World's largest steam locomotive coming to south Louisiana

Michael Tortorich
Donaldsonville Chief
Union Pacific's Big Boy No. 4014 will embark on "The Big Boy 2021 Tour" Aug. 5 to celebrate railroad heritage and the communities Union Pacific serves.

Union Pacific's Big Boy No. 4014 will pass through south Louisiana, and will stop in Plaquemine, Donaldsonville, Luling, and New Orleans in August.

The steam locomotive will embark on "The Big Boy 2021 Tour" Aug. 5 to celebrate railroad heritage and the communities Union Pacific serves, according to a company news release.

This will be the first tour since the locomotive was restored for 2019's "Great Race" tours celebrating the 150th anniversary of the transcontinental railroad’s completion.

The multi-year restoration took place at Union Pacific’s steam shop in Cheyenne, Wyoming, following a retirement that spanned six decades.

Scott Moore, senior vice president of corporate relations and chief administrative officer, said it weighs 1.2 million pounds, and recalls bygone days. It also shows the important role the railroad continues to play in the global economy.

"This summer, we are proud to announce that the Big Boy will be back to tour through 10 of the states and hundreds of the communities which Union Pacific serves," Moore said.

Twenty-five Big Boys were built exclusively for Union Pacific Railroad, the first of which was delivered in 1941.

No. 4014 will kick off the tour at the Steam Shop in Cheyenne, Wyoming, Aug. 5, making brief whistle-stops in communities across Arkansas, Colorado, Illinois, Kansas, Louisiana, Missouri, Nebraska, Oklahoma, Texas, and Wyoming.

Schedule highlights

Aug. 20: The schedule for Aug. 20 shows the locomotive to be in Livonia (no public access) in the morning. It will arrive at Main Street Crossing in Plaquemine at 9 a.m. and depart 15 minutes later. Arrival at Railroad Avenue in Donaldsonville will be 10 a.m. with departure a half an hour later. It will be in Luling at Gassen Street Crossing at 11:45 a.m. and depart at noon for Audubon Butterfly Riverview Park in New Orleans.

Aug. 21: It will be on display in New Orleans from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Aug. 21. More information on this stop is available at uptraintix.com.

Aug. 22: The locomotive will then depart from New Orleans Aug. 22. It will return to Luling (10:30 a.m. for 15 minutes), Donaldsonville (12:15 p.m. for 45 minutes), and Plaquemine (no public access; passengers disembarking at 2:30 p.m.).

Aug. 23: It will head to north Louisiana Aug. 23, as stops include Bunkie, Natchitoches, and Shreveport.

The route will cover several states.

The locomotive will be on display in the following cities:

  • Aug. 14: Fort Worth, Texas
  • Aug. 17: Houston
  • Aug. 21: New Orleans
  • Aug. 29: St. Louis
  • Sept. 6: Denver

No. 4014 will return to Cheyenne following the Denver stop. A complete list of overnight and whistle stops will be released at http://upsteam.com

Safety guidelines

Union Pacific strongly encourages visitors to keep safety in mind while viewing and photographing No. 4014 on its journey. For everyone's safety:

· Remember, trains can't stop quickly to avoid people or vehicles on the tracks.

· A train's distance and speed can be deceiving.

· The average train overhangs the track by at least three feet – take extra precaution and stand back at least 25 feet.

· Railroad tracks, trestles, yards and right of way are private property.

· Never assume tracks are abandoned or inactive – always expect a train.

The Experience the Union Pacific Rail Car, a multi-media walk-through exhibition providing a glimpse at the past while telling the story of modern-day railroading, will accompany the Big Boy on its tour. A steam tracking map showing No. 4014's location and route will be available at upsteam.com.

History of Big Boys

Twenty-five Big Boys were built exclusively for Union Pacific, the first of which was delivered in 1941 to handle the steep terrain between Cheyenne and Ogden. Of the eight still in existence, No. 4014 is the world's only operating Big Boy. The other seven can be found on display in Cheyenne, Wyoming; Denver, Colorado; Frisco, Texas; Green Bay, Wisconsin; Omaha, Nebraska; Scranton, Pennsylvania; and St. Louis, Missouri.

According to Union Pacific's website, Big Boy No. 4014 was delivered to the company in December 1941. The locomotive was retired in December 1961, having traveled 1,031,205 miles in its 20 years in service. 

Union Pacific reacquired No. 4014 from the RailGiants Museum in Pomona, California, in 2013, and relocated it back to Cheyenne to begin a multi-year restoration process. It returned to service in May 2019.