Steam Locomotive No. 844        page1            2011

I read in the newspaper that on November 17th, a real working steam locomotive would be passing through my home town in Banning, Ca. That sounded pretty good to me because it isn't everyday that something like that happens around here, or anywhere for that matter.

Now I'm not really a train buff but anything that's older or mechanical seems to get my attention so a couple of guys from work and I decided to check it out.

Come to find out this particular train number 844 is called the "Living Legend", started service in 1944 and is the final steam locomotive made for the Union Pacific railroad.

Based in Cheyenne, Wy. it is now used for special events and on this particular trip was a tour of the western United States with stops in New Mexico and Arizona to help those states celebrate their centennials. The train left Arizona thursday morning stopping in Indio, Ca. before heading through the San Gorgonio Pass via the tracks parallel to Interstate 10 which is where Banning is located. It is scheduled to leave for Yermo the next evening traveling through Nevada and Utah before heading back home.

The 454-ton locomotive ran at up to 100 mph at its peak but come to find out these days the crew won’t take it any faster than 70 mph. It was scheduled to leave Indio at 10:15 am and arrive at the Union Pacific yard in Bloomington at 12:00 which meant I should see it at around 11:00 am.

Well it was about 2 1/2 hours late (which was typical for these trains back in the day) and a lot of people left before it chugged its way through town. Come to find out it made a stop in Cabazon (about five miles away) for some routine maintenance before it made it's way through town. I'll have to say it was worth the wait because the engine and whistle sounded very different than your typical freight train which I'll get into more detail on the next few pages along with a short video.

Now this crossing is within walking distance from where I work which is at San Gorgonio Ave. looking east. About 100 people showed up to see the locomotive rumble by along with some vintage fire engines in the distance as well.



Now it can get pretty boring while you're standing around so what do you do with your time while your waiting for this locomotive to arrive? You become a kid again and you put money on the tracks of coarse. After the first freight train was in view it wasn't long before a penny was resting on the track. It took us awhile but we finally found it and sure enough, it was pretty flat just like I remembered from when I was a kid.



That gave another guy an idea and the next thing you know, he had many coins laying on that iron...but not like you'd think. What he did was use two inch wide packaging tape to attach the them to the tracks which I've never seen done before. Well everyone waited in anticipation to see the outcome.



Turns out that two of the coins stayed on the whole time and never left the tracks. Those other spots that you see had coins on them to but fell off after the first wheel hit them. It's hard to tell exactly how big those flat pieces really are but remember...that's a rail road track.



And here is what a penny looks like after every wheel hits it on a two mile long freight train. Pretty impressive! huh!


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