Five mind-blowing facts about Big Boy
Mind-blowing facts about Big Boy
In the 1959 film Union Pacific The last of the giants the narrator comments, “…There are no small parts on a Big Boy.” This is also the case of the story that accompanies this colossus of the rails. Digging into the details of Big Boy, everything – the metrics, the operating stats, even the people involved – are voluminous and, in some cases, larger than life. Come and be amazed by five mind-blowing facts about Big Boy.
#1. How about a dip in the pool? There’s enough water in Big Boy’s boiler to fill a swimming pool measuring 14 feet wide by 28 feet long by 3 ½ feet deep. If you grabbed your calculator—or your slide rule, in the days of Big Boy—to figure this out, let me spare you the math. The boiler holds 10,500 gallons of water. Big Boy’s Boiler, the pressurized part where water changes state from a liquid to a gas, is 45 feet long. It is made of three layers of cold rolled and stress relieved steel. Course one, closest to the front, has an outside diameter of 97 11/16 inches. The steel is 1 11/32 inches thick. The thickness of the steel course two increases to 1 3/8 inches. By the time we reach the third course, the outside diameter has been widened to 106 9/16 inches with 1 3/8 inch steel. The boiler operates with a pressure of 300 pounds per square inch.
#2. I’d like to buy a Big Boy, but I’m concerned about fuel economy. How many kilometers can I travel with a tank? Are you ready for a sticker clash? Big Boy fuel economy is measured in gallons per mile, not miles per gallon. #4014 started life as a coal engine, like all the other Big Boys. During the restoration it was converted into an oil burner. On the road, the #4014 will consume 20 to 25 gallons of oil per mile depending on load, quality and conditions. If you’re looking for something a little more economical, can I show you a nice 0-6-0?
#3. William Jeffers, the president of the Union Pacific Railroad who ordered the construction of the Big Boys, started working for the railroad when he was 14 years old. Why start a railway career at such a young age? Jeffers was born on January 2, 1876 in North Platte, Neb. His father, an Irish immigrant, was a laborer for the Union Pacific Railroad. Jeffers signed with Union Pacific as custodian of the North Platte depot. This misplaced career was necessitated by his expulsion from school after hitting his teacher. Jeffers had a hot temper that stayed with him throughout his railroad career. At times his angry and firm stance was helpful, but usually created challenges. When he entered the ranks of the executive of the Union Pacific in 1928, Jeffers was branded with a nickname: the czar, in reference to the Russian leaders. It was said that once called to his office, we did not know if we were going to be hired or fired.
#4. Virtually every number used to quantify Big Boy is impressive. This includes the source of the figures – the plans used to build the locomotive. The set of plans drawn up to build the Class 4000 consisted of just over 2,000 individual drawings. Everything on the locomotive is accounted for in one of these plans. The locomotive assembly drawing is the largest drawing in the set, measuring 12 ¾ feet long by 1 ½ feet wide. Remember, all of these plans were drawn by hand on a drafting table. When the Big Boys were designed, there were no computers to help with the calculations or CAD systems to lay out the designs.
#5. Diesel locomotives carry dried sand, which is applied to the rails in front of the wheels to help gain traction when starting or in slippery situations. Steam locomotives did the same. Don’t think for a minute that the amount of sand carried by a Big Boy is less impressive than the rest of the locomotive. Remember that the engineer had to maintain control of 16 driving wheels on a locomotive weighing 1.18 million pounds plus the tonnage of the train. The 4000 were rated at 7,000 tons in some parts of their territory. At the top of the boiler are two sand tanks, one for each set of drive wheels. Each bunker contains 2 tons of sand.