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Thousands flock to the rails to see the Big Boy chug into Altoona

Tuesday, July 23, 2019
Shannon Satterlee | WQOW

Altoona (WQOW) - The Big Boy train made its grand appearance in Altoona on Tuesday and it was a big deal for the thousands of people who showed up to get a look at the illustrious locomotive.

The wait for it to come lasted more than a couple months though. The engineer and operator of the Big Boy said for the last four decades, train enthusiasts have been asking for the Big Boy to be restored.

"People were told the Big Boy just will never run. Stop asking us because it's to heavy, you can't convert it to burn any other fuel other than coal and it's to big. You can't turn it anywhere, it can't go anywhere, so that narrative was designed to discourage the whole notion," said Ed Dickens, Big Boy's engineer and director.

Because people were told it would never happen, it makes hearing the train's whistle blow even more special.

Dave Goodman came all the way from Kansas City and said it was worth the journey.

"I love the sound of it. Part of it is the roar of the whistle," Goodman said. "It isn't just the blowing of the whistle but it's the roar of it. It's so loud it just shakes your body a little bit you gotta experience it."

"I have train in my blood," said Todd Taylor. "I got a scar from when my model train cut me and that's it; train in my blood since I was a kid."

Taylor said seeing the historic train in person was everything he hoped for, and everyone who sees it can agree it's the biggest steam engine they have ever seen.

"Everyone of us universally uses one word to describe it and that word is beast. It is just an absolutely enormous power plant," Dickens said.

The Big Boy is set to leave Altoona Wednesday at 8 a.m. and will continue on its journey as part of the "Great Race Across the Midwest."

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