Chasing Trains: Oklahoma rail fans travel hundreds of miles to get a closer look at the world’s largest steam train

Great State
Data pix.

MULDROW, Okla. (KFOR) -- Living close to the tracks means you learn to ignore the horns and crossing signals, but on this morning, in places like Muldrow, Oklahoma, people stopped.

They parked cars and put out lawn chairs.

Railfans like Nathan Mahaffey and Rick Inselman drove a couple of hundred miles to chase this, the Big Boy 4014, the Union Pacific's restored steam locomotive, now the largest working steam train in the world.

"It's cool to watch," says Nathan.

"It's kind of like Tim from Home Improvement," suggests Rick. "It's the power source. Ho, HO, HO. Right?"
They call themselves rail fans.

Nathan works for the BNSF Railroad.

Rich is a modeler and photographer whose passion for trains grew to life-size.

Inselman explains, "What we do is go out and spot trains and watch them go by."

They've chased lots of trains through the years.

This one presented a 'can't miss challenge', which is why they had a detailed plan and a radio tuned to the Big Boy's frequency.

Union Pacific employees call railfans like these, 'foamers.'

Mahaffey says, "Everybody seems to foam at the mouth watching them go by."

"Wait a minute," laughs Inselman wiping his mouth. "Got a little drool there."

Another 'foamer', Jaime Ennis from Checotah followed the Big Boy just to hear the lonesome whistle, and to remember his father, an engineer on the old Cotton BeltLine.

"Yeah," he says with a shake in his voice, "It brings back a lot of memories. A lot of memories."

There was a time when steam trains wouldn't get a second look, but those times are long gone.

You have to chase to see them now.

The Union Pacific's restored Big Boy 4014 is headed back to its base in Cheyenne, Wyoming after 3 different tours around the U.S. celebrating the 150th anniversary of the Transcontinental Railroad's completion.

To learn more about it, click here.

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