Union Pacific 844

Union Pacific 844 is a 4-8-4 FEF-3-class steam locomotive owned and operated by the Union Pacific Railroad. Built in December 1944 by the American Locomotive Company (ALCO) of Schenectady, New York, No. 844 is one of just four surviving FEF locomotives and the only one in operating condition.

Union Pacific 844
Union Pacific FEF-3 No. 844 running through Painted Rocks, Nevada, on September 15, 2009
Type and origin
Power typeSteam
BuilderAmerican Locomotive Company
Serial number72791
Build dateDecember 24, 1944
  UIC2′D2′ h2
Gauge4 ft 8 12 in (1,435 mm) standard gauge
Driver dia.80 in (2,032 mm)
WheelbaseLoco & tender: 98 ft 5 in (30.00 m)
Adhesive weight266,490 lb (120,878 kg; 121 t)
Loco weight490,700 lb (222,578 kg; 223 t)
Tender weight421,550 lb (191,212 kg; 191 t)
Total weight912,250 lb (413,790 kg; 414 t)
Fuel typeNo. 5 fuel oil, originally coal
Fuel capacity6,200 US gal (23,000 l; 5,200 imp gal)
Water cap23,500 US gal (89,000 l; 19,600 imp gal)
  Firegrate area
100 sq ft (9.3 m2) (grate removed in 1945)
Boiler86 316 in (2189.2 mm) diameter
Boiler pressure300 lbf/in2 (2.07 MPa)
Heating surface4,224 sq ft (392.4 m2)
  Tubes2,204 sq ft (204.8 m2)
  Flues1,578 sq ft (146.6 m2)
  Firebox442 sq ft (41.1 m2)
  Heating area1,400 sq ft (130 m2)
Cylinder size25 in × 32 in (635 mm × 813 mm)
Performance figures
Maximum speed120 mph (190 km/h)
Power output4,500 hp (3,400 kW)
Tractive effort63,800 lbf (283.8 kN)
Factor of adh.4.18
OperatorsUnion Pacific Railroad
NumbersUnion Pacific 844, Union Pacific 8444, Southern Pacific 844 (As a joke)
Nicknames"Living Legend"
First run1944
Current ownerUnion Pacific Railroad
DispositionOperational, based in Cheyenne, Wyoming, at the steam shop

The locomotive operated in revenue service until 1959. It was initially placed into storage while awaiting withdrawal, along with the rest of the Union Pacific steam locomotive fleet. In 1960, railroad leaders recognized the benefits of having a steam program, and retained No. 844 for special activities, the kernel of what has become the Union Pacific heritage fleet.[2] Today, it is one of UP's oldest serving locomotives[3] and the only steam locomotive owned by a North American Class I railroad that has never been retired.[4]


In 1944, Union Pacific and ALCO collaborated on the FEF-3, a class of 10 locomotives designed to pull passenger trains at 120 mph. An FEF-3 locomotive once pulled a 1,000-ton passenger train at 100 mph. All FEF classes were considered by the Union Pacific to be capable of producing between 4,000 and 5,000 drawbar horsepower.

The FEF-3 class represented the epitome of dual-service steam locomotive development; funds and research were being concentrated into the development of diesel-electric locomotives. Designed to burn coal, they were converted to run on fuel oil in 1946. Like the earlier FEF-1 and FEF-2 classes, the FEF-3 locomotives were ultimately reassigned to freight service.


Revenue service

UP 844 was the last steam locomotive delivered to the Union Pacific Railroad, constructed as a member of the FEF-3 class of 4-8-4's. Upon its entry into service, the locomotive spent most of its career pulling a variety of passenger trains, such as the Overland Limited, Los Angeles Limited, Portland Rose and Challenger.[5] From 1957 to 1959, UP 844 was reassigned to fast freight service in Nebraska when diesel-electric locomotives took over passenger service.[6]

After commercial steam operations ended in 1959, the 844 and the rest of the FEF-3 class was placed into storage. Saved from scrapping in 1960,[7] No. 844 was chosen for rebuilding and is now used on company and public excursion trains, along with revenue freight during ferry moves.

Excursion career

Since 1960, No. 844 has run hundreds of thousands of miles as Union Pacific's publicity locomotive. Before it was discontinued in early 2019, the locomotive often pulled the annual Denver Post-sponsored Cheyenne Frontier Days train that ran round-trip from Cheyenne to Denver every July.[8][9][10]

It appeared at Expo '74 in Spokane, Washington; the 1978 dedication of the Utah State Railroad Museum in Ogden, Utah;[11] the 1984 World's Fair in New Orleans; and the 50th anniversary celebration of Los Angeles Union Station in 1989, when it performed a side-by-side run with Southern Pacific 4449. On February 14, 1975, it pulled Amtrak's San Francisco Zephyr from Denver, Colorado, to Cheyenne, Wyoming, with a pair of EMD SDP40Fs.[12] In 1981, it traveled to the opening of the California State Railroad Museum in Sacramento, along with Union Pacific 3985, which had recently been restored to operational condition.

Over the weekend of October 14, 1990, No. 844 led a procession of special trains from Kansas City Union Station to Abilene, Kansas, for World War II veterans to celebrate the 100th birthday of U.S. President Dwight D. Eisenhower. The "Eisenhower Centennial Special" was composed of cars from the Union Pacific, Burlington Northern, and Santa Fe Railway business fleets, with additional passenger cars provided by the Norfolk Southern and Chicago and North Western railroads. Present also in Abilene was General Eisenhower's command train, code-named "Bayonet", including the British A4 steam locomotive #60008 and communication and staff cars from WWII's European Theater of Operations.

After the end of the 1991 excursion season, 844 was put in the shop for a major running gear overhaul in addition to other repairs. During that time, 844 was repainted from the passenger greyhound scheme to the freight black. It emerged from the shop 1996.

On June 21, 1997, on the way to the National Railway Historical Society (NRHS)'s annual convention, in Salt Lake City, Utah, 844 and Union Pacific's Executive E units pulled 18 passenger cars on the Union Pacific's soon-to-close Tennessee Pass line, which included tracks on a narrow canyon shelf along the Arkansas River.

On June 24, 1999, while on display during RailFair '99, one of the 844's boiler tubes failed, and the locomotive was subsequently towed dead back to Cheyenne by the recently overhauled No. 3985. The tube was found to have been made of the wrong material during the overhaul in 1996, a discovery that prompted the replacement of the firebox in a complete overhaul that lasted from September 2001 to 2004. On September 9, 2004, the UP steam crew successfully test-fired the 4-8-4. It returned to operating service on November 10, 2004.

On May 18-19, 2007, No. 844 teamed with Southern Pacific 4449 to pull the "Puget Sound Excursion", a round trip from Tacoma to Everett on BNSF Railway tracks.

On June 25 and 26, 2010, it made an excursion trip to Milliken, Colorado's centennial celebration.

In September 2012, the locomotive was used in "UP 150", a celebration of Union Pacific's 150th anniversary celebration, hosted by the California State Railroad Museum.[13]

In June 2013, the locomotive's gyrating Mars light, installed in 1946, was removed because its mounting bolts had deteriorated. It was also announced that year that the 844 and 3985 would eventually be joined by a third steam locomotive: Boy Boy No. 4014.[14]

After the 2013 season, the locomotive was taken out of service for boiler work required by a change in the water treatment. It spent 2014 in Cheyenne, then received an early 15-year inspection the following year.

On June 16 and 17, 2016, the 844 was test fired. On July 12, 2016, the Union Pacific Steam Team took the locomotive on a "break-in run" as a sort of all-systems check and dress rehearsal for its return to service. The run was described as a complete success.[15] On July 23, 2016, it pulled the annual Cheyenne Frontiers Day excursion.

On October 13, 2016, the Union Pacific Steam Team started its 18-day "Trek To Tennessee" journey, the restored 844's first major trip.

In April 2017, No. 844 made its first run on the Oregon Short Line Railroad to celebrate the 92nd anniversary of the Boise Union Pacific Depot. Because of heavy snows and a wet spring, the trip was cut short and the engine had to run light across the Malad River because of a washed-out bridge.

In December 2018, Union Pacific requested Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) waivers to exempt UP Nos. 844, 3985, and 4014 from federal Positive Train Control (PTC) requirements[16] in February 2019, the FRA officials responded that such waivers were not needed.[17]

On May 4, 2019, No. 844 participated in the inaugural run of the newly-restored Big Boy No. 4014. The train departed the historic Cheyenne Depot following a christening ceremony for No. 4014.[18] The two locomotives arrived at the Ogden Union Station on May 9 for the city's Heritage Festival.[19][20] The two locomotives were on display at the station until May 12, when the return trip to Cheyenne began. They arrived at Cheyenne on May 19, concluding the first run of No. 4014 in excursion service.[20]

Union Pacific "8444"

From 1962 to 1989, the locomotive was numbered UP 8444 because the railroad had given the number 844 to an EMD GP30 locomotive. After the GP30 was retired from service in June 1989, No. 8444 was renumbered back to 844.[21] The GP30 is now owned by Nevada State Railroad Museum in Boulder City, Nevada, and operates periodically at the Nevada Southern Railroad Museum. There is now an EMD SD70ACe numbered 8444, insuring that 844 will not be renumbered in the significant future.

Accidents and incidents

On September 27, 2012, during the "UP 150" event, No. 844's tender derailed on tightly curved track from the Union Pacific's Martinez Subdivision to the California State Railroad Museum.[22] The tender was returned to the rails at 7:30 p.m.[22]

On July 21, 2018, the 844 was involved in a fatal pedestrian accident in Henderson, Colorado. The engine was leading the Cheyenne Frontier Days Special, which carries people to and from Denver and Cheyenne each year for the festival. The train was on its way to Denver when the pedestrian, Kelly Yarish, was hit. The train was stopped immediately following the accident. Police reported that the victim was trying to take photos of the train while standing too close to the tracks before she was hit.[23]

Surviving FEF Series locomotives

Three other FEF Series locomotives have survived, including FEF-1 No. 814 at Dodge Park in Council Bluffs, Iowa, and FEF-2 No. 833 at the Odgen Union Station Museum in Ogden, Utah,[24][25] and FEF-3 No. 838 at the steam shops in Cheyenne, Wyoming. Of these three, only 814 and 833 are preserved. 838 remains stored due to its use as a source of spare parts for 844.

Film history

UP 8444 was documented in the 1981 film "Eighty Four Forty Four" by the Union Pacific Railroad. Some of those clips would be later used for the opening and closing credits of the PBS show Shining Time Station, which ran from 1989 until 1995 (including the four hour long Family Specials).[26][27]

UP 844 also appears in Extreme Trains in the episode "Steam Train" in which it pulled the Frontier Days special from Denver to Cheyenne.[28]

UP 844 also makes an appearance in the 2nd Episode of the 3rd Season on the TLC TV series, Mostly True Stories?: Urban Legends Revealed.

In the 1990 PBS special Ghost Trains of the Old West, UP 8444, as it was numbered at the time of filming, is seen pulling a Union Pacific diesel locomotive and passenger train through Wyoming.

UP 844 (and several other restored steam locomotives) appear in the music video with the Pat Metheny Group's "Last Train Home".


  1. "Union Pacific Steam Locomotive No. 844" (PDF) (Press release). Union Pacific. February 2019. Archived from the original (PDF) on May 12, 2019. Retrieved May 12, 2019.
  2. "Union Pacific Steam Program". American-Rails.com. Retrieved 2019-06-26.
  3. Klein, Maury (2011). Union Pacific: The Reconfiguration: America's Greatest Railroad from 1969 to the Present. New York: Oxford University Press. p. 163.
  4. Union Pacific Railroad (2012). "Living Legend No. 844". UP.com. Retrieved February 16, 2014.
  5. See Edmonson, Harold A. and Goodheart, David. "Union Pacific's 8444," at 1 (1989, Goodheart Publications).
  6. "Union Pacific 844". American-Rails.com. Retrieved 2019-06-12.
  7. Union Pacific. "LIVING LEGEND NO. 844 THE LAST OF THE STEAM LOCOMOTIVES". Retrieved 20 December 2013.
  8. "End of the line for Cheyenne Frontier Days train". Trains. January 21, 2019. Archived from the original on February 20, 2019. Retrieved June 9, 2019.
  9. "Denver Post Cheyenne Frontier Days Train to stop running". KCWY-DT. January 22, 2019. Archived from the original on May 28, 2019. Retrieved June 9, 2019.
  10. Kuhns, Ben (January 22, 2019). "Cheyenne Frontier Days Train Runs Out of Steam". KIGN. Archived from the original on May 28, 2019. Retrieved June 9, 2019.
  11. Strack, Don. "Utah State Railroad Museum at Ogden Union Station". Retrieved 19 January 2011.
  12. Dorin, Patrick (1979). Amtrak Trains and Travel. Seattle, Washington: Superior Publishing Co. p. 47. ISBN 0-87564-533-X.
  13. "Union Pacific Railroad Celebrates 150th Anniversary in Old Sacramento with Signature Event September 29–30". Union Pacific. July 1, 2012. Archived from the original on October 9, 2015. Retrieved June 9, 2019.
  14. "UP: Union Pacific Railroad Acquires Big Boy Locomotive No. 4014". Uprr.com. Retrieved October 15, 2013.
  15. "Locomotive No. 844 Makes First Return Journey". Inside Track. Union Pacific. July 13, 2016. Archived from the original on July 16, 2016. Retrieved August 22, 2019.
  16. "Big Boy 4014 gets drivers; UP asks for PTC waivers for three steam locomotives". Trains. December 13, 2018. Archived from the original on June 8, 2019. Retrieved June 9, 2019.
  17. Wrinn, Jim (February 28, 2019). "FRA: UP doesn't need waiver to run steam 11,000 miles in 2019". Trains. Archived from the original on June 9, 2019. Retrieved June 9, 2019.
  18. Scott, Ramsey (May 4, 2019). "The Big Boy leaves the shop and heads into history". Wyoming Tribune Eagle. Archived from the original on May 4, 2019. Retrieved May 4, 2019.
  19. "World's Largest Steam Locomotive Returns to the Rails as Union Pacific Commemorates Transcontinental Railroad's 150th Anniversary". Union Pacific. March 14, 2019. Archived from the original on May 2, 2019. Retrieved May 2, 2019.
  20. "2019 Union Pacific Steam Schedule". Union Pacific. Archived from the original on April 30, 2019. Retrieved April 30, 2019.
  21. "UP 844 Union Pacific EMD GP30 at Boulder City, Nevada". Retrieved 2009-05-02.
  22. "Union Pacific No. 844 tender derails". Trains. September 28, 2012. Archived from the original on September 14, 2019. Retrieved September 14, 2019.
  23. Ruble, Eric (July 21, 2018). "Woman struck, killed by Cheyenne Frontier Days train near Henderson". KDVR. Archived from the original on July 24, 2018. Retrieved May 19, 2019.
  24. Edwards, Alan (February 19, 1999). "All aboard! No. 833 going to Ogden: Historic steam engine is one of 3 left in its class". Deseret News. Archived from the original on October 7, 2018. Retrieved June 9, 2019.
  25. "Donated Locomotives". Union Pacific. Archived from the original on May 6, 2019. Retrieved June 9, 2019.
  26. "Union Pacific No. 844 Steam Locomotive on Tour". Railway-News. 2016-07-20. Retrieved 2019-06-18.
  27. "UP Steam Engine 844 Passes through Panhandle (Photos, Audio)". www.panhandlepost.com. Retrieved 2019-06-18.
  28. Extreme Trains: Steam Train clip, retrieved 2019-06-18

Further reading

  • Bush, John E. (2013). Building Union Pacific 844: The Birth of the FEF-3 Steam Class (1st ed.). South Platte Press. ISBN 978-0-942035-98-8.
  • Kindig, Richard H.; Hill, Ronald C. (1978). Union Pacific 8444 (1st ed.). Colorado Railroad Historical Foundation. ISBN 978-0918654281.
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