Union Pacific's steam locomotive Big Boy 4014 arrived about 9 a.m. in Atlanta on a cold Tuesday morning last November.
Big Boy 4014 was the largest locomotive ever built in the United States. The history-making engine weighed some 1.2 million pounds, was 132 feet long and had travelled over a million miles in its 20 years of service.
It had 16 driver wheels, each one taller in diameter than most humans. Its tender held 6,100 gallons of oil and 25,000 gallons of water.
The train was built in 1941 to carry vital war supplies across the western mountains and to the distant coastal shores of the Pacific.
The train was on a tour of the midwest and Union Pacific's rail system. Its purpose was to commemorate the 150th anniversary of the completion of the Transcontinental Railroad and the driving of that golden spike at Promontory Summit, Utah, in 1869. It had left Cheyenne, Wyoming, in May for its the run across the country.
A crowd of several hundred waited early with cold hands and ears for the arrival at the former Atlanta depot. When it got here, it was like a monster chugging through clouds of steam.
The machine was smooth and quiet, glistening a polished black, breathing steam, chiming bells and whistling a deep, low moan. It might have been like a steamboat generations ago coming to its moorings at a dock in nearby Jefferson.
The animal was pulling a meager few cars filled with passengers, likely executives of Union Pacific or others privileged enough to be on this historical tour.
One expected someone to get out of one of those Pullman cars and stand upon the stopped train to address the crowd. Surely one of the passengers was running for office. And the crowd, so amazed by the train, would have listed to, and agreed with, anything.
But what one clever youth there called Big Boy was even more evocative.
"It's a relic," he said, "of another time."