Big Boy as an Anime star!

Union Pacific Big Boy stars in Galaxy Railways

Hello, trainspotters and railway enthusiasts! In this article, we’re talking about something unique. As any train lover would tell you, each country has its special kind of train that’s rich with its own culture, history, and technical marvel. But in this article, we’re talking about anime because I get a good feeling that not a lot of people know that in Japan, besides being the center for all things anime and delicious sushi, it may have never occurred to you that they even have anime based on trains because I didn’t, i.e. Galaxy Railways.

In Galaxy Railways, there’s this, what can only be called a space train of the SDF (Space Defense Force), the locomotive Big One. The Space Defense Force protects and rescues civilians from catastrophic events such as a meteor strike or a giant enemy spaceship attack. The SDF train’s architecture was based on Union Pacific’s steam “Big Boy” locomotives. Now, if all this seems a bit out there – don’t you worry – because we’ll make sure that you get caught in all the details written in concise, easy-to-understand information. This is foremost still an article about trains and if you get confused, just talk to us. We’re here.

What is Anime

Now, if you’re unfamiliar with what anime is. The simplest way I can put it to you is that anime is basically early Disney with a bit (or a lot) of Adultswim but more colorful, whimsical, and definitely more broad in the subjects they tackle. And when I say “broad”, I mean literally anything and everything are their subject matter from deep psychological murder mystery, catching wild creatures in a tiny ball called a Poke ball, and even trains in space. Think of some random subject, and there’s probably a version of anime or manga of it.

Galaxy Railways: Quick History, Characters, and Story

Galaxy Railways is a Japanese anime series created by Leiji Matsumoto. In simple words, Galaxy Railways is about flying trains in outer space. It first aired on October 4, 2003. An English version wouldn’t be available until June 19, 2006.

The story of Galaxy Railways takes place where locomotives do interplanetary travel. In this alternate future, where the Galaxy Railways is not just an establishment for interplanetary travel but also acts as its government, giving protection against meteor storms, malicious alien lifeforms, and terrorists for those who use their services by way of the Space Panzer Grenadiers and Space Defense Force.

Now, as per the characters. They’re not really the focus of this article as this is about trains though they do play a role in the Big One’s part. To keep it simple, the main storyline focuses on Manabu Yuki, on how, due to the death of his brother and his father during their time at SDF, he wanted to join SDF as a way of honoring their memory and so off he goes on a whirlwind of adventure from battling space pirates, rescuing stranded trains, and even discovering what happened to his father.

Union Pacific’s Big Boy in Galaxy Railways

One of the main trains (characters) in Galaxy Railways is a locomotive called Big One. Modeled and heavily influenced by Union Pacific’s Big Boy. If you take a look at this photo ( link [] ), there’re a couple of differences between the Big One and Union Pacific’s Big Boys. With the Big One, its license plate number is G8001 – later iterations would have him seen with a massive cowcatcher and smoke deflectors (think of a snowplow) – the Big One weighs only 300,000 – 600,000 pounds compared to Big One’s 1 million pound weight. Oddly enough, even though in space, the Big One isn’t safe from wheel slips. On Galaxy Railways’ Original Video Animation or OVA, the Big One can be seen using a wheel arrangement of 6-8-8-4, and where UP’s original logo would be is SDF’s emblem instead. The biggest change in the OVA’s version was the whistle. It became darker or had a deeper tone than compared to the real-life Big Boy.

What Makes Big One Unique (vs Big Boy)

While both Big One and Big Boys served as military frigate trains, providing supplies to injured soldiers and civilians as well as the transportation of military equipment and hardware. The primary difference is that the Big One is not just a transport or medical unit but a military one as well; being equipped with rotating gun turrets, “energy” machine guns, magnetic barriers, off-track mode, a “space vulcan”, and many more.

As well as hauling 9 coaches of which each has a particular value. These coaches were based around an old Japanese passenger coach:

  • First Three Coaches: served as medical rooms for injured personnel and civilians
  • Fourth & Fifth: gun stations, particularly energy turrets. Think of “energy turrets” as anti-aircraft .launchers similar to a Phalanx CIWS []
  • Sixth to Eighth: aircraft or spacecraft hangers or stations
  • Ninth: same as 1-3 coaches except this one has an observation deck for its rear

There are, of course, a lot more abilities the Big One has over UP’s Big Boys but we’re keeping this as grounded and as realistic as possible. Nothing too far beyond the realistic limitations of physics that we know of (for now). But just for fun, if you actually observe the Big One during its launch and travel, its speed when launching easily reaches 90 mph and roughly around 100-200 when traveling. Not bad for a locomotive that travels in space.

A Grand Adventure of the Big One

A prominent adventure of the Big One can be found in its Crossover Special. A big fan of the Big One commented how he “wished” that Big One was a real train and it was due to this particular episode where Big One showed a lot of heart, courage, and camaraderie. I’ll keep this short and simple as to not bore you though it is quite an adventure.

As the story goes, one day, in what seemed like a typical rescue operation – pulling a stranded train, from a ‘dimensional’ faulty line – a small pod is found with a small girl inside called Frell. She claims to be from another universe, and she “needs” to go back home. When she hears of Manabu’s last name, she claims that she “knew” his father or has heard of it.

Finding this out, Manabu takes the Big One, charges to the other side of the universe. Using the Big One’s onboard ability to Off-Track, they go planet-hopping. After searching and helping out several planets, the Big One gets sucked into a literal gravity pit called the “Bottom of Gravity.” And there they find long-lost Galaxy Railways and SDF Trains.

Neither the Big One nor the SDF’s Platoon could pull Big One out but during all the commotion. As Frell goes to check on the engine, she hears a voice and finds out it’s G8001 or Big One’s onboard voice system. Big One tells Frell that he won’t move because he was persuaded by the other trains to just sleep or die in the pit (remember this is an anime) and he needs a destination to move to. Frell tells Big One, let’s go to “Fatom”, her home planet.

Okay, this is where it gets a bit strange (again it’s an anime). _Upon reaching her home planet, Fatom. They would eventually find out that Wataru (Manabu’s father) crash-landed on that planet and during his stay, the SDF’s top-secret “inter-universe” tunneler had malfunctioned, crash-landed on Fatom, and is wreaking havoc. Wataru armed himself, took the tunneler, and somehow the tunneler’s A.I. had absorbed him or his “_spirit“, enabling it to speak using Wataru’s voice. This would turn the tunneler into a massive, planet-size “demonic machine.” Absorbing other trains to make it bigger and more powerful. When Manabu meets Wataru’s spirit, he tells him that the only way for the tunneler to be stopped was for him (Wataru’s spirit) to be shot in the head. Reluctantly, he obeys and shots Wataru’s spirit in the head. The series ends with Manabu presenting Wataru’s (his father) cap to his mother, he found him. He _found _him.

Conclusion: Galaxy Railways

If you aren’t too familiar with anime, all this may seem a bit far-fetched to you. But I assure you as someone who watches anime. The theme(s), subject matter, and even real-world historical references are quite common. Again, just think of anime as Disney with its family-focus themes and Adultswim’s heavy undertones.

Galaxy Railways is a classic among anime fans. And with its roots being based on Union Pacific’s Big Boy, it attracts train enthusiasts as well, not just anime fans. A bit of a rare find, Galaxy Railways does have collectibles for the enthusiast collector. Here’s one of the Galaxy 999 ( link [] ) and a much smaller version of it ( link [] ).

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