The Union Pacific’s purchase of the Chicago and North Western in 1995 saddened me deeply, but I knew that cloud had a silver lining: the UP’s steam program! Surely they would send either their 4-8-4 Northern number 844 or their 4-6-6-4 Challenger 3985 up to Minneapolis/St. Paul? For years I waited with nothing happening on that front. Then in 2002 the 3985 arrived in South Saint Paul … but I couldn’t make it. Fast forward to 2008: on the memorable date of September 26th, a remarkably sunny, warm (and breezy) Friday in the early fall, I caught Union Pacific’s 4-6-6-4 Challenger-class steam engine number 3985 as it passed through Rosemount, MN on its way to Saint Paul, MN.
At last I had caught a UP steam train running on track not only once run by the CNW, but the Rock Island/Milwaukee Road before that (this stretch of “Spine Line” was joint track for the RI/MILW from Rosemount to the junction at Comus, MN).
I’ve always wondered why the 3985 was emitting such a clean exhaust that day. Had somebody mixed in a little diesel fuel oil with the steam fuel oil? (Hey, a guy who worked for the Chicago, Burlington, and Quincy once told me they did just that for some of their steam fan trips …)