The journey from Cheyenne to Ogden and back was unlike any other for a myriad of reasons, but one of them was the opportunity to get alongside the legendary Union Pacific #4014 while it was in motion. The trick was getting up there! Because so many other people wanted to the same thing, it was tough to get close at all. However, we did manage it multiple times throughout the journey. It was truly exhilarating to be able to do, and certainly not easy at times! So, now, we look at some of the highlights of getting side by side the Union Pacific Big Boy, #4014.
By my count, we were able to pace it in some capacity at least 9 different times. Each time was spent carefully eyeing the road in front of and behind us and frantically swapping between picture & video, and even swapping lenses a few times just to get the right shot. The results ended up being about 30 minutes of raw video and, at a rough estimation, between 1500-2000 photos of the massive steam engines and the incredible Wyoming & Utah countrysides.
The first time we paced 4014 & 844 was on US Route 30, between Laramie and Medicine Bow - on the very first day of the chase, May 4th! It was brief, but the moment we found it was frankly incredible. After a stop in, well, the middle of nowhere, we were back on the road heading towards Medicine Bow when we were hit with traffic. Other chasers, pacing the train of course, along with many more simply heading towards their next spot. It seemed like the road had two miles of cars ahead of us, with no end in sight. Then, we crossed a hill and... the road was almost totally empty.
Even now, more than a month later, I don't understand how that happened. Regardless, there were hardly more than a dozen cars left over, and before I knew it, the 4014 popped up to our left, high above the road on its grade. The issue with that: I'm in the passengers seat, meaning the only way to shoot was out of the drivers side window... thankfully, my father, who drove us throughout the entire chase, is a much better driver than he gives himself credit for. He managed to keep us on the road and lean back so I could take a few shots (though I wasn't leaning that close, it was more so just so he wouldn't block the shot! I didn't obstruct his view at all). An unexpected surprise - especially given the advice we were told before the trip, which was, "Don't try to pace. Pick a spot and go there."
Well... who needs that kind of advice?
Well, we didn't pace it again until we arrived in Utah.
Most of the pacing in Utah on May 8th was rainy, so while it provided great steam, it was certainly hard to get a nice photo at times! Especially when it's before you got your lens hoods... Regardless, throughout Echo Canyon we followed alongside 4014 and 844, even making a few stops ahead of the train to grab a few shots and jump back into the action. One of the highlights had to be moving around in the car!
As we were heading west for this part of the trip, as mentioned previously, the tracks were on the left side of the car. Instead of sitting in the passengers seat and shooting out the drivers window this time, I sat in the back seat of the car and shot out of the left. Worked much better in all regards for this part! However, we did get on the Interstate just before Echo, UT, which put the tracks on our right again, and I did need to be navigating... so, I got to experience jumping from the back to the front seat while in a moving car. Protip for those crazy enough to do the same: it's tighter than you think, it will hurt your back and neck, and it is not as fun as you'd probably expect, either. Briefly on I-80 we caught it some more, then we found ourselves making a handful of stops to watch it roll past, and then we got stuck in traffic.
Naturally, May 8th was the end of the Great Race To Ogden... but May 12th was the start of the Great Race From Ogden!
We returned to Echo Canyon Road to do the same as last time - but no stopping this time. We found ourselves a spot alongside the road and waited... and waited... until finally, the quake of the incoming train alerted us to get ready to go.
They were certainly putting on a show! It rolled right up to us, and as we joined the road, it came right up perfectly beside us for an absolutely unforgettable sight of the largest steam engine running mere feet away, all while we kept pace. Unbelievable then, unbelievable now. It lasted only seconds, then we jostled ahead and behind a few times, until we came alongside once more, where I snatched up an incredible 20 second video clip (the very first one in the video at the beginning of the post, in fact). It didn't take long for us to fall behind the engines as more people joined the fray, and then we were too far behind to get much meaningful stuff, especially with the sheer volume of people and cars between us and the train on the side of the road.
Joining I-80 East, we did see the train along the Wasatch Grade a few times despite the heavy traffic. Photos were hard to get, but I tried regardless. It was the first proper test of a different telephoto lens I had brought with me, which turned out to be the better lens, though shooting from a moving car through its windshield does not prove that at all.
On May 13th, we briefly did a very long distance pace between Evanston and Green River, though closer to the latter. The telephoto I mentioned above got a real workout all along that day, and this was no exception, only sealing it as the primary lens for the rest of the trip, as odd as that may sound (especially when its lowest setting is 55mm!).
It was the next two chase days, the 16th and 17th, that were the best days of pacing, by far. Between Rock Springs and Point of Rocks, we caught the Big Boy for what felt like hours! Sometimes the tracks were far, sometimes very near, and regardless of their position we got to see some incredible sights. After viewing the train come at us while we stood atop a bridge just outside Rock Springs, we hopped on the I-80 Service Road and just followed it until we had to get on I-80 at Point of Rocks. It was, in short, incredible.
An interesting tidbit is that this pace was the most dangerous one, because of other drivers not surprisingly. The thing you don't often get in pacing videos or explanations is that traffic rubberbands really hard in a pace, especially one this big. Everyone is speeding up and slowing down to match speed with the train, some people are passing other cars, some people are racing ahead to get to the next photo spot - there's more back and forth than you think. It gets tough to handle, as evidenced by the fact someone in a Porsche was not paying enough attention to the brakelights ahead of them and nearly hit us. In fact, they would've hit us if they hadn't swerved off the road a little bit! It happened while I was filming, though that clip didn't make the final cut of the video at the top of this post. You can't see it, merely the camera pointing down for a few seconds, a squeal of tires, and some choice words about Porsche drivers.
In short: be very careful when pacing. Driving in general, really. Leave some distance behind the car ahead of you! After he nearly wrecked, the Porche Boxster decided to hang a little farther back the rest of the way to Point of Rocks...
Despite the danger, we drove on and on, never taking the camera off of the Big Boy or its companions. After a brief unscheduled stop at Point of Rocks, we caught it at Table Rock, then hopped back on the Interstate to catch up and head to our next spot, and we even caught it there, on I-80.
We wouldn't pace it again that day, but after all the excitement of the morning, catching it for ages and ages - that was totally okay.
May 17th was, without a doubt, the best day of pacing by far. The start of the day was rough, as it got stuck between Rawlins and Hanna and delayed for over two hours, plus the crummy weather to begin... but then things got really good after Medicine Bow. Just like the very first day, we caught it on US Route 30, between Medicine Bow and Laramie.
And we just...
It was only one hour and forty five minutes of pacing, with a five minute stop in the middle, but it was the best of the best. Views near and far from the road, views of mountains, livestock, fields, and most importantly, two very large pieces of machinery that stand out against every backdrop.
What a sight.
Once the train rolled into Laramie, the chase and the pace was over, but there was still one final day to chase... and one final chance to pace.
May 19th, the final day of The Great Race To & From Ogden, had 4014 traveling up Sherman Hill, but there aren't roads to parallel that. Getting to the summit isn't even possible, thanks to the landowners (which is understandable on their part but... dang). However, once it descended the hill, there was a single road off of I-80 that paralleled the tracks all the way into Cheyenne - and you bet we took that road all the way in.
If White Flag didn't already tell you - in which 4014 prepares to leave Laramie - then May 19th was a cold, rainy, and dreary day. Despite the ill weather, we got a brilliant display of steam thanks to it, which, depending on your outlook, makes it worth it. All the while 4014 & 844 raced into Cheyenne, they shot out massive clouds of steam into the sky, which never, ever ceases to be amazing.
The last pace was brief, and we didn't catch right up alongside the Big Boy again, but we did our best, especially given the volume of cars tracking the train into town. It was quite hectic - police were everywhere to try and make sense of the madness, and it's a good thing they were there, too.
That was the end of the pace, and moreover, it was the end of the entire chase! This was actually the first time I've ever paced a train, and wow, what a first impression. It is definitely NOT easy by any means, but it is worth it to get the incredible shots of the train in motion. It allows you to see the way these machines work in a way very different than standing on the ground and watching it go by - instead, you don't see it for mere seconds, but for much longer. I think it makes you have to appreciate the engineering a bit more, seeing it all working like that. Not to mention, it's incredibly exciting as well. If you know the roads well enough, you can definitely pull it off - and if you can, go for it. It's worth it. Just be careful!
We have a lot more stories to tell about this trip - this is just the beginning.
This post is part of a series on chasing the Union Pacific Big Boy #4014 on its Great Race To & From Ogden. For more, find the "UP 4014" category on the sidebar!
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