The sun had not yet risen when we left the house in the early morning hours of May 6, 2019. My family and I were on our way to witness a bit of history: the newly restored Union Pacific “Big Boy” steam locomotive #4014 on its way from Cheyenne, Wyoming, to Ogden, Utah, for the 150th anniversary of the completion of the first transcontinental railroad. This was a big deal because the restoration of the Big Boy, which was the largest steam locomotive ever built, had just finished a couple of days before. The locomotive had not run in 60 years! Up until five years ago it sat in a museum for decades in Los Angeles. Now it was finally operational and, along with the steam-powered Union Pacific #844, on the move westward. It had departed well before sunrise, and if we were going to witness the massive locomotive in action, we too had to depart before sunrise.
This was not going to be our first time witnessing the #4014 or the #844. My son, Jon, and I saw the Big Boy in Barstow, California, when they were moving it east for restoration. My whole family, minus the youngest who was not born yet, saw the #844 in Ogden when it was brought out for an excursion a couple of years ago. This was going to be our first time to witness both of these locomotives together, and also our first time to observe the #4014 under its own steam power. We were pretty excited for this adventure!
I did some research prior to the trip and had a good plan regarding where to catch the train in rural Wyoming. I noticed a place east of Evanston right off of I-80 where the tracks cross under the freeway, and a dirt road follows the rails for a little while. I figured this to be our best bet to set up and wait. This location, which is in the middle of nowhere, is called Richardson Draw. Despite its rural location, Richardson Draw had already drawn a large crowd when we arrived. In addition to all the cars, trucks and RVs, we spotted two buses. I picked what I felt would be the best spot at Richardson Draw to capture pictures and we waited for the train to arrive.
When attempting to capture a well-photographed subject, the struggle is to make something that’s different from all of the other thousands of pictures of it. It doesn’t matter if it’s a person, place, thing or idea, if it has been heavily photographed, capturing something unique is a difficult task, yet that is exactly the task at hand. For this location, I decided find something interesting in the scene to set my pictures apart from all the other similar images. I noticed a small pond that had a tiny amount of water in it, which would reflect the train, and decided to use that element in my pictures. I also decided to begin documenting the large number of photographers and train enthusiasts who were there to see the steam locomotives.
Train watching requires patience. We waited and waited. A freight train passed by. We waited and waited more. The crowd continued to grow larger and larger. A couple of nearby people were listening to radio scanners and informed us that the train had been delayed. Finally, more than an hour after I expected it to arrive, the #4014 and #844 came quickly chugged along. First I saw the smoke in the distance. Pretty soon the Big Boy locomotive appeared. Click, click, click. I captured a bunch of frames, and, just as quickly as the commotion of the train came, it went. We waited awhile for what was a very short event. As soon as the train disappeared, we jumped into the car and began heading to the next location, along with a large group of other vehicles. The kids were particularly excited that they had just seen two big steam locomotives in action, and they hoped for a chance to see them again.
Richardson Draw Steam (Color):
Richardson Draw Steam (B&W):
Richardson Draw Freight (Color)
Richardson Draw Freight (B&W)
Richardson Draw Onlookers (Color)
Richardson Draw Onlookers (B&W)