Tuesday, October 30, 2012

UP 844 pulls into town

Kirby and I saw it in action in Denver earlier this year, but last weekend I got to see it up close and personal: Union Pacific 844, the "Living Legend" and the only steam locomotive never to have been retired by a major US railroad.
Union Pacific brought it down to Houston for the weekend as part of events marking their 150th anniversary.  The event was held at the Amtrak station near downtown. You can't appreciate just how massive UP 844 is unless you actually see it for yourself.
As big and fat as I am, I am dwarfed by the massive driving wheels of UP 844. There's just something impressive about the size and complexity of steam locomotives that diesels, for all their power, simplicity and efficiency, cannot replicate. This is not to say that I favor steam locomotives over diesel locomotives; railroads made the transition from the former to the latter for obvious economic reasons.
This is what the cab of Union Pacific 844 looks like. All those knobs and valves! Today's locomotive engineers, with their fully-computerized cabs, have it easy. Even though UP 844 is a steam locomotive, it does not burn coal, but rather #5 fuel oil, which is normally used for maritime purposes.
Even Abraham Lincoln made an appearance at the festivities. His presence is historically accurate; 150 years ago Lincoln signed into law the Pacific Railroad Acts that would incorporate Union Pacific into existence.
Anyway, I was impressed. Kudos to Union Pacific for keeping UP 844 up and running to remind us of what used to be.

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