EAST TEXAS (KLTV) - Thousands of onlookers lined a stretch of East Texas railroad tracks on Sunday to catch a glimpse of a piece of history.
From Jacksonville to Longview, they were waiting to see ‘Big Boy,’ the largest, heaviest, and most powerful operational steam locomotive in the world.
In Longview, some arrived as early as two hours ahead of time along the tracks near Cotton Street to see Union Pacific 4014, also known as ‘Big Boy’.
“This particular train was one of only 25 built in the 40′s, and it’s the only one operating now,” said train enthusiast Mike Salsbury who came from Tampa, Florida to see the train.
Long-displayed at a museum in California, 4014 was re-acquired and restored to operational shape by Union Pacific, then placed in excursion service in May.
"Pretty much nostalgia, once in a lifetime thing, and we don"t have them anymore," said onlooker Holly Noon.
Built in 1941 by the American Locomotive Company of New York, 'Big Boy’ is 604 tons, more than 132 feet long, and has a maximum power capacity of more than 6,000 horsepower.
Some marked the occasion by placing coins on the track to be flattened by Big Boy.
“A steam engine sounds like a living, breathing entity. You can hear the steam pumps running, hear the water being put in the boilers,” Salsbury says.
For many, it was a reminder from an elegant time gone by.
“Way back when, I rode steam engines from Mineola to Dallas when I was a kid,” Noon says.
‘Big Boy’ is currently making its way across several states. The train will depot in Marshall, before departing for Atlanta, Texas on Tuesday.