A large, loud, fast piece of history rolled through Eastern Jackson County Monday morning.
People gathered at Union Pacific crossings on the north side of Independence, and several dozen people – lots of small children with parents and grandparents – waited in downtown Buckner. Steam engine No. 844 arrived a few minutes late in Buckner and stopped for about 15 minutes, as people shot photos and videos.
With several loud blasts, it then chugged east to stops in Lexington, Blackwater and Boonville before stopping for the night in Jefferson City.
No. 844, was the last steam engine built for the Union Pacific, entering service in 1944 and pulling high-speed passenger trains for about a dozen years. It was saved from being scrapped in the early 1960s, and it’s been restored for goodwill tours such as the current one that No. 844 is on, from its base in Cheyenne, Wyoming, east to Memphis and then back to Cheyenne.
It’s a big and impressive machine. The engine and tender weigh 454 tons and are 114 feet long. It carries 6,200 of No. 5 oil for fuel and 23,500 gallons of water to make steam. It can go about 300 miles on a tank of fuel.
When on tour, No. 844 pulls some historic cars as well. On Monday, those included the Art Lockman, a 1962 baggage car – one of the last the UP bought – converted to a maintenance tool car. Lockman was a roundhouse foreman who worked for the railroad for 43 years and was known for his expertise with steam engines. Another car is the Howard Fogg, a boiler car. Fogg was noted for his paintings of trains.
No. 844 will not pass through Eastern Jackson County on its way home but is scheduled to arrive at Union Station at 3:15 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 27, be on display from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. the next day, and leave at 8 a.m. that Saturday for Lawrence and points west.