeling their excitement as the locomotive passed by.”

Dave Claunch grew up in Nashville, Tennessee, and, like Williams, has always been a train lover. He lived near train tracks growing up, sparking his interest in model railroading. Claunch is now an advertising and marketing executive with his own firm, and an unwavering passion for trains.

“It’s always been a dream of mine to ride in a cab and have someone explain to me how it works and is maintained,” Claunch said. “This locomotive is a unique part of American history.”

After the ride, both passengers shared the same feeling of astonishment.

“The ride was better than expected; it was a sensory overload,” Claunch said. “I still can’t get the smile off my face. It was everything I hoped for and a dream of a lifetime.”

The Union Pacific Railroad Museum, located in Council Bluffs, Iowa, features an extensive collection of items from 160 years of railroading.

Big Boy Cab Riders Photo 1 | LR

Cab Riders Dave Claunch (left) and Christine Williams (right) gain insight on Big Boy No. 4014 from Printz Bolin, vice president-External Relations (middle); and Ed Dickens, senior manager-Heritage Operations (cab).

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