Dozens of sleek locomotives speed in and out of Salt Lake's Union Pacific station daily, and silver diesel engines are familiar to both frequent travelers and train buffs.
But railroad lovers were given a special treat Saturday when Union Pacific's No. 8444 passed through Utah. The old steam locomotive, built in 1944, is on a monthlong "Tour of The West," giving people a chance to see the old train, while helping fund-raising activities along the way."It's a real kick, I absolutely love it," said engineer and fireman Robert P. Krieger. "Sometimes we put in some long hard days, but it's all worth it."
Krieger, a yearlong veteran on the train, started working with Union Pacific years earlier, helping the company rebuild old steam engines.
The April 28 through May 29 trek will take the locomotive from its home station in Cheyenne, Wyo., through several Western states.
Originally built to burn coal, No. 8444 was converted to an oil-burning engine in 1945. The steam engine travels an average speed of 65 mph, up to 100 miles before its water supply needs to be replenished and more than 200 miles without refueling with oil.
"The whole point of our trips around the country are for public relations purposes and excursions for those who love these old steam engines," Krieger said. "I love to see how the people react when we pull in."
Behind engine No. 8444, another relic locomotive has joined the string of rail cars. Engine No. 951 is the last of Union Pacific's high-speed diesel-electrics built for service on the famous streamliner and old-time domeliner passenger trains.