Last of the Giants is a documentary about the Union Pacific Big Boy, a series of gargantuan articulated 4-8-8-4 steam locomotives that were built by the American Locomotive Company (ALCO) during World War II.
Interestingly engine No. 4014 was restored and returned to service in 2019, it’s now used for hauling special passenger trains full of people who want to relive the glamorous days of steam locomotive travel.
This film does an excellent job of explaining how steam trains work, despite its relatively short running time of just 23 minutes. It makes use of animated illustrations to show the internal workings of these trains, and it does an excellent job of explaining how the trains are made and why they need so much maintenance.
25 Union Pacific Big Boys were built between 1941 and 1944, most were used for hauling cargo over the Wasatch mountains between Ogden, Utah, and Green River in Wyoming. During the war these trains hauled everything from military supplies and equipment to regular civilian cargo.
The Big Boys were so large they were articulated to allow them to get around corners, and Big Boy No. 4014 is now the largest and most powerful operating steam locomotive anywhere in the world. Tickets are available for anyone who wants to ride on the last surviving Big Boy and you can click here if you’d like to check the train schedule.
If you’d like to read more about these remarkable locomotives you can click here to visit the official Union Pacific page on No. 4014, and you can click here to read the extensive Wikipedia entry on the trains.
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