The layers of the Big Boy

Last week’s trip has really stuck with me. I’m still turning it over in my mind. Here’s a screen shot from a video Leo found (it’s in a private FB group so I can’t share it). The first two cars are all of us. Owen, Trinity and Leo in the white car and Ernie and me following behind them in our red Honda.

There were so many layers to think about.

There’s the fact that it’s the 21st century and we’re chasing a 20th century train on railways originally developed in the 19th century.

There are the layers of our family coming together on a trip.

The most moving thing about though is the people….ALL the people that came out and lined the streets and packed the towns where it stopped. As we drove through little town after little town….towns of just a few hundred people…people lined up in cars along the tracks, the most devoted parking and finding the perfect spot for a picture. People standing on the hoods of their cars or in the back of their pickups. Houses and farms along the route lined with older folks sitting in chairs and young kids running excitedly around them. People lined up on bridges in the cities, people raising clouds of dust as they roared down dirt and gravel roads. Everywhere, people drawn to this huge old steam engine.

Why does it speak to us so strongly. Is it just our collective memory? Some of it is in the drama of ‘the biggest steam locomotive,’ but there’s more than that.

Kudos to the folks that brought a Big Boy to the Big Boy!

I know Owen and Trinity were amazed at all the people. It sounds so arcane when you try to explain it to people, but when you’re right there, with people around you and this great iron beast breathing next to you, well, you get it.

I remember the first night of Leo and Ernie’s 2019 trip, their hotel in Cheyenne was overbooked. I got the notice and got all hysterical. Owen nonchalantly told me they’d just get another hotel. I said all the hotels are pretty much sold out. He wondered why and I said, “BECAUSE OF THE BIG BOY! THIS IS A HUGE DEAL, OWEN, PEOPLE ARE COMING FROM ALL OVER THE WORLD!” I don’t think he truly believed me, but he does now.

I’ll ponder this all some more. Onward for now, Big Boy. Onward for now.