Historic train engine in Ogden

Dec 14 2011 - 2:41pm

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OGDEN -- With the blast of a whistle, Union Pacific Railroad steam locomotive No. 844 rumbled into Union Station on Saturday to the delight of several hundred train enthusiasts.

The locomotive, pulling nine cars and carrying a crew of 17, left its home station in Cheyenne, Wyo., on Oct. 29. It is making its way through Utah after participating in state centennial celebrations in Arizona and New Mexico.

The locomotive was on public display Friday in Salt Lake City and made a brief stop Saturday morning in Layton before arriving in Ogden about 11:45 a.m.

The locomotive's arrival was greeted with anticipation by railroad affecionados, many of whom captured the event with cameras. People also stood in line to board the train to purchase souvenirs.

Lee Witten, a volunteer archivist for Union Station, said No. 844 has stopped in Ogden several times before and is always popular with the public.

"It's always a thrill that never ends," he said.

Mike Bennett, of Layton, and his 12-year-old son, Matt, said it was exciting to see the locomotive.

"We love steam engines," Mike Bennett said. "You never get to see them anymore."

"They're cool!" Bennett added.

Saundra Stephens, wife of Ogden City Councilman Doug Stephens, said the locomotive represents a forgotten piece of Americana. "You never get to see old- time trains," she said.

The locomotive will remain on display today at Union Station from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. and spectators will be able to look inside the engine cab before it departs Monday for Evanston, Wyo.

The steam locomotive is the last one built for Union Pacific and was delivered in 1944.

A high-speed passenger engine capable of traveling at 100 mph, No. 844 pulled widely known trains such as the Overland Limited, Los Angeles Limited, Portland Rose and Challenger.

When diesels took over passenger train duties, No. 844 was placed in freight service in Nebraska from 1957 to 1959. It was saved from being scrapped in 1960 and has been used by Union Pacific for special service.

The locomotive has traveled hundreds of thousands of miles as Union Pacific's ambassador of goodwill. It has made appearances at Expo '74 in Spokane, Wash., the 1981 opening of the California State Railroad Museum in Sacramento, the 1984 World's Fair in New Orleans and the 50th anniversary of the Los Angeles Union Station in 1989.

No. 844 can pull cars holding several hundred passengers, said Ed Dickens, the locomotive's engineer.

The locomotive carried about 100 people, including area dignitaries and Union Pacific guests, on the trip Saturday from Salt Lake City to Ogden and ambled along the tracks at a speed of about 50 mph so spectators along the route could get a look.

"It's very animated and the whistle is unmistakable," said Dickens, adding the locomotive always draws a large crowd.

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