The rumour mill had been saying it for about two years at this point that the IAIS QJ 6988 would be doing a few runs when the official announcement came that this oddity would be performing fundraising excursions for local fire departments in Iowa in August 2021. From what I gathered, 2020 excursions were supposed to have happened, but, well, the obvious. But, with extended boiler time, the QJ had a few weekends to do things in 2021 - and they used them well!
As the dates for trips for my summer and fall began to pile in and organise themselves, the QJ happened to line up really nicely. Slated at less than a week from the Big Boy 2021 trip, it would be a tight squeeze for sure - one that meant I had barely enough time to put out a few QJ shots before the Big Boy would envelope the next few weeks of my life. In trying to get the photos and words edited and put out with that big trip, paired with the next few coming up, the QJ fell by the wayside, and I never really made note of it here except for the photos that appeared in the gallery one day.
Well, I'd say it's about time to correct that!
With 2021 being chock full of trips and photo opportunities alike, it's been a very busy year to say the least. Late summer and fall were really intense - a weekend with the IAIS 6988, then just a few days later embarking on the Big Boy 2021 tour, and the back-to-back London/Drumsheds and MILW261 trips (not to mention the LS&I trip a month and some change before it all). It was just packed. So, of course, there has to be something to round it all off.
Well, in that case, I took another adventure up north to Wisconsin to see the Soo Line 1003, where I participated in the Trains Magazine photo charter with the little 2-8-2. Now that was quite a weekend, and quite a send off as my last trip for the year. Clocking in at three days including transit, this little outing would prove to be quite the experience indeed.
On Sunday, September 26th, I landed back in the United States on a plane ride from London to Chicago. Then, on Thursday, September 30th, I was hightailing it up I-39/I-94 to Minneapolis to chase the Milwaukee Road 261 for the weekend after last second major car repairs and a distinct lack of sleep from the previous few days.
What the hell was I thinking?
Welcome to part two - and coincidentally, day two - of chasing the Union Pacific Big Boy #4014 across the Midwest! If you haven't read part one, I recommend it - I'm just gonna jump straight into things. Here's a link to part one if you missed it: Link
The Union Pacific certainly has a thing for Great Races - which certainly makes sense, as chasing down their trains certainly is a race!
Throughout July and early August this year, the Big Boy #4014 embarked on its second journey - called "The Great Race Across The Midwest." The locomotive visited Minneapolis, Duluth, Chicago, Des Moines, Omaha, North Platte, and many, many towns and cities along the way. It took routes a Big Boy has never once travelled before, making it a prime opportunity to chase. Of course, it was about a full month, so there was no way I was to be able to follow it the way I did during the Great Race To Ogden because it was prohibitively expensive (as we all know from the Ogden trip...) and getting that much time off work was difficult.
Nevertheless, I managed to secure a short trip - July 30th & the 31st. The route for these two days was simple: West Chicago to Cedar Rapids on the 30th, then Cedar Rapids to Des Moines on the 31st. In Part 1, we'll cover the first day, the 30th, and the ridiculousness that was chasing a Big Boy in Illinois & Iowa.
Going back to the beginning of the Great Race To Ogden, there was one particularly early day in the schedule. Specifically, May 6th, 2019 - when the Union Pacific #4014 & #844 left Rock Springs, Wy at 4:00AM. This was because it allowed them to get around scheduled track maintenance - but more importantly, this caused the train to go through morning light.
Of course, before it could be seen in said light, it had to actually leave Rock Springs. At four in the morning.
So, leaving our hotel somewhere around 3:45AM, we headed over to the yard in Rock Springs to take a quick peak at the giant locomotive and its smaller - yet still sizable - companion in the darkness.
Now, I am not a night-time photographer - I don't claim to be. My photos have a bit of grain and often some shakiness from longer exposures, so they're not perfect. I never really planned to do night shots - and my flash refused to fire for whatever reason! So they're a tad bit weird. Still, I grabbed as many as I could in the little time we had.
I am very glad I did.
Something I mentioned briefly in my last post was this quote: "On May 17th, we got to return to the bridge after a rather grueling day in Hanna." Why was it such a grueling day, you might be wondering?
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