“Steam Railroading is important…
…not because it represents some nostalgic past that, in truth, never was. Steam railroading is important because it was a human tool that radically transformed a continent, affecting everyone.”
– William Withuhn
Transportation Curator, Smithsonian
Big Boy 4014
Book & Video Guide
In the 21st century, it’s easy to forget when life was more of a challenge and travel wasn’t quite so easy. Going to the train station, watching as a steam engine crossed the road you were on, or just knowing that if you needed to get somewhere there was a powerful, fast, and safe way to do it was like holding onto a security blanket. It was a normal, regular thing to see and it meant a lot when you needed it. For decades and generations, the steam locomotive powered a nation into becoming a world leader. Trains crossed the nation and the continent day and night, through storms, wars, and depressions. Old men and little boys alike all watched the trains go by and wondered where they were going and what was in their freight cars.
What Really Matters
As times change and old ways are lost to the fog of the past, it’s important to keep some of the old ways and old things around to remind us of where we’ve been and where we’ve come from. Steam locomotives are one of those things that we can not and must not forget because they got us all where we are today. They may have started making their thunder over 150 years ago, but they still hold a special place in our imaginations and history. Today, Steam Locomotives still run in many places and give a real sense of what life was once like for so many of our countrymen. Today, steam locomotive enthusiasts around the world still work hard to keep our history alive and thundering down the tracks like it used to. Many people donate their time, money, hearts, and souls to those gigantic monsters that powered our nation and many others. The history, mystique, sounds, smells, emotions, and pride that surround Steam Locomotives are just a part of the love those who adore, admire, and have respect for what it took to design, engineer, build, operate, and restore steam locomotives hold deep inside.