Littleton, Colorado 80120
Many of America's railroads today still own steam locomotives, many of them operating. The Union Pacific railroad, one of America's largest, still owns # 8444, its last operating steam locomotive.
Locomotive # 844, built in 1944 during World War II and placed in service in December 1944, was the last steam locomotive purchased by Union Pacific. It was renumbered # 8444 in 1962 to make room for new diesels numbered in the 800's.
It was the last of a group of 45 steam locomotives of the 4-8-4 (Northern type) wheel arrangement built for the Union Pacific by the American Locomotive Co. at Schenectady, New York. The original numbers were 800 to 844.
The 800 series steam locomotives were assigned to passenger train service and high - speed freight service. They could easily obtain a speed of 90 mph.
The # 8444 has a maximum cylinder horse powering rating of 4,600 hp. The cylinders have a bore or 25 inches and a stroke of 32 inches. The eight driving wheels are 80 inches in diameter and develop a starting tractive force of 63,800 lbs.
Steam pressure of the boiler is 300 lbs. p.s.i. and it generates 80,000 pounds of steam per hour. The inside diameter of the boiler is 7 ft. 2 inches.
The entire locomotive and tender weighs 450 tons when loaded full of water and fuel oil. The tender holds 25,000 gallons water and 6,000 gallons fuel oil. There are a total of 14 wheels under the tender and 16 wheels under the engine, all with roller bearings.
At one time all the 800's burnt coal, but in 1946, the converted to burn fuel oil.
The locomotive has accumulated over 1,713,540 miles, gained mostly when in actual service.
The locomotive has been kept in the roundhouse at Cheyenne, Wyoming, since 1960. # 8444 has made several fan trips and will continue to be used on occasional fan trips. The engine received a major overhaul during 1971.
Usually, the # 8444 is run from Denver, Colorado to Laramie, Wyoming on its excursions. This is over Wyoming's steep Sherman Hill, which required some big motive power, and still does. This is on the transcontinental route. These excursions are usually sponsored by the Intermountain Chapter, National Railway Historical Society, or the Rocky Mountain Railroad Club, both Denver based. For the National Western Stock Show, held in Denver every January, # 8444 brings down a special train from Cheyenne.
I've been on five excursions, which I've enjoyed very much. There are photo runs made, where everyone is let off the train, then it backs down the line, then it comes ahead, whistling and smoking up the countryside. #8444 has a very sharp exhaust and a deep toned steamboat whistle. It certainly is thrilling to watch and hear # 8444, whether you're on an excursion or just 'chasing' it. I have several recordings and have a few pictures of # 8444, which I've taken.
I wish to thank the Union Pacific railroad for some of the information used here and especially for keeping # 8444 in service!
# 8444 truly is a living legend, as the sight and sound of this great engine is known to many. Fond memories of a bygone Age of Steam on American railroads are re-called any time the engine is run!