A blast of steam from the past at Tucumcari

The Route 66 town of Tucumcari, N.M., got a rare treat — the Union Pacific Railroad’s “Living Legend” No. 844 steam engine making a stop at during the dedication and reopening of its historic train depot.

Tucumcari was the first stop for the historic steam engine. The ongoing restoration of the depot is Tucumcari MainStreet’s first project in a long-term plan to restore downtown.

Richard Talley, reporting that hundreds attended the event, observed this:

There were fire artists, fire dancers, an old fashioned brass band and more, well into the night over there. A large Route 66 photography exhibit was on display in depot building itself, I believe about 100 large prints from all across Route 66. It was great fun, a once in a lifetime experience with the Centennial Celebration, and people with fond memories of the depot’s heyday, came from all over the state. Not only was the train significant in building Tucumcari from 1901, but the depot you see today, and now once again open for all to enjoy, was built in 1926 when Route 66 was commissioned. […]

Rumor has it, this will now become an annual event, including having the Union Pacific come through each year!

The steam engine is making its way across New Mexico and Arizona, as both states are celebrating their centennials.

Here’s a great video of the steam engine, barreling toward Tucumcari from Logan, N.M. The 844 doesn’t just lumber along at a moderate speed:

Here’s a look inside the steam engine’s cab:

Here’s the train leaving Tucumcari:

UPDATE 11/9/2011: Here are two more videos that have popped up. Here’s the 844 steaming along Route 66 near Santa Rosa, N.M.:

And here’s the train near Tucumcari:

Both high-definition videos are by Dan Barker and Skip Weythman.

(Photo courtesy of Kevin Mueller)

5 thoughts on “A blast of steam from the past at Tucumcari

  1. No lumbering speeds is right – coming in from Texas & New Mexico on the way to Tucumcari, we followed along Highway 54 with speed limits from 55 to 70mph, we were passing automobiles the entire trip! #844 was the last steamer built by Union Pacific, so I would imagine the most powerful and effecient for her time…

  2. That is something I would have made a road trip for. Love steam engines and I build small ones in my machine shop.

    Is there a schedule of the trains itinerary? I would love to see it.

  3. Tnx. I see it now. Looks like they are going up Cajon Pass. That is a long, steep grade with curves. Should make for a great viewing spot.

  4. One of the coolest things about chasing and photographing 844 and UP’s other steamer, 3985, is that they usually post a GPS tracker (with about a 10 min. delay) on their website. Watch it on your smart phone and avoid wasting too much time waiting at rural crossings. There’s something so beautifully ironic about watching a steam engine’s position via satellite on a handheld device.

    The steam is most visible in cold and/or humid weather. Chilly mornings are perfect. I envy anyone along 844’s path this time of year.

    Another thing: the engine often arrives ahead of schedule, especially later in the day as it has padding in the schedule that it usually doesn’t need, so get to where you want to intercept it early.

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