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Home | KNDY News | World’s Largest Operating Steam Locomotive to Pull Circus Train on Way to Mo. Celebration

World’s Largest Operating Steam Locomotive to Pull Circus Train on Way to Mo. Celebration

OMAHA, Neb., September 14, 2010 – Union Pacific Railroad’s “Challenger” No. 3985, the world’s largest operating steam locomotive, will be on a six-state, 2,200-mile tour from Cheyenne, Wyo., to Gorham, Ill., to celebrate railroad heritage. To kick-off the tour, Challenger will pull the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey ® Circus train between Speer, Wyo., and Denver, Colo.

“We are proud No. 3985 will pull the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey ® Circus train on September 28.  History will be made that day when No. 3985 will pull a 65-car train that is more than 6,000 tons and nearly 6,100 feet long, the most for a steam locomotive in the 21st century,” said Dick Hartman, Union Pacific’s director of public affairs for Colorado and Wyoming

“Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey is excited to be part of this railroad heritage celebration; we’ve been riding the rails for the last 175 years, so Ringling. Bros. is a part of rail history,” said Keith Anderson, trainmaster of the Ringling Bros. Blue Unit train. “No. 3985 will pull a mile-long train, stocked full of international performers, animals, and all of the gear we need for The Greatest Show On Earth,” he added.

No. 3985 is on the Missouri River Eagle tour to help Sedalia, Missouri celebrate the community’s Sesquicentennial on Sunday, October 10.

“Sedalia has such a rich railroad heritage that it is only fitting that the world’s largest operating steam locomotive help in celebrating their sesquicentennial,” said Ben Jones, Union Pacific’s director of public affairs for Missouri and Kansas.

During this tour, the 67-year-old locomotive will be on display in:

  • Kansas City, Mo., Oct. 3 and Oct. 11;
  • Jefferson City, Mo., Oct. 5;
  • St. Louis, Mo., Oct. 8;

The Challenger will make overnight stops in;

  • Denver, Colo., Sept. 28;
  • Cheyenne, Wyo., Sept. 29;
  • North Platte, Neb., Sept. 30 and Oct. 13;
  • Marysville, Kan.,  Oct. 1 and  Oct 12;
  • St. Louis, Mo., Oct.6 and Oct. 7;
  • Sedalia, Mo., Oct. 9.

Union Pacific’s No. 3985, an articulated locomotive with a “hinged” frame to allow it to negotiate curves, is 122 feet long.  It weighs more than one million pounds, has six-foot diameter drive wheels and can reach a top speed of 70 miles per hour.  No. 3985 was built in 1943 for fast freight service and was retired in 1959.  In 1981, it was restored to running condition by UP employee volunteers for special service.  This is the first trip for the locomotive after undergoing maintenance work during the last two years. The Challenger is based in Cheyenne, Wyoming.

A Global Positioning Satellite (GPS) transmitter was installed on one of the rail cars that will travel with No. 3985. The GPS system has been integrated with a map on UP’s website. Enter the word “Steam” in the search box on the homepage for a shortcut to the map. Website visitors will be able to access route maps with varying amounts of detail. The GPS system will update the map every five minutes showing No. 3985’s location.  GPS updates are also available at

During 2010, the Reed Jackson concession car displays a commemorative sign celebrating the National Model Railroad Association’s 75 years of service to the model railroad community.

About Jeff Ottens