ROCHELLE – Hundreds of rail fans from near and far gathered at the Ken Wise Railroad Park Tuesday morning to witness the Big Boy Steam Engine No. 4014 in action.
The Union Pacific Big Boy steam engine is on a cross-country tour to celebrate the 150thanniversary of the completion of the transcontinental railroad. The engine is making stops in different cities across the country including Rochelle, and was stopped in the “Hub City” for approximately 45 minutes before continuing on west on its journey.
Restoration work on the train took two years to complete making it the world’s only operating big boy locomotive. Even people who aren’t big rail fans came out to witness this piece of history.
“I saw a Sunday feature on the T.V. about the restoration and it coming to town, and I thought ‘how could I miss this once in a lifetime opportunity,’” said Lori Hassler, resident of a neighboring town.
While the steam engine coming to Rochelle captured the attention of people who aren’t normally rail fans, it also drew in the dedicated train fanatics. One father and son have been following the train to different stops across five states.
“We are from Milwaukee, we saw the train in Cheyenne, Wyoming then we saw it in Sydney, Nebraska, Julesburg, California, Milwaukee, Wisconsin, here in Rochelle and then we will follow it on to Cedar Rapids, Iowa,” explained Scott Breden.
Not only were the rail fans along the tracks as the train stopped in town, but there were multiple drones and a single-person airplane flying overhead on Tuesday morning.
The train left Rochelle before noon toward its next stop in Cedar Rapids.