Thousands turn out to see steam locomotive

Posted on by az100

November 16, 2011 7:07 PM

Several thousand residents visited and shot photographs of the last steam locomotive built for Union Pacific Railroad on Tuesday.

“Our visitors (today) are definitely loving it,” said Union Pacific spokesperson and Yuma native Zoe Richmond. “It is great that we can share a piece of history with the people of Yuma.”

Built in 1944, Steam Locomotive No. 844 arrived in downtown Yuma as part of Arizona’s centennial celebration and to extoll Yuma’s railroad tradition.

“The railroad has been a big part of Yuma’s history,” said Scott Moore, Union Pacific’s vice president of government affairs. “And Yuma is still a key part of our railroad.”

Even though railroads have been an integral part of Yuma’s history, many young people today do not share the same affinity their parents or grandparents had for trains, which is a fact that Richmond said Union Pacific would like to change.

“One of the things we have been trying to do in Yuma … is to become more active and interact more with the community. We hope the steam locomotive helps with that,” Richmond said. “Because there is a generation that is really connected to the railroad. Unfortunately, the younger generation has lost that connection, and we really want to cultivate them and get them to understand the proud history that comes with being a railroad community.”

Richmond said Union Pacific plans to hold more events to help reconnect people with our railroad legacy.

“We are going to try to build an ongoing relationship over the next year with some of our projects,” she said. “So you will definitely be seeing more of us.”

From the responses of those in attendance, many people would be glad to see Union Pacific since the sight of the steam locomotive rekindled fond childhood memories.

“It was the most beautiful experience being here today,” said Lenore Stuart, Yuma County supervisor. “It reminded me about when I was growing up and riding the train from Los Angeles.”

“I collected model railroads when I was growing up and I have always been interested in trains,” said Gary Alberly, a winter visitor from Alaska. “As a kid, I can remember everybody hanging their clothes outside on the line. When the train came through my little town hauling iron ore, everyone had to take their clothes down and wash them again because they were so dirty. So I really enjoy it.”

“In southern Alberta, we used to start prairie fires out in the fields and watch the old trains,” said Mel Stevens, a winter visitor from Alberta, Canada. “So it’s nice to see an impressive train like this.”

The locomotive will leave Yuma early Thursday morning and travel to Colton, Calif., where it will begin the second half of its 39-city journey along the Sunset route, which will conclude in Cheyenne, Wyo., on Nov. 29.

Darren DaRonco can be reached at (928) 539-6857 or

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