I Got To See The God Of Trains

Illustration for article titled I Got To See The God Of Trains
Photo: Toni Scott

I have been a car enthusiast since I was two years old, but I have been a train enthusiast since the moment I was born. Unfortunately, it’s incredibly difficult to get a locomotive into a garage, or drive one to work (especially if you live in the States), so that enthusiasm is usually left at the wayside in favor of automobiles. My area is basically devoid of passenger rail, and it is significant effort to try and watch intermodal freight trains which I admittedly have seen thousands of from trainspotting as a kid, so I’ll end up going months on end without seeing a train, except for the tiny N scale ones I have on a layout in a spare corner.


Recently, Union Pacific decided to restore a locomotive that I had idolized my entire life. After 50 years of sitting on display at a railroad museum, the company bought back UP #4014, one of eight remaining Big Boys in existence, and decided to fully restore it to operational status. This is truly the king of trains - no steam locomotive has ever been bigger. It weighs 1.2 million pounds and has over 6,000 HP.

After over half a decade of restoration efforts, it was returned to service in early 2019 to commemorate the 150th anniversary of the Transcontinental Railroad. The whistle alone was enough to get train fans excited, as we’ve covered before. The first tour it took was unfortunately nowhere close at all to where I live, and so I just gave up on being able to see it. The second tour, however, came directly through Houston, where it had an exhibition day at a local Amtrak station.

If you look closely at that helicopter footage, you can see my yellow third-gen Prelude parked next to the tracks, because yes, I dropped everything to go see it. I shot video from ground-level for everyone to enjoy, as well! I actually was able to capture the train twice, as it needed to back out of the Amtrak station to get back onto the line it was leaving the city from. The lines were only half a mile apart, so I watched it from one location, and then moved to the other rail to catch it again. Unfortunately, there is no video on Earth that can convey what seeing this pass by is like, but hopefully, this at least conveys some sense of the absurd scale of it.

Collectrix of Vintage Hondas and High Priestess of the Church of Slam It On Wats. Freelancer at Jalopnik. she/her



Very cool, I would travel to see that. If you are ever in Sacramento, California or nearby (say, in Tahoe or San Francisco, a hour or so away), the California State Railroad Museum has a nice collection of engines and rolling stock, including dining cars with fine china sets from back in the day. They have occasional events with visiting locomotives, as it’s on a railway line. Closed now for currently obvious reasons. Why is it paired with the second engine, the George Bush 41? Are they afraid the Big Boy might break down? The clouds of steam are just glorious. I did get a glimpse of your Prelude, I had a ride in one of that generation once and my friend the owner took a corner fairly sharp so I could get an idea of the 4 wheel steering. Funny, I don’t think there are any cars using that today, except maybe the Honda NSX? It’s always interesting to me when a bit of innovation like that is released onto cars that are not the flagships.