By Bill Hudson

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — An exciting tour is making its way across the United States with a stop in Minnesota Wednesday.

It’s not a rock band or speaker — it’s a Big Boy steam locomotive. The Union Pacific Railroad restored the historic train engine to celebrate the 150th anniversary of the completion of the Transcontinental Railroad. This calls us back to a time when the smoke-belching iron horses fueled westward expansion.

Union Pacific 4014 is a fully-restored steam locomotive, and it’s pleasing crowds wherever it rolls. There’s something incredibly romantic that draws us to the rails. To coal locomotive enthusiasts like Roger Libra, It turns back the hands of time.

“I love trains since I was five years old,” Libra said. “The adrenaline rush is unbelievable … your heartbeat goes up, it’s exhilarating.”

It’s why along country railroad crossings from Iowa to St. Paul, young and old crowded grassy right of ways.

“When he comes by here, the whistle it will be fabulous,” Libra said.

This coal-belching, steam-blowing iron horse didn’t disappoint. Amy Gillis brought her daughter and son to marvel at this piece from our past.

“It’s just history. If you don’t know your history, you don’t know how things were, how they’ve changed, how the future is going to change yet,” Gillis said.

Union Pacific locomotive 4014 is the world’s only operating “Big Boy.” At nearly 600 tons — the largest ever built — it’s touring the Midwest. As it rolled into Northfield, thousands lined the rails — cameras and kids in hand. Then it was on to St. Paul for a one-day stop at Union Depot, where both beauty and beast will surely delight.

They converted the train from coal to fuel oil during the recent restoration, so it now burns cleaner.

We met folks who drove from as far away as Delaware, North Carolina and Ohio just for the chance to photograph the big engine rolling again.

It will be at Union Depot in St. Paul from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Thursday, then it will arrive in Duluth Friday morning at 8:30 a.m.

Bill Hudson

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