You may already be aware that Arizona will be celebrating 100 years of statehood in February 2012. What you may not know is that celebrations for this important occasion have already begun!
Earlier this month, a very special steam-powered locomotive rolled through the Grand Canyon State as part of our centennial celebration. The Union Pacific #844 steam locomotive was available for public viewing at the Union Pacific rail yard in downtown Phoenix on Sunday November 13th and Monday November 14th, 2011.
North Phoenix Blog was on hand to witness this impressive display of mechanical engineering. Railroads played a critical role in the expansion of Arizona Territory, and this historic locomotive serves as a working reminder of how people used to get around in the days before air travel and interstate highways.
The Union Pacific Steam Locomotive made stops in Willcox, Benson, Vail, Tucson, Coolidge, Gilbert, and Tempe before arriving in Phoenix. After Phoenix, the train continued on through Casa Grande, Gila Bend, Wellton, and Yuma before heading into California.
The massive locomotive is an impressive sight to behold for train enthusiasts and ordinary folks alike. Among its most prominent features are the eight massive drive wheels which measure 80 inches in diameter.
The locomotive is notable for being the last steam locomotive delivered to Union Pacific in 1944. Though it has been designated as Union Pacific's ambassador of goodwill since 1960, the locomotive has never been retired from service. That makes it the only steam locomotive in North America with such a designation.
Union Pacific also had a more modern diesel-electric locomotive on display, UP#1996. This engine is one of five that Union Pacific owns which has a special "heritage" paint scheme. This particular locomotive is painted with the colors of Southern Pacific, which Union Pacific acquired in 1996.
We will keep you posted on many other events and happenings regarding Arizona's Centennial Celebration!