A small group gathered along the railroad tracks crossing Richmond Avenue late Wednesday afternoon to watch a rare sight.
Union Pacific’s No. 4014, known as a Big Boy steam locomotive, thundered through southwest Houston on its way to the Amtrak station on Washington Avenue as part of a tour marking the 150th anniversary of the transcontinental railroad. On Thursday, the train and accompanying railcar museum will open for visitors.
The sight of a steam engine moving through the city served as a reminder of a time when these mechanical wonders traversed the city, pulling freight and passengers.
As far back as 1956, a Houston Chronicle article lamented the “depressing reality for steam locomotive fans” as more and more of these iron horses passed into history, replaced by economical diesel engines in the years following World War II.
The article noted that railroad enthusiasts would “go out of their way to see a steam engine pulling a string of freight cars,” much like what happened Wednesday as the Big Boy traveled to Houston from San Antonio.
“It is sad, too, for the younger generation, some of whom will never see a steam locomotive in action,” the article also observed.
Learn more about railroading in Houston and where Big Boy No. 4014 will go from here on HoustonChronicle.com.
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