The arrival in the Treasure Valley of the Union Pacific steam locomotive 844 was a big deal.
Evidence: the crowds that greeted the train during at its stops on the way to Boise — 2,000 in Gooding, hundreds in Nampa and at countless rail crossings. A good-sized crowd also braved the rain Monday morning to see the train head west for a turnaround in Nampa.
Bonnie Shelton, spokeswoman for Boise Parks and Recreation, said that more than 6,000 people showed up at the Boise Depot 92nd anniversary festivities featuring the 844 on Sunday. People lingered long after the official event ended at 5 p.m., said Shelton.
The depot celebration was the culmination of the “Boise Turn Special,” the trip that the 844 took from its home in Cheyenne, Wyo.
The locomotive, which is part of the Union Pacific heritage fleet, is now headed back to Cheyenne. It made a stop in Pocatello at 5 p.m. on Monday and will be in Utah on Tuesday, including a stop in Ogden at 1:15 p.m. Train fans can follow the route and read more about the 844 and other historic Union Pacific trains online at up.com.
David Habben, a local cemetery historian who gives popular cemetery walks through Boise Parks and Recreation, was among those who greeted the train Saturday. He grew up outside Chicago a block from the railroad tracks. The sound and lore of trains became so embedded in his psyche that when he moved to another town, he had a hard time sleeping at night because there were no train whistles nearby.
“I’ve loved trains since I was a kid. I’m one of those people who always wanted to be a rail engineer. I still do,” he quipped.
Habben got to the depot early and found a spot in an open lot near Ruby Street to watch the 844 pull into the station.
“You could hear it coming and see the steam from a distance, before you even saw the train,” said Habben. “It was beautiful, coming around the corner.”