Tag Archives: railroad

Visit the Big Boy

One of the advantages of writing and research is the opportunity to learn about subjects which never before caught my interest and awareness. My research for “General William Palmer: Railroad Pioneer” led me into the wonderful world of trains. I never fully realized the importance of train travel to western development, and I was amazed by the complexity of this fascinating subject.

As weather improves with the approach of summer, I recommend a visit to Cheyenne and the Big Boy. The Union Pacific railroad line is the reason that Cheyenne exists. Its location was critical to north-south lines, which connected Colorado to east-west transcontinental routes for shipping and travel.

About the Big Boy. It is impressive! Only 25 of these 4000 series 4-8-8-4 class* steam locomotives were made between 1941 and 1944. Considered the biggest and most powerful, they were built to pull trains over the Wasatch Mountains of Utah without assistance. Top speed was 80 mph and their last run was in July 1959.

Big Boy #4004 is easily accessible where it rests outdoors in Holliday Park in Cheyenne. Only eight of these big beauties still exist. Feast your eyes on this one, then stop in the train depot in downtown Cheyenne to visit the train museum there, and learn more interesting railroad facts and history. Another Big Boy, #4005, is also on display at the Forney Transportation Museum in Denver.

Locations of 8 remaining Big Boy Railroad Steam Engines:
#4004 – Cheyenne, WY – Holliday Park, US 30
#4005 – Denver, CO – Forney Transportation Museum
#4006 – St. Louis, MO – Museum of Transportation
#4012 – Scranton, PA – Steamtown National Historic Site
#4014 – Pamona, CA – Los Angeles Co. Fairplex
#4017 – Green Bay, WI – National Railroad Museum
#4018 – Dallas, TX – Museum of the American Railroad
#4023 – Omaha, NE – Lauritzen Gardens

*4-8-8-4 class refers to the Whyte notation system of wheel arrangement.
The number describes the leading pilot wheels in front, power or drive wheels
in the middle, and support, or railing, wheels under the firebox and cab.
The 4-8-8-4 class Big Boy is a very large steam engine!

Joyce B. Lohse, 5/12/09

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Posted by on May 12, 2009 in Western history


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The General is coming!


A few days ago, I received the edits for my latest manuscript, General William Palmer: Railroad Pioneer. Looks like my work is cut out for me as we hope to have the book published by early February, in time for a reading conference in Denver. This book has been a long time coming. It began almost two years ago and has gone through a couple of incarnations since its inception. I am excited that we are getting close to finalizing it for the “Now You Know Bio” series from Filter Press. To read more about the offerings from Filter Press, go to

General Palmer’s story is an exciting one of western pioneering spirit at its finest. Born in 1836, Palmer grew up with a fascination for railroad transportation and wide open spaces. As an officer of the Union Army during the Civil War, he was taken a prisoner of war for spying. After the war, he went to work for the railroads, eventually starting his own company, the Denver & Rio Grande. His narrow gauge “baby railroad” opened frontiers by connecting eastern and western routes through the rugged Colorado high country. He settled areas including the beautiful resort city of Colorado Springs where he settled with his wife Queen and built a castle in the foothills. Life threw many challenges at him which he overcame with dignity and perseverance.

Watch for publication of Palmer’s story early in 2009. This will be my fifth book for Filter Press in Palmer Lake, Colorado. With much pleasure and excitement, I have learned a great deal about the history of the railroads during the years of Western expansion, and I am anxious to share those stories with my readers and at upcoming presentations.

With best regards — Joyce Lohse


Posted by on January 3, 2009 in Western history


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