Showing posts from July, 2019

Union Pacific's Big Boy, the World's Largest Steam Engine, Visits West Chicago

Union Pacific 4014, better known as Big Boy , is one of 25 4-8-8-4 locomotives manufactured for UP between 1941-44. Of these 25, only eight are still around, and of those eight, only one, 4014, is in operating condition. UP 4014 at West Chicago after stopping for what will be a three night stay. Big Boy got its name from an unknown worker who wrote the phrase on the front of 4000, and is currently the largest operating steam engine in the world. Big Boy heading westbound on the south track at West Chicago station, greeted by thousands of onlookers, drones and even a helicopter. Letting off steam after parking. It is difficult to get the entire thing in one photo! Now once again in operation, Union Pacific is showing it off across the western United States. It was at Promontory for the 150th Anniversary of the Transcontinental Railroad , and moved as far east as Milwaukee. I guess I was a little too  close. You can really feel the heat emanating from this bea

A Visit to the Monticello Railway Museum

This weekend, we made the trip down to Monticello, IL, to visit their eponymous railway museum . The museum is located on right of way once occupied by Illinois Central Railroad, and the Interurban freight line Illinois Terminal Railroad. Right from the exit on I-72, there's neat things to look at here! This engine doubles as a sign to turn for the museum. Don't know much about its history though. Given that it was an extremely hot Saturday, I was more excited for the air conditioned car than for the fact that our power that day would be Southern Railway 401. SRY 401 parked at the Museum entrance, waiting for the 11:00 AM departure. Her waiting at Monticello Station on the south end of heritage operations. But before we look too much at the experience, let's talk about the museum itself. The Monticello Railway Museum was founded in 1966 as the "Society for the Perpetuation of Unretired Railfans" - or SPUR, per the Museum's history page . By 19

Area 51's Railroad

With how much Area 51 has been in the news recently, I figured it would be a good time to talk about one of the facility's more interesting (to me) pieces of infrastructure, at least that the US Government acknowledges exists, its railroad . An L.A Times article from 2014 notes the railroad as well. It states, "[Thornton "T.D"] Barnes worked on a nuclear-rocket program called Project NERVA, inside underground chambers at Jackass Flats, in Area 51’s backyard. “Three test-cell facilities were connected by railroad, but everything else was underground." This implies that this is the extent of visible railroad operations at the facility, but more might exist underground for testing purposes. First, let's talk about what we know. In the middle of the Nevada desert, or the "Nevada Test Site" on topo maps, exists a small railroad operation less than 7 miles in combined length. It is west of Groom Lake, otherwise known as Area 51, in an area known a

Inside the Big House: The Old Joliet Prison (1858-2002)

Today I visited the Old Joliet Prison, a now-abandoned and famous prison off Illinois Route 171 in Joliet, IL. The East entrance to the prison, the same one where Joliet Jake left prison in The Blues Brothers The Old Joliet Prison is among the most iconic buildings within the City of Joliet. In addition, the city and facility have nearly identical timelines, as the city was incorporated in 1852, while the prison was constructed from 1857-1861, with the first prisoners arriving in 1858. The Prison as shown on the USGS 1923 topo map. Note the existence of railroad tracks which went through the center of the facility. It is close in proximity to the old Joliet Iron Works , although on the opposite side of the former Chicago & Alton Railroad tracks. It was likely constructed at its precise location due to its proximity to those tracks, as its first batch of prisoners came from what was the only other penitentiary at the time, Alton Penitentiary , about 300 miles south from