The American Locomotive Co. built the steam engine known as Big Mike in 1920. Big Mike traveled the Union Pacific's Main Line, carrying freight from North Platte, Neb., through Fruitland and on to Huntington, Ore., for decades.
Engine 2295 hauled passenger trains between Cheyenne, Wyo., and Ogden, Utah, briefly in the 1920s, but was in freight service for most of its working life. Big Mike and others like it typically pulled between 50 and 75 loaded freight cars for thousands of miles. During World War II, the locomotive carried supplies for the war effort.
Big Mike was the last steam engine to operate regularly in southern Idaho. Union Pacific retired the engine and donated it to the city in 1959. Ownership passed to the Idaho State Historical Society in 1978.
The name Mike is short for Mikado, a term for a Japanese emperor. Locomotives of this type got that name because American companies first made them for export to Japan in the 1890s.
The Gilbert and Sullivan opera "The Mikado" also premiered around the same time to great fanfare, which helped the nickname stick. After the attack on Pearl Harbor, the nickname "MacArthur" replaced Mikado on many rail lines.
After its retirement, Boise's Big Mike spent 48 years in Julia Davis Park. In 2007, the locomotive got a new home - and an array of interactive educational displays - on the east side of the Boise Depot at 2603 W. Eastover Terrace.
Anna Webb: 377-6431