Big Boy delayed

After pausing for a time in the heart of Bailey Yard, Union Pacific’s massive “Big Boy” Engine No. 4014 makes its triumphant arrival in downtown North Platte Tuesday afternoon. After years in a California museum, the 1.19-million-pound locomotive was restored in time to mark the 150th anniversary of the “Golden Spike” that linked the Union Pacific and Central Pacific railroads in Utah on May 10, 1869.

Flooding has brought a halt to the trip that the Big Boy steam engine was making across Nebraska this week.

The 1940s-era train engine is the largest working steam engine in the world. Union Pacific brought it out of retirement in 2013 and refurbished it. This was to be its first trip across Nebraska since being brought back on line in May.

Big Boy was to travel the UP rail line that runs along the now-flooded Highway 30. One of its stops was to be Gibbon, Nebraska, a community now in a major flood fight against the Wood River, which has jumped more than 10 feet this week.

Raquel Espinoza, spokeswoman for Union Pacific, said crews are monitoring conditions, with the intent of getting the engine moving again as soon as safely possible. The engine is 132 feet long and weighs 1.2 million pounds.

The steam engine was to spend Friday evening through Sunday morning in Omaha as part of Railroad Days and Union Pacific's 150th anniversary celebration.

"Mother Nature has thrown us a curve ball," she said.

The steam engine had reached North Platte on its trip from Wyoming and will remain there for the time being, Espinoza said. It's too soon to say if its Omaha visit is entirely in jeopardy.

To monitor Big Boy's travel, join the Union Pacific Steam Club on Facebook or follow Big Boy 4014 on Twitter @UP_steam.

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