Oil Firing on Big Boys

NW Mailing List nw-mailing-list at nwhs.org
Fri Jul 28 07:43:38 EDT 2017

Good afternoon from the UK,

There is a Big Boy in the museum in Denver. It is an impressive piece of
kit. I was lucky enough to see this a few years ago. It is in good

Was the range fire problem a big issue when steam was in full operation on
the N&W and the UP?  In our rain drenched conditions in Britain this is less
of a problem other than in dry spells of which we seem to have very few. It
is raining now!


Phil Mortimer

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Sent: Friday, July 28, 2017 12:55 AM
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Subject: Oil Firing on Big Boys

My understanding is that without question, the 4000 class Big Boy will
be oil-fired when it is restored to operation. When Challenger #3985
was restored to operation in time for the 1981 Sacramento Railfair and
the first year or two afterwards, it was coal-fired and started
range-fires wherever it went and cost UP a lot deal with the problem.
It ended up being banned as I recall from Colorado until it was
converted to oil-firing, which it was, using parts available from
suitable other donor engines and tenders. It has worked just fine
since then until it went out of service a few years ago.

With all the available data and experiences these days, I have no
doubt that when Big Boy rolls again under its own power, the oil
firing will be just fine

As for BIG Boy and oil, in 1946, when there was a post-WW II
coal-miner strike, UP converted ONE and only one engine, I think the
#4005 for oil burning in place of coal for fuel. They apparently only
put one burner in its firebox and after a short period it was restored
as before as it apparently was no longer needed that way plus had not
been successful. If I am correct with the right engine, that still
exists and used to be at the Forney Museum I think it was in Denver.

Bob Cohen
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