From October to November 2011, Union Pacific’s New Mexico/Arizona Tour, headed by venerable steam locomotive #844, traveled on a grand loop throughout the southwest to participate in the festivities leading up to the 100th anniversary of statehood New Mexico and Arizona would celebrate in the year to come. Pentrex was on hand to cover the exciting southern portion of the journey from Alamogordo, New Mexico to Las Vegas, Nevada, capturing the powerful Northern and its 8-car Special as it stopped for servicing and to join in the Centennial celebrations at cities along the route.
We follow the Special, with Heritage unit number 1996 in the consist to provide extra horsepower and dynamic braking as needed, south from Alamogordo to El Paso, Texas, and then back into New Mexico for stops at Deming and Lordsburg. Once in Arizona, the train is greeted by long trestles, surviving water tanks from the SP era, and even an old classic cantilever signal as it travels to Tucson, Phoenix, and other cities where it’s enjoyed by throngs of enthusiastic visitors. Leaving Yuma, it continues into California, on its way to West Colton. It later steams over Cajon Pass to reach Las Vegas, Nevada, where our coverage ends.
The UP steam team did a magnificent job keeping the big 4-8-4 in tiptop shape during the tour. There are some “firsts” for this excursion: the first time a steam train utilized the Keenbrook crossover; the first time one has worked the Colton/Palmdale cutoff in 22 years, and the first time much of the Sunset Route has seen a steam-powered train in nearly thirty years. Whether it was thundering through the vast deserts of New Mexico and Arizona or powering up the stiff grades of California, UP 844 looked majestic and awe-inspiring. Follow its journey with us and experience the thrill of UP 844’s New Mexico/Arizona Centennial Special for yourself!