Pumping Iron: The Past Makes a Whistle Stop

To mark Union Pacific railroad’s 150th anniversary, UP’s steam locomotive No. 844 was a-blowin’ and a-goin’ through Texas this week. As the train headed north from Houston on its tour, it stopped in Grandview for maintenance on Thursday afternoon and spent the night at Fort Worth’s Texas & Pacific passenger terminal. No. 844 was the last steam locomotive built for Union Pacific and was delivered in 1944. It began life as a passenger locomotive, later hauled freight. The engine originally burned coal but has been converted to burn fuel oil. Vital statistics for steamheads: The engine has a 4-8-4 wheel configuration (four leading wheels on two axles, eight powered and coupled driving wheels on four axles, and four trailing wheels on two axles). The driving wheels are eighty inches in diameter. The engine weighs 486,000 pounds; the engine and its tender car combined are 114 feet long. No. 844 was designed to operate at up to 120 miles per hour.

Here are some photos and two video clips shot in and between Grandview and Fort Worth.

No. 844 catching its breath (music by Roy Acuff, Woody Guthrie, the Weavers):

No. 844 movin’ on down the line (music by Jimmie Rogers):

Union Pacific volunteer Wayne Hansen poses in his vintage ticket agent uniform. When that uniform was new, steam trains were a common sight at the T&P depot.

Fire in the belly: The locomotive’s boiler burns fuel oil to heat water into steam to push the pistons that drive the wheels.

How do you quench the thirst of a parched locomotive? With a fire hose connected to a city hydrant a block away. No. 844 drinks three thousand gallons of water every sixty miles.

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4 Responses to Pumping Iron: The Past Makes a Whistle Stop

  1. Bryan Richhart says:

    Looks like you got a bit “steamed” in the second video! grins

    • hometown says:

      What a great experience that was! Such a behemoth. All those moving parts. All that racket. Like a Linotype machine on wheels.

    • Bryan Richhart says:

      speaking of linotype, I remember the line of them at the old Stafford-Lowden plant, they used them for the phone books

    • hometown says:

      Print shops! Gone like the steam locomotive. Big ones that printed books, small ones that printed business cards. Hot type, hot steam. Mark Twain was born in 1835, but one hundred years later he could have ridden on a train or walked into a print shop and still felt very at home.

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