Chicago, Burlington and Quincy Northern, number 5629, was not erected by a locomotive manufacturer, but was built by the Burlington in its own shops in 1940. The engine was initially used for fast freight and passenger service between Chicago and Denver. Originally a coal-burner, the locomotive was converted to burn oil in 1950. She served the Burlington Route until 1956, at which time the engine was stored at Lincoln, Nebraska. Later, 5629 served as a stationary boiler at various locations in that state.
The locomotive and tender measure 106-1/2 feet in length, and, ready for service, together weighed 422 tons. The tender, following the conversion of the engine from coal to oil, held 7,300 gallons of oil and 18,000 gallons of water. The drivers are 74 inches in diameter. She reached a calculated maximum of 4,437 horsepower at roughly 50 miles an hour: It would take three 1950s-era diesel locomotives to duplicate this pulling power. The engine could easily run in excess of 100 miles an hour. A state-of-the-art locomotive for her time, the engine and tender had roller bearings on all axles to provide for less rolling friction and ease of maintenance. Boiler steam pressure was rated at 250 pounds per square inch. Note the size of the main rods, side rods and driver counterweights and in general, the complexity of the machinery required to get this behemoth rolling!
This is the only large exhibit at the Colorado Railroad Museum that didn’t arrive on a flatbed truck. The engine was rolled onto museum property on temporary track from the BNSF “beer line,” on August 30th, 1963. A bridge was erected across the irrigation ditch on the other side of 44th Avenue; tracks were laid from a connection to the BNSF main, over the bridge, and across the road, to the present location of the locomotive; the engine was rolled in at the end of a freight train, and, once in place, the tracks and bridged were removed – all in within an eight-hour period.
The first 4-8-4 steam locomotive was constructed for the Northern Pacific Railway in 1927 by Alco and the type was therefore named “Northern.” However, other railroads elected to call the engines by different names, such as Pocono, Dixie, Greenbrier, Niagara and Potomac, just to name a few.
The Union Pacific Railroad has an operating Northern – number 844 – which has the distinction of being the only steam locomotive in the United States that has been in continuous service since it was built by Alco in 1944. It is still used for excursion runs and sometimes pulls the Denver Post Frontier Days Train, which runs from Denver to Cheyenne each July.