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Posts Tagged ‘150 year celebration of the Transcontinental Railroad’

We waited, lined up on both sides of the track, wearing sun hats, setting up tripods, pushing babies in strollers. We were a mass of railroad buffs, history lovers, curiosity seekers, teens on bikes – and drones. The event was well promoted on local television, radio and social media. The Union Pacific Railroad’s No. 4014  Big Boy was coming our way and folks from all walks of life and all ages, could see the restored steam locomotive as it passed through the western suburbs of Chicago.

Those more technically savvy than I were tracking the Big Boy’s journey on their cell phones, announcing to all who could hear “it is in Des Plaines” or approaching the airport“. It was like awaiting the guest of honor at a surprise birthday party – only no one was hiding and the guest of honor couldn’t wait to blow us a steamy kiss.

I was a bit “incognito”, as I was not supposed to be out in the sun (but, you know me and I figured I could always blame it on my car that has been known to veer off course).

I digress.

My friend Louellen and I found each other amongst a growing crowd. Her lovely daughter proclaimed “it’s making the turn” then “it is in Berkeley” and then, there it was, chugging along into the downtown Elmhurst station. It felt like a grown-up version of Thomas the Train, and I found myself wishing our grandson Ezra could be with me as he would have enjoyed it.

We could hear it, at first, in the distance. We could hear the prolonged, mournful wail of the train, see the billowy puff of charcoal smoke, then feel the vibrations and see the steam pour forth as we all experienced the clickety-clack of a different era and long distance rail travel.

Oh, dear friends, we cheered, we waved, we oohed over the gracious club cars and we felt the train’s whistle deep in our chests as babies slept in their parents’ arms, with men and women in business attire who left their desks and computers to stand and stretch to see the Big Boy. Grandparents and teens, students from the nearby Elmhurst College and so many railroad buffs in a gleeful crowd on a warm summer’s day. In front of us, a friendly and knowledgable young man was recording the event for his club’s website as we realized a drone was silently soaring overhead, filming a new journey for the Big Boy No. 4014.

Then, it was gone, off to the next bend on the rail and eagerly awaiting crowd.

As I returned home, I found myself in a thoughtful mood. I wondered at this massive marvel of transportation, the 4014 Big Boy, built more than 75 years ago, to traverse the Transcontinental Railroad, which linked the east and west coasts of America by rail 150 years ago. The railroad was constructed largely by Chinese, Irish, and other immigrants, in harsh work conditions across an often untamed, rocky, treacherous route so that those who followed could travel faster and in a safer way and for goods to be transported more efficiently. I pondered it all, from the comfort of my air-conditioned car, with a cold soft drink I purchased at a drive-through window of a fast food restaurant while listening to an audio book. I found myself grateful, oh-so -grateful,  for the opportunity to see a wee bit of our larger history chug past me on a hot summer afternoon.

The 4014 Big Boy’s journey this summer is to commemorate the 150th anniversary of the completion of the Transcontinental Raiload.  As I write this, the Big Boy has left West Chicago, Illinois and is heading toward Iowa. This is the link to the schedule of where it will be on the next leg of its Should it be near you on it’s journey, I encourage you to try to see it. .https://www.up.com/heritage/steam/schedule/index.htm

 

 

 

 

 

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