Vintage Union Pacific passenger train returns for Frontier Days after four-year hiatus

The Union Pacific Railroad’s (UP) heritage fleet has proven to be one of its most popular units, drawing crowds at maintenance stops and along the routes on which it operates steam and diesel locomotives period and restored passenger amenities from the 1940s and 50s.

On July 30, the UP Museum Special rolled between Denver’s Union Station and Cheyenne, hauled by Big Boy locomotive 4014, marking the first time in four years that the train has carried passengers between the two cities.

“This [4014] used to work hard to pull freight, making money for the railroad in the 1940s until it was retired in 1959,” said train engineer and operations manager Ed Dickens. heritage of UP. “Now it’s his new life.

The locomotive’s revised role as a public relations liaison has proven incredibly popular since it made its first trip under its own power in May 2019. This follows a years-long restoration process who put it back on track for the first time in six decades. .

Hugh Cook


Wyoming Public Media

The cab and controls of the UP 4014. Originally a coal-fired locomotive, it now runs on recycled engine oil.

The train was donated as a fundraiser for the Union Pacific Railroad Museum, a non-profit organization located in Council Bluffs, Iowa. The Frontier Days train, a longtime feature of the Bi-State Railroad, originated in the early 20th century and continued nearly every year until the early 1970s. It was then resurrected in the early 1970s. 1990s when the Denver Post began sponsoring the train on an annual basis until it ran into financial difficulties.

“As you can see with this reception we have here, all these people here, that’s why Union Pacific has this program,” Dickens said.

A crowd of people gathered in a street.

Hugh Cook


Wyoming Public Media

A crowd gathers next to the UP Main Line in downtown Greeley, Colorado to admire number 4014 along with restored passenger cars from the 1940s and 50s when UP offered regular intercity passenger service in his system.

The Union Pacific Museum special was not originally on the UP schedule. A longer excursion was planned on the West Coast and Pacific Northwest rail system, although some complications led to its cancellation this year. In its place, the Frontier Days race was added. His addition to the schedule was a welcome addition to many rail fans.

UP Museum special dome car .mp4

“We just found out about this trip, and we got tickets as fast as we could and what we wanted to do was come back this year because when we took the Denver Post train in [20]18, we thought that would be the last chance we would have to ride it,” said Darin Fisher, who traveled with his wife, Monica, from Overland Park, Kansas for the event. “We were very happy to see that the Union Pacific was going to do that again.”

A train for next year’s Frontier Days festivities has not been officially scheduled, but Dickens said it was possible he could again travel on rails between the two cities.

UP Museum Special Cheyenne video.mp4

“We usually announce our trips a few months in advance because it takes a lot of logistics and a lot of planning,” he explained.

And even though the golden age of the railroad is long gone, the train offers a connection to a time when steam ruled the rails and passenger trains connected communities large and small.

“We just think it’s great that they’re still doing this,” Monica Fisher said. “We hope the younger ones will continue. There aren’t many young people here but it’s great to see all the little kids lining the train routes and only people coming out to watch [are] very exited.”

Jose P. Rogers