A big crowd of train fans, residents, and those just curious about what it was all about – lined up and down the railroad tracks in Echo Wednesday morning to celebrate 150 years of one of America’s most iconic accomplishments – the construction of 1,700 miles of rail line completing the country’s first transcontinental railroad. KPCW’s Leslie Thatcher was on hand for the 15 minutes whistle-stop at Echo and files this report.
The cold, rainy weather didn’t stop hundreds from showing up to witness the return of The Big Boy – engine 4014, which had just undergone a multi-year restoration process after sitting for decades near the Pomona CA fairgrounds and the smaller engine, The Living Legend.
Brent Ovard, Summit County’s Deputy Health Director stopped by to see the trains on his way to work from his home in Henefer…
“It’s a big event for Echo and a big event for everyone that is interested in trains, I think. I’m glad to be here – it’s nice to see so many people in Echo,” Ovard said.
Paul Beckman from Park City made the trek to Echo, saying he’s up for doing anything unusual.
“We just wanted to come see the train” he said, – “150 years of history.”
Kim Bloss – one of the 60 or so full time residents of Echo is affectionally known as the mayor. But it’s not an elected position – it’s because of her leadership and take charge skills. Bloss is the one who helps direct the many film location crews that visit Echo. She also opens Echo’s historic church every Saturday afternoon. She was thrilled to see all of the people come to town.
“Echo is just a great little place to live,” she said. “It’s a nice, quiet community. It’s safe. We have a historical church with a museum and a historical schoolhouse and post office. But this by far has drawn more crowds than we’ve seen forever. It’s really nice to see it.”
John Besendorfer – brought his 91 year brother Moroni to come watch the trains who has had a lifelong fascination with trains...
Moroni has lived in Charleston his entire life -- except for his years at BYU. As a boy he’d watch the trains from his house and as a college man he would run down to the track to watch another big engine - the 4644 - pass by before climbing up Provo Canyon.
“I’ve watched them all my life, I guess,” said Besendorfer. “Where I lived, I can remember getting on a train and paying a nickel to ride it 5 miles – and that’s the Heber Creeper. It’s gone now. It’s called the Heber Valley railroad now. It’s been there since 1899 - and that’s when all of Charleston went out to watch it. Of course, I wasn’t around then. But after that, I went to school in a little school house about two blocks from the railroad and I used to run over there and watch the train come up. It came up out of Provo up to Heber City and there were two engines that came every day one at 10 o’clock, and one at 2 o’clock. As a little kid I’d get a little tiny round washer (you’ve never seen one of those) and put it on the track and watch it to see what would happen and that train would mash it just as flat as could be and roll it out.”
There were 25 of these massive Big Boy locomotives built exclusively for Union Pacific Railroad. The 4014 was commissioned in 1941 and retired 20 years later, having traveled more than a million miles. The engine is 132 feet long and weighs a half million pounds. The engines almost exclusively operated between Ogden Utah and Cheyenne WY.
Don Crerar of Cheyenne was one of the crew of 9 to operate the train. He said he got lucky when the bid he put in to work for the historic ride was accepted. The locomotives he said originally used coal for their steam engines but not anymore
“It’s used recycled engine oil and that runs through an atomizer and that’s what fires it and that’s what get the boiler hot – all the water hot - from all that used oil,” Crerar said.
The stop at Echo was short – about 15 minutes – and as it did as it arrived, blew its horn as it chugged off for its next stop at the Morgan Depot before making it to its final destination in Ogden. The two locomotives will remain on display in Ogden until Sunday morning when they’ll make the return trip to Cheyenne. Whistle-stops are planned at Morgan at 9:05, in Echo at 9:55 and 11:05 in Evanston.