Centennial celebration draws historic locomotive to BensonMarch 14, 2012
By Dana Cole
Wick News Service
BENSON — In recognition of the state’s Centennial celebration, Benson will be visited by Union Pacific Railroad’s iconic steam locomotive, No. 844 when the train stops there on Nov. 10 from 11 to 11:30 a.m.
The locomotive will be traveling through the Southwestern United States in recognition of centennial celebrations for New Mexico and Arizona. The last steam locomotive built for Union Pacific, No. 844 will travel more than 2,900 miles from its home base in Cheyenne, Wyo., embarking on a 32-day, nine-state tour that will honor the railroad’s rich heritage in the Southwest. As it follows the Southern Arizona “Sunset Limited” route, the locomotive will traverse the state with its first stop in Willcox at 10 a.m. on Nov. 10. From there, it will travel to Benson where it will arrive close to 11, departing for Vail at 11:30 a.m.
While in Benson, the locomotive will stop near the Amtrak location at Patagonia and Fourth streets. The City of Benson has extended an invitation to all of Cochise County to come see this “very special Centennial Signature Event,” considered a once in a lifetime opportunity.
“Most people will never see a working locomotive in their lifetime, so this truly is a historic event,” said Bob Nilson of the Benson visitor center. “There are very few steam locomotives left. We’re just thrilled that Benson has been included as one of the stops on the route.”
Local schools are taking advantage of the opportunity to see the locomotive as well, Nilson said. “The Pomerene School is bringing more than 60 kids to see this, and I understand other schools are planning to be here for it,” added Nilson, who plans to videotape the locomotive as it comes into Benson and when it departs.
The New Mexico/Arizona Centennial Tour began on Oct. 29 when locomotive 844 departed Cheyenne, Wyo. where the train is housed.
The train’s route can be followed on a map by going to the Union Pacific website at www.UPsteam.com.