OGDEN — Union Station officials say the soon-to-be completed restoration of a rare locomotive located there is part of a renewed push to revitalize the 95-year-old historic train depot.
Crews at the station are working to finish a full restoration of the Union Pacific Super Turbine Locomotive #26. Built in 1961, the 8,500 horsepower gas turbin machine is one of only two existing “Big Blow” locomotives in the world. The other is on display at the Illinois Railway Museum in Union, Illinois. The “Big Blow” term comes from the deafening noise the turbine engines make, similar to that of a jet airplane flying overhead.
Locomotive #26 traveled over a million miles hauling heavy freight between Council Bluffs, Iowa and Ogden. Union Station Manager Damen Burnham said the train symbolizes Union Pacific’s transition away from using steam to power its trains.
The locomotive was gifted to Ogden City by Union Pacific in the late-1970s, meaning it’s been sitting unrestored for nearly 40 years. The front third of the locomotive was finished in time for May celebrations tied to the 150th anniversary of the completion of the transcontinental railroad. Burnham said the remaining portions should be finished within the next month or so and the locomotive will be on display outside, near the south end of the station building.
After putting bids out, the city granted the restoration work to a Salt Lake City-based contractor, Don Calvert Painting. The total contract was worth $120,000, but Burnham said the final price tag will likely come at a little less than that. Union Station Foundation Director Michael Plowman said the money came from the Val A. Browning Trust and from donations earned at the foundation’s spring gala in 2018.
The restoration should keep the locomotive looking new for at least another 30 years, Burnham said. He eventually wants to restore all of the nearly 20 locomotives in the station’s possession.
The locomotive work is a small part of the overall redevelopment vision for the station, Burnham and Plowman said.
Ogden City has plans for a complete a large-scale renovation of the historic Ogden landmark and its grounds. Though still in its infancy, the project could include large, public open spaces, museums, art galleries, high-density housing, retail space, meeting and event space and administrative offices.
In late 2017, the city resumed management of the station, ending a nearly 13-year management agreement with the foundation. The city council allocated $567,000 for the station’s annual operating budget and put the facility under the city’s Community and Economic Development Department. Plowman said the foundation’s main focus now is to raise money for various projects at the station and to be stewards of the building’s history.
“We kind of have a underutilized asset down here,” Burnham said. “But we’re working on changing that. Ogden has some incredible history and a lot of it is tied to this station and the things that happened here.”