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'It's incredible': DeKalb turns out to see Big Boy chugging through town

DeKalb turns out to see Big Boy chugging through town

DeKALB – Trains were a part of Dick Collin’s life growing up in DeKalb. The tracks ran right by his Aunt Bessie’s farm on Gurler Road, and trains came by all the time, so he only got excited when a yellow stream liner came through.

He was one of the people lined up along the tracks in DeKalb, awaiting Big Boy No. 4014 to roll through town.

“Now I’d give anything to see a steam engine,” he said. “It’s incredible.”

Big Boy No. 4014 steamed through DeKalb on Tuesday morning as part of its cross-country run to celebrate the 150th anniversary of the completion of the Transcontinental Railroad.

It is one of 25 engines exclusively built for the Union Pacific Railroad. Delivered in 1941, Big Boy No. 4014 is 132 feet long and weighs more than 600 tons.

Although the train didn’t exactly run on schedule – it was supposed to be in Rochelle at 9:30 a.m. but didn’t pass through DeKalb until 9:45 a.m. – many of the spectators came prepared.

Along with a bag of snacks and his curiosity for the train, Charlie Gaddini, 5, had a model train with him while he, his two brothers, Luke and Zachary, and his grandfather waited to see Big Boy.

The Gaddini family came from Poplar Grove to see the train. They keep a hangar at the airport there, grandfather Randall said, and they love anything mechanical.

“It’s great to see history in action,” he said.

He said they came to DeKalb because he thought the Rochelle location might be crowded.

People waiting used the map on the Union Pacific website to track the train on its journey.

Big Boy No. 4014 spent the weekend on display in West Chicago and was scheduled to leave at 8 a.m. Tuesday to arrive in Rochelle by 9:30 a.m.

It would cross Illinois and part of Iowa, finally spending Tuesday night in Cedar Rapids, according to the Steam Schedule.

There are seven Big Boy locomotives on display across the country. Big Boy No. 4014 was on display at the RailGiants Train Museum in Pomona, California, until Union Pacific began a restoration project on the engine at its Cheyenne, Wyoming, location.

The engine has 14 wheels, can carry about 24,000 gallons of water and originally could carry about 56,000 pounds of coal.

Today it runs on oil, however.

It is more than half the length of a 747 jumbo jet and almost twice the length of a modern diesel engine.

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