Friday, January 28, 2005

Union Pacific No. 3985 "Challenger"

And now for something completely different! I took this photo a few years ago while April and I enjoyed a day out from Houston on a special excursion train operated by Union Pacific's historic/executive train division, based in Omaha. Challenger, as she's known, is the largest remaining operating steam locomotive in the world and is an impressive sight. Pulling around 20 heavy passenger cars plus two water tenders this locomotive packs a punch! We were fortunate to have seats in one of several observation dome cars on the train and, as it was an executive car, the Harriman, there was a speedometer installed on the bulkhead. Running back into Houston the train sped down the main line that parallels the Hardy Toll Road from Spring to the Loop 610. We were doing 62 mph for much of the time which may not sound a lot but, and this is the interesting bit, we learned later that one of the four drive trains had broken and was running idle. That makes it quite remarkable. As with many excursion trains in the US, the train stops at predetermined locations and everybody gets off, lining up with their cameras while the train backs up a mile or so. Then with a massive blast on the air horns, and a good deal of black smoke, the train rumbles into sight! After all the clicking has died down the train backs up again, it's "all aboard" and off we go!