Steam Update: No. 844 Readies for 2017 Excursions

Locomotive No. 4014 disassembly continues in March 2017.

The massive overhaul of locomotive No. 4014, left, continues, while No. 844, center, prepares for its spring and summer excursions.

The scream of its whistle and the vibrations felt as it chugs down the tracks are unmistakable. This year, Union Pacific’s “Living Legend” steam locomotive No. 844 will return to the rails for three excursions.

No. 844’s first trip, following a break-in run in the Cheyenne-Colorado area, will take the locomotive through Wyoming, Idaho and Utah beginning April 18. Several stops are scheduled throughout the 11-day roundtrip. A detailed schedule, including locations and display times, as well as route map and a GPS monitor is available on UPsteam.com.

The Steam Team also will travel with No. 844 to Omaha, Nebraska, for the 2017 College World Series in June and Cheyenne Frontier Days in July.

“We’re excited to get the locomotive back out and showcase it,” said Ed Dickens, senior manager-Heritage Operations. “It’s always a highlight seeing the public’s reaction and hearing their stories.”

Recently, the team used liquid nitrogen to shrink a valve bushing for No. 844’s steam chest, the area directly above the large cylinders on both sides of the locomotive, housing the 12 inch diameter piston valves used to distribute high pressure steam to the pistons below. As the new bushing warmed to room temperature, it swelled, fitting precisely into position between the two components.

“No. 844 has needed new valve rings for years,” said Dickens. “We’ve had to prioritize and fit that work into the overall plan to keep the locomotive in top shape and on the road.”

Machinist Garland Baker machines No. 844's valve.

Garland Baker, machinist, machines a valve bushing for No. 844's valve chest on the shop's VTL machine.

In the midst of planning No. 844’s ongoing maintenance needs and operating plan, work continues on restoration of the Big Boy, locomotive No. 4014. The difference between the two locomotives is size – Big Boy is the world’s largest steam locomotive – and the number of heavy components the UP Steam Team is busy cleaning and rebuilding is astounding.

Big Boy's Massive "To Do" List

Senior Manager - Heritage Operations Ed Dickens discusses the scope of work necessary to rebuild No. 4014.

Each day in the Steam Shop is carefully orchestrated with team members working on many different components simultaneously. While one team works on the new boiler, another is cleaning and rebuilding numerous parts.

“It’s been six decades since the Cheyenne Steam shop has worked on a Big Boy locomotive,” said Dickens. “Each day brings a new, but rewarding challenge as we work to bring No. 4014 back to life.”

Welder Don Crerar inside Big Boy's boiler.

Don Crerar, welder, works inside the Big Boy's boiler.

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