History, trains

Little Man, Da & Papa Meet the Big Boy

Summer of 2019 was one of the busiest years for our family! Of course you saw in my previous post that we had the big remodel project going on at our house. I changed jobs in May. I no longer work for Winnebago County which means no more cool Courthouse pictures–sorry. And then Molly changed jobs at the end of August. We did manage to sneak away a couple of times for some rest, relaxation, and fun. One of those times I managed to get out of town was to see the world’s largest steam locomotive in action–Union Pacific Big Boy No. 4014


I have had an interest in trains my entire life. I am no stranger to the Big Boy. In fact, I have seen it at my last four trips to the National Railroad Museum in Green Bay. There you can actually climb up into the cab of this iron beast and see what the operators saw firsthand. When I learned earlier this year the the restored Union Pacific Big Boy 4014 would be making a Midwest tour, I knew I had to make time to see this locomotive coming roaring down the rails. The train was scheduled to travel through Wisconsin in July, so I planned a vacation day from work and planned to see it at a stop in Friesland, Wisconsin.

Big Boy Midwest Tour 2019
Trains Magazine.com

I knew I didn’t want to miss this opportunity, and I also wanted my son to get the opportunity to see the big train. He loves trains–just like his “Da”. I also thought it would be special for my dad, “Papa”, and my father-in-law, Dan, to see this mammoth machine. Unfortunately, the morning we were heading out Dan got really sick. We thought it was just a bad stomach bug, but it ended up being something more serious that required surgery a few days later. Don’t worry, he is okay! We hope that Union Pacific plans to send the Big Boy our way again so Little Man can go see the big train with Grandpa Dan.

On that warm July morning the Little Man and I met up with Papa and we headed over to Friesland ahead of the Big Boy. I wanted to make sure we picked a spot where we could see the locomotive actually passing by and not just coming to a stop. So we pulled over by a crossing on a back county road. A large crowd had already gathered to see this historic machine come through. Many of the folks there were standing right on the tracks and neglected the fact that the 1.2 million pound locomotive would have no time to stop had they not gotten out of the way in time. Die-hard rail fans scolded them to get off of the tracks and stand 25 feet away. They complied.

We waited near the rails– at a safe distance, of course–and all around were people young and old waiting for this historic moment. Finally, we heard the whistle blowing. Smoke and steam puffed into the sky above and the ground trembled as the mighty Big Boy thundered by. It was truly mesmerizing seeing this steam locomotive in action. Dad and I were in awe, but Little Man was a little terrified. He must have thought it was a monster!

The Big Boy pulled a train of water and oil tenders for refueling, a diesel locomotive, passenger cars, and a museum car. We loaded up our car and went into the little village of Friesland to see the train up close and personal. Friesland is a tiny berg with a few hundred people, but that day the population swelled with people there to see the Big Boy. We managed to get up to where the locomotive stopped for a brief time to do some greasing, oiling, and give the rail fans a chance to see this legendary machine. It was a fun experience for at least 2 of us. Haha! Hopefully Little Man will remember the experience when he is older or get an opportunity to see the Big Boy again.

Did you get a chance to see the Union Pacific Big Boy during the Midwest tour this summer? Where did you see it, and what did you think of the experience?

4 thoughts on “Little Man, Da & Papa Meet the Big Boy”

  1. What an experience! I knew you went to see this, but didn’t know Grandpa Dan got sick and needed surgery (or I forgot). Yikes! What happened?

    Sent from my iPad


  2. I drove up the road about 7 miles and stood in dry tall grass to see 4014. I even posted video of it, and in the comments, listed the names on each of the cars it was pulling.
    The only bad thing, I got chiggers from that grass.

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