A Big Boy in the Land of The Gila Monster
For the first time since the close of the steam era, an articulated steam locomotive took to the rails in Southeastern Arizona.
During the days of steam, this piece of trackage from Tucson eastward was home to the Southern Pacific’s AC-9, coal burning, “Gila Monsters”. The Gila Monsters weighed in at 998,000 lbs, The Big Boy on the other hand weighs about 202,000 lbs more. To keep these monsters fed, massive concrete coaling towers were built along the route from Tucson to El Paso at locations such as Mescal, Bowie, Lordsburg, and Deming. All of the towers stood well past the end of steam until the Union Pacific demolished them after taking over the Southern Pacific in the late 1990’s.
Today, we find the recent fuel oil convert, Union Pacific 4014, with no need for the coal towers that appeased the Gila Monsters heading eastward underneath the unmistakable prow of the Santa Catalina Mountains in Tucson.