Historic steam engine “Big Boy” No. 4014 was coming through Hanna on May 7th, and I wanted to see it. The massive locomotive, journeying from a museum in California to a special steam engine shop in Cheyenne where it will be restored to operating condition, was not actually stopping in Hanna, but it was scheduled to stop in Rawlins from 1:30 to 2:00 and then in Medicine Bow from 4:15 to 4:45 p.m. The general consensus was that it would chug through Hanna around 3 p.m. The following is my “schedule.”
May 7, 2014, 2:58 PM: I notice the time on my computer and leap from the chair, grabbing my camera and the dog, jump in the car, and start wildly driving toward the railroad tracks. I had imagined myself parking at the “shopping center” and running onto the bridge to take dramatic pictures of the oncoming train, but the weather has turned cloudy, colder, and (gasp) windy, and no train is in sight. I want to wait in the car, so I drive down to the tracks on Front Street near the Hanna Basin Museum. There are a few cars and trucks scattered about near the tracks, seemingly waiting, so I figure I haven’t missed it.
3:10 PM: A faint train whistle! But it seems to be coming from the east. Odd. Well, not that odd. An ordinary, everyday freight train comes clanging through from the east.
3:23 PM: No Big Boy yet. A few splats of rain in the windshield. Some vehicles leave, but some more arrive. The school bus in front of the Hanna Museum has transported kids to a museum field trip rather than a special excursion to see the steam engine, but it does seem like an unusual amount of traffic is circling the block. There are at least 15 vehicles parked in various spots with a view of the tracks.
3:44 PM: Another faint sound of a whistle? No, nothing. I wonder if that guy in the Union Pacific Railroad pickup who is speeding down the railroad right-of-way knows anything.
3:49 PM: I begin to feel foolish for not checking on line about a possible delay. Why did I think it would be on time? Have I ever taken a train anywhere that was actually on time?
3:52 PM: I am kind of snoozing. I forget to wave at neighbors who are cruising up and down Front Street. They probably think I am stuck up or in la-la land. La-la land is the correct answer.
3:56 PM: I am bored. I am starting to wonder how well I could see the tracks from my house. But the number of parked cars that I can see from here has increased to about 20 or more. Maybe they know something. The around-the-block traffic has picked up. I think I am starting to recognize the same cars.
4:07 PM: A Union Pacific guy has stopped his pickup by the tracks pretty close to me. I should go over there and ask him what he knows. I suddenly feel shy. I remind myself I am the Hanna Headlight girl reporter and trek across the weeds and the ditch. The cute UP guy looks at his in-truck laptop and politely tells me it will be about 15 or 20 more minutes.
4:15 PM: I get out of the car and look around. There are at least 17 kids on the bridge jumping up and down, laughing and yakking. I count almost 40 cars parked in my view. Who knows how many are up near the Rec Center or near Poulos’s in Elmo? There is even more around-the-block traffic. The rain has increased from a spatter to a gentle (for Hanna) shower.
4:21 PM: I think I hear it! …….no.
4:26 PM: About 20 minutes have passed since I talked to the cute UP guy. It is still raining lightly. About 35-plus parked vehicles remain in sight, but only seven diehards on the bridge.
4:32 PM: Amazed at the number of vehicles still to-ing and fro-ing around the block. The audience on the bridge is back up to more than 17 and a school bus.
4:33 PM: I see something coming around the bend from the west! IT’S THE BIG BOY! People get out of their vehicles. We hear the familiar shriek of a freight train whistle but then also the deeper boom of the special Big Boy whistle. “Mommy, it’s awesome,” a little boy cries out, even before the train is past.