Here’s something you don’t get to see every day: the world’s largest still-active steam locomotive, the Union Pacific Big Boy 4014. Though there are many non-operational locomotives you can observe, being able to see and hear the movement, steam and whistle in action are a unique and exciting experience for a boiler inspector.
Our Western Regional Supervisor, Brian Mallynn, recently took his kids to visit this amazing piece of equipment, and explains why it’s so important to men in his line of work.
“My kids (Evan, 11 and Emma, 9) have had the opportunity to see many stationary, non-operational locomotives, but seeing this locomotive in action – moving, making noises, leaking steam out of different parts, and feeling the tone of the whistle in their chest – was a whole new experience. The conductor told me that the superheated whistle is much louder than the saturated steam whistle we heard. He also said that the bottom blow, at pressure, shoots between 75 and 100 feet from the boiler.
“As a boiler inspector, I can’t take my kids to work – it’s just too dangerous. Even if I could, all they would really see is a machine and a room full of equipment, not the way it all works. They would see the flame of the burner, but not what its steam does. A locomotive, however, is like a manufacturing facility on the go, and one that my kids can understand. It shows how steam is made and how it’s used. They can hear the whine of the steam turbine generator and the whistle, see the fire, the steam, and the power of the movement of the train.
“Getting to see this train in action is a once-in-a-lifetime occurrence! I hope that someday my kids will show their kids the pictures and videos of this day, realize why we went, and want their kids to experience it too.”