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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


Kirsten grew up listening to Utah Public Radio in Smithfield, Utah and now resides in Logan. She has three children and is currently producing Utah StoryCorps and working as the Saturday morning host on UPR. Kirsten graduated from Utah State University with a Bachelor's degree History in 2000 and dual minors in Horticulture and German. She enjoys doing voice work, reading, writing, drawing, teaching children, and dancing. Major credits include StoryCorps, Utah Works, One Small Step, and the APTRA award-winning documentary Ride the Rails.
Mary got hooked on oral histories while visiting Ellis Island and hearing the recorded voices of immigrants that had passed through. StoryCorps drew her to UPR. After she retired from teaching at Preston High, she walked into the station and said she wanted to help. Kerry put her to work taking the best 3 minutes out of the 30 minute interviews recorded in Vernal. Passion kicked in. Mary went on to collect more and more stories and return them to the community on UPR's radio waves. Major credits to date: Utah Works, One Small Step, and the award winning documentary Ride the Rails.