There are more details about a historic locomotive passing through town in a couple of weeks.

There are more details about a historic locomotive passing through town in a couple of weeks.

Rail fans will have several chances to see what the Union Pacific calls the world’s largest operating steam locomotive – “Challenger” No. 3985 – either sitting at Union Station or moving through Independence and other cities in the area.

No. 3985’s 17-day trip, the Missouri River Eagle tour, begins next Tuesday morning in Cheyenne, Wyo. It will stop in Speer, Wyo., and pick up the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus train and pull it to Denver. Then it doubles back to Cheyenne and then starts working its way east, with stops in places such as North Platte, Neb., and Topeka, Kan.

Chance No. 1: It’s scheduled to arrive at Union Station at 1 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 2, and be on display from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. the following day.

Chance No. 2: On Monday, Oct. 4, the train leaves Union Station at 8 a.m. and will pass through the northern side of Independence on a line that runs on the north edge of Lake City and through Buckner as the train heads for an 11 a.m. arrival in Marshall, Mo.

So let’s say 9ish in Buckner if you’re really into this, right? Actually, better information will be available on the big day.

The Union Pacific has slapped a GPS device onto the train. Go to and type “steam” into the search box on the home page. That will bring up route maps and – every five minutes – an update on where the train is.

“We encourage people to watch the GPS,” company spokesperson Mark Davis said.

From Marshall, the train heads east for several days, arriving in St. Louis Oct. 6. Then it has a brief appearance in Gorham, Ill., on Oct. 7 before heading back west. Coming out of St. Louis, it heads to Jefferson City, where it takes a more southerly route to get back to Kansas City. That leg of the trip includes a stop in Sedalia Oct. 9 for that city’s sesquicentennial celebration.

Chance No. 3: This is probably the best chance to see the train pass through Independence – though it might be dark. No. 3985 leaves Sedalia at 6 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 10, and is scheduled to arrive at Union Station at 10:30 p.m. It will pass through Warrensburg, Pleasant Hill, downtown Lee’s Summit (no stop planned) and much of Independence on the way.

This is the line that comes into the south side of Independence west of Noland Road, passing along Noland near Truman High School, then angling to the northwest and passing by the Truman Depot (no stop planned) on Pacific Avenue, then north of Englewood, east of Maywood and on the west edge of Fairmount before going out of the northwest corner of the city and into Kansas City.

The railroad is giving itself a 4 1/2-hour window – Sedalia to Kansas City – for a run that Amtrak normally makes in a little more than two hours. That’s a busy line, and much of the freight traffic flows the other way, so sometimes Amtrak runs into delays. The GPS reading on the company’s website should give anyone wanting to see the train a clearer idea of just when it passes through Independence.

Chance No. 4: The train is on display at Union Station from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday, Oct. 11, Columbus Day. It leaves at 8 a.m. Tuesday and is back in Cheyenne on Thursday.

The 122-foot, 1-million-pound locomotive was built in 1943. It was retired in 1959, and then UP employee volunteers restored it in 1981. This is its first trip since maintenance work over the last two years.