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  • Writer's pictureFrank Oles

The Big Boy Rides Again

Woo-woo! After sitting dormant for the last few years, the Union Pacific Big Boy is once again chugging around the rails of the Oles' O-scale model railroad. It is the premier loco on our layout, and any model railroad layout.

The Big Boy was a 4000-class locomotive originally manufactured between 1941 and 1945 by the American Locomotive Company. They had a unique 4-8-8-4 wheel arrangement for stability, and were tested at speeds up to 80 MPH! The idea was to create one larger locomotive that could simplify operations that would normally require two locomotives. Duties included pulling large freight loads out West, mainly between Wyoming and Utah. Originally slated to be called "Wasatch" after the Wasatch Mountain Range in Utah, some anonymous worker wrote "Big Boy" on the front of the engine in chalk. The name stuck, and it's easy to see why - the engine and tender together weighed a whopping 1,250,000 pounds!

A fleet of 25 of these locomotives were originally operated by the Union Pacific Railroad until 1959. Of the original 25, only 8 of these iron behemoths remain, with only one of those still functioning. A relic of a bygone era, but fascinating to see both in original size and scale form.

Our O-scale version of this locomotive was manufactured by MTH. After many years of entertaining my young son Clay, it mysteriously stopped working due to a malfunctioning circuit board. We eagerly awaited MTH's circuit board upgrade, Proto-Sound 3, which would give our engine enhanced sound and features. After a few delays, PS3 was finally available this year. My Father spent many hours toiling over the swap, which ended up being a little trickier that we first envisioned.

But all his effort was worth it, as the Big Boy is once again whistling, puffing, and chugging along the tracks. Thanks Dad!

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