The last handful of days have been years in the making for Vic Bartsch.
A lifelong train fan, he remembers saving up money with his brother from paper routes to buy a model Big Boy. Then, two years ago, he heard about the train’s restoration, and has been following it ever since.
“I’ve never seen one in real life,” Vic Bartsch said. “Once I caught whiff of that, I had to see it.”
Vic and his wife, Pat Bartsch, drove from Vancouver, Canada, to Provo as part of their ongoing journey to physically follow the Big Boy.
“The first time I saw it moving, I had tears,” Pat Bartsch said.
The Big Boy No. 4014 stopped in Provo Tuesday and will remain on display from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. at 400 E. 900 South through Thursday.
The Big Boy No. 4014 is one of 25 of the massive steam locomotives that were built for Union Pacific, with the first delivered in 1941 in order to conquer the steep terrain between Cheyenne, Wyoming, and Ogden. No. 4014 is the only Big Boy still operating in the world, and the only one still owned by Union Pacific. There are eight remaining in existence.
The train is on a tour across the southwest after traveling through the upper Midwest. It was in Ogden in May for the 150th anniversary of the completion of the transcontinental railroad.
“There’s really no place you can go to see something like this run,” said Ed Dickens, manager of Union Pacific Heritage Operations and engineer on the Big Boy.
He’s seen children dress up as railroad employees along the tour stops. Dickens, who got involved with the crew 15 years ago, said the train is an example of what Union Pacific used during World War II.
Keeping the train running is a constant endeavor.
“It is a lot of work that goes into it,” Dickens said.
People of all ages surrounded the train Wednesday morning to ask Union Pacific workers questions and snap pictures of the locomotive. People posed next to wheels as large as an adult as modern trains rolled by on nearby rails.
Keira Carter brought her two sons, 1-year-old Kai and 3-year-old Evan, from Spanish Fork to see the train.
Carter said Evan gets excited every time trains go by their property.
“It’s just one of those things kids gravitate towards,” Carter said.
She heard about the event from family and brought the two boys. Evan, in particular, she said, was blown away by how big the train was in person.
“He’s just in awe,” she said.