Photograph courtesy of Union Pacific
Union Pacific polled the nation to route its Great Excursion Adventure, in which its “Living Legend”—the 844, the last steam locomotive built for Union Pacific, delivered in 1944—will cross the Midwest. It was a tight finish, but the Little Rock Express route—the only option that would go through St. Louis—beat the Tuscola Turn by 3,042 votes.
The 844 will chug away from Kansas City, Mo. on May 31, passing through Jefferson City on its way to St. Louis. From here, it heads south to Cape Girardeau and Poplar Bluff, then screeching to a stop in Little Rock, Ark., on June 9.
St. Louis’ best vantage points: the Kirkwood Amtrak station, across West Lockwood Ave., N. Elm in Webster Groves, S. Big Bend in Maplewood, and parallel to Manchester near the Hampton Ave. intersection.
If you miss seeing the Challenger (you can track its progress at upsteam.com), just head to the National Transport Museum to see one of Union Pacific’s Big Boys. Built three years later, it was even larger and faster than the 844: It steamed through the great Northwest at 90 miles an hour, its articulated wheels neatly negotiating the curved tracks that wound through the hills.
These trains should be seen in the Gateway City; it was our leaders who, in 1849, proposed the charter that allowed the Pacific Railroad to extend “from St. Louis to the western boundary of Missouri and thence to the Pacific Ocean.”