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Big Boy Ashes


One year ago, Tim savage walked into the UPR recording booth at Promontory Summit and told us how he and his father-in-law, a lifetime steam engineer, had planned to travel from England to Ogden to see the Big Boy, a magnificent steam engine that the Union Pacific had rebuilt and brought to Ogden as part of the Golden Spike Celebration. 

Sadly, his father-in-law died before the trip, but left him with a dying wish to have his ashes go into the firebox of the Big Boy engine.

As he was close to death, he said, “you know that trip we planned to Ogden and Promontory? If I can't be there, myself, maybe you can take my ashes and get them into the firebox of a Big Boy.”

That happened this morning for us.

We went to the meeting yesterday of the Big Boys with a 2% chance that that would happen. I got to the rail near the stage and saw ‘UP’ badge on somebody's lapel. And I said, “Excuse me, sir, can I tell you a story? It won't take long.” And I explained to him about my father-in-law's dying wishes. And he said, “Just wait there.”

A few minutes later, a gentleman came over. I just showed him the box of ashes that we'd prepared with David's name on it with a little inscription about that it was his last wish to go through the firebox of a Big Boy. And sadly, he’d hoped to be there in person. 

The gentleman read it looked up at me and I said, “Is there any chance, sir?” And he said, “We're going to make that happen,” with a kind of confidence and a look in his eye, so I said, “Can I ask who I'm speaking to?” He said, “You're speaking to the president of the Union Pacific Railroad. Come with me.”

So this morning at seven o'clock we were invited back to honor my father-in-law's last wishes to go up in smoke through the Big Boy. That's my story.

That story was told to us a year ago at the anniversary of the driving of the Golden Spike. If you would like to add your own train stories, please contact us through UPR.org.