The famed Southern Pacific 4449 steam locomotive rolled into the Flathead last Saturday. Westbound along the Amtrak Empire Builder route from Minneapolis to Portland, it had a lay over in Whitefish. Parked just east of the train station, the public was invited to take a look. You didn’t have to be a train buff to appreciate the magnificence of the SP4449. I think there must be little bit of engineer in all of us as kids of all ages stood in line to climb aboard and dream of riding the rails.
Built in 1941, the SP 4449 is huge at 110 feet long and 16 feet tall. It is the only remaining operable locomotive of the Art Deco era and its bright red and orange paint job showed it off superbly. It is capable of 5,500 horsepower at speeds of over 100 miles per hour although the tracks are no longer in the best condition for that. Before it was retired in the 1950’s, it carried coaches from Los Angeles, over the scenic coast route, to Portland. The SP 4449 also pulled the American Freedom Train throughout the U.S. in 1974. It was rebuilt and ran for 3 years.
It turned out that this wasn’t the first time that I’ve seen this giant. The Southern Pacific 4449 was on exhibit at the 1984 Louisiana World’s Fair. It was great to see her again and romanticize I was a passenger on the Polar Express.
|Train buffs enjoy this beauty.|