UPDATE: Last of the Steam-Powered Trains May Puff Into Town -- If You Cast Your Vote
Update, January 18: The Little Rock Express beat out the Tuscola Turn, 76,217 votes to 73,175. Daily RFT apologizes to Tuscolans who cannot take a little trash-talking in the name of friendly competition.
image via The ol' 844 steams down the track.
The nineteenth century was definitely a dandy one, so who can blame twenty-first-century St. Louisans from embracing it? First there was last weekend's honest-to-goodness slave auction. Now we're on a campaign to get a steam-powered train to pay us a visit. Yep, you read that right. Steam-powered. Just like the Hogwarts Express.
The Union Pacific Railroad, it develops, still keeps two steam-powered locomotives in its barn in Cheyenne, Wyoming. One of them, number 844, was the last steam-powered locomotive ever built for the railroad back in the early 1940's. The other, old number 3985, was merely the biggest. Sometime this year, one of them will go on a tour through this great country of ours. Whether it will go through St. Louis depends on if you, gentle reader, vote for the Little Rock Express on UP's Great Excursion Adventure website before midnight tonight.
Currently, the Little Rock Express, which connects Kansas City and Little Rock via St. Louis, is running neck-and-neck with the Tuscola Turn, which starts out in Boone, Iowa, and takes a right turn just south of Chicago and ends in picturesque Tuscola, Illinois. You have the power to save these poor engineers from a trip to Tuscola by voting early and often.
The process actually began several months ago, Union Pacific spokesman Mark Davis tells Daily RFT, when the railroad asked people to nominate their towns for the privilege of allowing a steam-powered locomotive to pass through. UP organized routes based on the top nominations.
It remains to be seen which locomotive will come for a visit and when; Davis says UP will have to consult its maintenance schedule to make sure the train won't be held up by track work.
Sadly, even if the train does come through here, most of us won't get to ride it. That privilege is reserved for the people who voted most often on the website and encouraged their Facebook friends and Twitter followers to vote, too. The top voter will get to ride in the cab, a privilege not ordinarily allowed non-engineers. "It's a truly grand prize," Davis says.
(If you're hankering to take a ride on the train and haven't voted much, a steam-powered train goes between Cheyenne and Denver every summer as part of Cheyenne's Frontier Days celebration.)
Davis points out that Daily RFT totally missed a steam-powered locomotive's visit to St. Louis last fall when one passed through as part of Sedalia's sesquicentennial celebration. (God, we suck!)
"Schools brought their kids trackside to see the locomotive go by," Davis tells us.
A steam-powered train can go as fast as 70 miles per hour, though Davis says engineers prefer to keep the speed down around 60 because those locomotives are old. Though 3985 originally burned coal and 844 originally burned oil, both trains now generate steam by burning recycled motor and diesel oil.