Chasing the Big Boy with the Old Man

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Hppants
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Chasing the Big Boy with the Old Man

Post by Hppants »

Chasing the Big Boy with the Old Man

My Dad is the greatest man I will ever know. I’m sure nearly all of you feel the same way about your fathers, but this is my ride report (without a “ride” I might add) so I’m going to tell it like I see it. My 80-year-old father knows more things about more things than anyone I’ve ever met. He is so well read on such a variety of topics, and well traveled on the ways of the world. Sometimes just to mess with him, I start a conversation about the most mundane and obscure topic I can think of. I’ll “wiki” the subject before hand and see if I can skunk him. It rarely works and when I share my gig with him, we laugh about it.

But the part of my Dad that I like most is his heart and soul. He is a truly happy man and always sees the good in everyone. He’s selfless, empathetic, and humble beyond my finest words. Some of you have met my Dad, and I get welled up with pride when I hear you tell me how much you like him, as I do. He doesn’t get worked up in his disappointment, and most honestly, even at his age, he rarely ask me for anything.

My father has had a thing for old trains his whole life. Truthfully, he likes anything mechanical and the old trains are as mechanical as they come. He had model trains as a kid and I had them too – we’d set it up and build (relatively) elaborate displays for our enjoyment. Every chance he gets, he’s checking out old trains in bone yards or on display. He studies it like a fine wine, savoring every piece of it and marveling at its design and workmanship.

Some time ago, I learned about the 4014 Tour of the Union Pacific Big Boy Steam Locomotive:

https://www.up.com/heritage/steam/schedule/index.htm

As soon as I realized that this was the LARGEST steam powered locomotive ever made, and it was RUNNING through our neck of the woods, I knew this was something Dad and I had to see. I sent the information to him via email, and in 15 minutes, he replied with excitement and joy. Of course he was aware of this locomotive from back in the day, but didn’t realize that one had been restored and was running through the country. We made plans back then to check this out.

My work is cranking up getting ready for a new semester and getting ready for a LOT of COVID sickness. We’re running around like headless chickens. The State and Federal Govt are pressing us to run operations on our campus and it’s a lot of moving parts. Earlier in the week, a SNAFU erupted, and I feared that my train date with my dad was in serious jeopardy. I got really sad about it. I knew that if I called my dad and told him I had to cancel, despite his own disappointment, he’d just reply with “that’s OK, son” and let it go. Even though, I just couldn’t do it. I mean, how many more chances am I gonna get to do these kinds of things with him? When I retire (soon), work is going to have to figure it out without me, so they might as well get started. I took a deep breath and called a key colleague:

(Pants) “I’m sure this is going to sting a little, but I’m off tomorrow. I’ve had plans with my 80 year old Dad for months now, and I’m not cancelling them.”

(Colleague) “We’ll manage. Where ya going?”

(Pants) “I’m taking the old man to chase a big boy.”


We drove out west about an hour to Kinder, LA. My dad is a shutter bug and on the way, he shared what he hoped to do today. He said he wanted to get some pictures of the train approaching the stop. And then he hoped we could get out ahead of it and setup somewhere so he could shoot it as it rolled by. I know this area like the back of my hand from countless motorcycle trips, so it was no problem planning this one out on the fly.

We arrived early enough to grab some lunch and then scope out the area.

That’s my Dad in the blue shirt checking out the scene.

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I did some “railroad combing” and found some cool stuff.

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Right on time, I start to hear the whistle in the distance. He comes around the bend and it was something to see.



He stops right there in front of me, and holy cow, this thing is a beast!!

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Do you know what those smaller numbers mean? I do.

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The workers were lubricating these massive bearings at the stop. The grease gun operates on steam from the locomotive.

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What a beautiful piece of machinery.

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Pretty decent crowd for a map dot city on a Thursday in 95-degree heat.

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Everything is pristinely restored to like new condition.

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You don’t just set the cruise control or auto pilot on this thing.

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I made sure that we parked a good bit up road from the scene so that we could get out early to chase the train. I asked my dad if he had enough pictures of the stop and he replied affirmative. So we loaded up and I hit Hwy 190 heading East. I knew that was where the train was heading and I wanted to scout out a nice place close to the road where we might catch it moving. As I’m running, all along the road are people tailgating and waiting to see the train. I had no idea this thing would generate so much interest.

I get to the town of Elton, and I find a nice place to pull over. I’m watching the “spot” for the train on the website and it looks like we’ve got 10-ish minutes to set up. My dad doing his thing.

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Sure enough, in about 10 minutes, he comes roaring along. Watch the expression on my Dad’s face at the end of this video. That was a highlight of my day.



I told my Dad that I had an idea, but we have to hurry. So we pitched his camera equipment in his Jeep and I took the wheel, while dad sat in the back seat. And with that, the chase was on!!

I knew the track separated from the road for a while, but after the town of Eunice, it rejoined the road. So I boogied as quick as safely possible and just East of Eunice, with the track in plain site, I pulled over on the shoulder and told my dad to get the camera ready.

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Sizing up the light

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Here he comes, point and shoot!!

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As soon as the Big Boy passes, I merge onto the highway and stomp it. I knew this stretch of road would offer opportunities and I was right. It didn’t take me long to catch him, and for about 15 miles, we had great fun running side by side.



That steam whistle was so cool. I was amazed at how “tight” the locomotive sounded. Didn’t hear a squeak, rattle, knock, pink …. Nothing. With no load and no grade to climb, 40-45 mph was a piece of cake for the Big Boy.



Every once in a while, I look in the rear-view mirror, and the old man is grinning ear to ear.

We get close to Lawtell and I can see the track separating again. I told my Dad that I thought it would get busy and wondered if he got some good shots. Imagine my surprise when he told me that he’d taken over 500 pictures!!! Later last night he texted that in actuality, he took almost 1000!!! After he’s sifted through them, and did some professional photo-shopping to his favorites, that will surely be something to see.

So we broke off the highway and headed home, chatting about the power of that train and what it did for our growing country.

That’s all for now. Tomorrow, we travel to New Orleans, where we will get an opportunity to climb aboard the Big Boy and learn more about him. I’ll throw up a few pictures of that later.

I can already tell it’s gonna be epic.
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Re: Chasing the Big Boy with the Old Man

Post by fontanaman »

What an awesome story and quality time with your Dad.
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Re: Chasing the Big Boy with the Old Man

Post by danh600 »

As I go through another phase of life I realize that your career and stuff you collect is just a pile of dirt. The winds and rain will wash it away.

Time spent with family and good friends will stick in your memory till the end.

That my friend was a good day away from work!
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Re: Chasing the Big Boy with the Old Man

Post by gixxerjasen »

Can't wait to see dad's pictures.

Also, I cross posted this over here.

https://www.twtex.com/forums/threads/un ... as.127583/
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Re: Chasing the Big Boy with the Old Man

Post by bigjohnsd »

What an experience!
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Re: Chasing the Big Boy with the Old Man

Post by LKLD »

What a wonderful day with your Dad, Joey. Just wonderful!
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Re: Chasing the Big Boy with the Old Man

Post by Hppants »

gixxerjasen wrote: Fri Aug 20, 2021 11:49 pm Can't wait to see dad's pictures.

Also, I cross posted this over here.

https://www.twtex.com/forums/threads/un ... as.127583/
Jasen - I clicked your TWT link, but it says I have to join to view it. On occasion, I look at bikes for sale on that site, but apparently, you don't need to join for that part of the forum.
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Re: Chasing the Big Boy with the Old Man

Post by raYzerman »

Joey, certainly interesting story and a great outing for sure. Sounds like a great day to me!!

My Dad is big into trains, and he worked on the railway when he was young. Track maintenance with one of those hand-pumped jiggers. The train went right by the farmhouse where he grew up in the steam engine days. We'd be in town and we always had to go by the station and watch the big boys come in. When I was maybe 12, we took a trip to a big storage track facility where all the old steamers were laid to rest, as diesels had taken over. The pitman arms on the drive wheels ranged from 10-20 tons themselves, each of the engines had their weights on them, some 400 tons I believe.

Years later, he bought a lot next to the tracks and built a house there. He'd go into town while the trains were in station, by this time trains only ran once or twice a week. He' knew all the crew and they'd let him ride in the diesel locomotive on the next run (35 miles) into the city, turn around and come back. Oddly enough, my house was near the tracks in another city and that track was the one they took. They had to stop where it crossed the Trans Canada line and wait for the OK to cross the busier main line.

He used to tell me how they negotiated the downhill grade to prevent a runaway, since back in the day, there were a few close calls. There are some interesting stories out there of runaway trains, and the subsequent accident investigations.. Dad has books and picture books of train stuff.

A good riding buddy of mine has a model train setup in his basement, he's spent years building it..... might be HO scale. Some of those new-fangled locomotives are like $1500. When I visit him, it never fails we spend at least an hour in his basement....
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Re: Chasing the Big Boy with the Old Man

Post by gixxerjasen »

Hppants wrote: Sat Aug 21, 2021 9:50 am
gixxerjasen wrote: Fri Aug 20, 2021 11:49 pm Can't wait to see dad's pictures.

Also, I cross posted this over here.

https://www.twtex.com/forums/threads/un ... as.127583/
Jasen - I clicked your TWT link, but it says I have to join to view it. On occasion, I look at bikes for sale on that site, but apparently, you don't need to join for that part of the forum.
Just checked from another browser and yea, looks like some areas of the forum are public but the Off Topic section is locked behind closed doors...sometime for good reason. ;) Feel free to join up, you are a mere 100 miles from being a Texan anyway. :D Heck, you can pop over for some Pie Runs.
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Re: Chasing the Big Boy with the Old Man

Post by goodman4 »

Love this, Pants. I've always enjoyed your perspective on life that you share in posts. I admire any man who is willing to admit and show they love their father. It shapes us, I think. I sure loved and miss my father, in spite of and maybe partially because of his flaws. If I screw everything else up but I am a half-decent father to my girls, I'll die a successful man.
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Re: Chasing the Big Boy with the Old Man

Post by Blueridgerider »

LKLD wrote: Sat Aug 21, 2021 9:21 am What a wonderful day with your Dad, Joey. Just wonderful!
Loved the story and seeing your Dad’s happiness. Priceless times you will never forget. He sure seems to have a tremendous zest for life. Like father like son right? My Dad was the same way and loved trains. We still have the original Lionel trains from when we were growing up. Wish he was still around and had the chance to share something like that with him. He would of had the same joyful look your Dad did. Goes without saying to make the most out of every moment. Thanks for sharing that and look forward to seeing more!
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Re: Chasing the Big Boy with the Old Man

Post by danh600 »

I hope I look as good as Dad Pants at 80!
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Re: Chasing the Big Boy with the Old Man

Post by mcatrophy »

Hope when I reach his age I am as full of life (I'm only just 79).

Fascinating loco. At first sight it looks like two locos welded together, but I was somewhat intrigued in that it appears as if the front and rear halves have the driving wheels in sync, even though there is no apparent external connecting drive rod. Are they, and if so how, or is this just chance?
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Re: Chasing the Big Boy with the Old Man

Post by Hppants »

Thank you for your warm replies to my ride report.

First, a clarification. As it turns out, the grease gun shown in my prior post does NOT run on steam. It is pneumatic, but the air compressor is steam driven.

Mac - the sets of driven wheels (4 pairs each) are independent of one another and do NOT run in sync. Notice that each has it's own pair of steam pistons. My dad knows how this works intimately, and it was fascinating listening to him explain to me all of the nuances of this engine. He offered it in a retrospective manner - how they used the technology of the time to make it as efficient as possible, and then adapt it as things progressed. It really was a cool experience.

As it turns out, the proverbial "rest of the story" was a little underwhelming. Dad and I drove to New Orleans Saturday morning, hoping to get a chance to board the Big Boy and learn more. Unfortunately at the last minute, a decision was made to not allow entrance because of COVID concerns. The crowd in NOLA was quite substantial.

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The dining car was period correct, with some modifications (wheel oilers, etc)

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Even the Pano shot is not wide enough

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My son lives in NOLA, and he was able to join us for dinner.

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Food Porn in New Orleans is NOT a problem

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Dad and I had nice conversation about his childhood and lifelong fascination with trains on the 2-hour drive home. I was pretty tired, and for the record, I've heard all of those stories before. But as I listened to him share his thoughts, my mind wandered a bit at times. I felt compelled to burn the conversation in my brain. I want to remember these great times. One day, those memories will be all I have.

Stay thirsty, my friends....
Last edited by Hppants on Tue Aug 24, 2021 1:18 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Chasing the Big Boy with the Old Man

Post by Festus »

Boy, your son looks just like you!

My Dad is about to be 84 and he has that same love of trains. I think it's bigger than trains. If it's big and makes a lot of noise, he likes it :)
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