NORTH PLATTE, Neb. — Thousands descended on North Platte, Neb., to take in the sights and sounds of Union Pacific Railroad’s No. 844, the last steam locomotive built for Union Pacific, and UP’s Bailey Yard during the area’s RailFest celebration.
“The crowds along the route have been tremendous and we sincerely appreciate those who have taken the time to come and experience a part of Union Pacific’s heritage,” said Steve Lee, Union Pacific’s manager – operating practices and one of No. 844’s engineers.
“Union Pacific’s historical ties run deep in North Platte so it is only fitting that we display such a historically significant steam locomotive during RailFest,” said Brenda Mainwaring, Union Pacific’s director – public affairs for Nebraska and Iowa.
No. 844, also known as Union Pacific’s “Living Legend,” returned to service in 2005 after one of the most extensive steam locomotive overhauls in the United States since the 1950s. The work began in 2000 and nearly every part was overhauled including its running gear, pumps, piping, valves and springs, along with replacement of its firebox and extensive boiler work. No. 844 was built and delivered to Union Pacific Railroad in 1944.
A high-speed passenger engine, it pulled such widely known trains as the Overland Limited, Los Angeles Limited, Portland Rose and Challenger.
When diesel-electric locomotives took over all passenger train duties, No. 844 was placed in freight service in Nebraska between 1957 and 1959. It was saved from being scrapped in 1960 and held for special service.
Also on display with No. 844 during RailFest are Union Pacific’s restored E-9 passenger locomotives No. 951 and 963B. No. 951 was one of 69 E-9 locomotives once owned by Union Pacific. Built in 1955, it pulled such famous trains as the City of Los Angeles, City of Portland, City of San Francisco, City of St. Louis and the Challenger. No. 951, along with No. 963B, which has no cab and is used for additional power on longer trains, were rebuilt with modern components in 1993, while their outward appearance continued to retain the look of the 1955 era.