Photos Past: Union Pacific #3985

The Union Pacific Railroad ran an excursion special between Houston and College Station, Texas back in the summer of 1995. At the point was U.P. steam locomotive #3985, a 4-6-6-4 Challenger. At the time it was the largest operating steam locomotive in the country. Here she is pulling the train on the return leg of the journey heading toward Houston.


The Union Pacific side lined the locomotive after the 2010 season as it was in need of serious overhaul work. The U.P. instead decided to reacquire and restore one of their famous “Big Boy” 4-8-8-4 locomotives, the #4014. In 1962 it had been donated to the Railway and Locomotive Historical Society, and was on display in Fairplex at the RailGiants Train Museum in Pomona, California. As a result of this decision, the #3985 was officially retired in January 2020.

But there is good news for the steamer, as a deal was made with the Railroading Heritage of Midwest America to acquire the locomotive. It has been moved to the former Rock Island Railroad Silvis, Ill. shops, and its re-building is underway. The Challenger will eventually be back in service!

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