Thursday, September 21, 2006

Union Pacific Railroad "Big Boy"

The world’s longest and heaviest single-unit locomotives, the giant articulated 4-8-8-4 ‘"Big Boys," were built for the Union Pacific Railroad by the American Locomotive Company. Each weighed 1,200,000 pounds in working order with her tender. This example, No. 40I9, was nearly 86 feet long— 132 feet with tender. These power factories were designed to pull heavy fast freight Over the Wasatch Mountains without the use of helper engines. Because of their great length and power, they worked mostly in the mountainous area of the West, and used extra- long turntables. According to Union Pacific motive power experts they could make up to 80 miles per hour, but developed their top horsepower at 30 miles per hour. Nearly all of the Big Boys have been scrapped. One of them is on exhibition at the National Museum of Transport, St. Louis, Missouri.


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Joseph A. Smith (1895-1978) was an avid collector of railroad photos, sharing many of them with fellow collectors in the Northeast. A former plumbing contractor, Smith presumably developed his interest in railroads through his father – a trolley motorman in Troy, NY.

His extensive collection focused on the lines that once served Troy: Delaware & Hudson, Rutland, Boston & Maine and New York Central. Many of his children – especially his sons Joseph Jr., James and Paul -- developed a similar interest and added to his collection with photos of their own. Maintaining the collection is now in the hands of his grandson, Kenneth Bradford. Coincidentally, Ken’s other grandfather worked as a manager at the Schenectady plant of the American Locomotive Company.

Smith was a life member of the Capital District Railroad Club of Schenectady. He was also a member of the Mohawk-Hudson Chapter Railway Historical Society and its parent organization, the National Railway Historical Society.