KIRKWOOD, MO (KPLR) - The lunchtime crowd in Kirkwood had gathered for a spectacle.
There was anticipation in the air as onlookers lined up along fences waiting for a distant sound from the past.
'This is the UP 844,' says Ed Dickens, Senior Manager Heritage Operations. 'We`re out on a special trip down to Memphis. We don`t have a diesel locomotive with us. So all the way from Cheyenne Wyoming this locomotive is doing everything. It`s producing the compressed air for the breaks the electricity for the lights and the power for propulsion.'
Crossing eight states in 19 days, the 844 was also known as the 8444. An extra four was added in 1962 to distinguish it from the newer diesel engines.
'Well when I was in 84 the whistle broke,' says Robert Rollins, Former Engineer. 'They had to come down and fix the damn whistle because I can`t work without a whistle. Ha ha. That`s happened to me a time or two also.'
For these two engineers, it`s a steam powered shared past.
'Well there`s very few people over the years that have operated this locomotive,' says Dickens. 'That`s what we have in common how great the locomotive is. One of the reasons it`s still in operation is good design. Very efficient, very well designed locomotive, 72 years old.'
At 21 years of age, Robert Rollins went to work for the railroad in 1945, a year after 844 went into service.
'I had 40-year service as a fireman and engineer and I got to run this big locomotive in 1984 when I went to the World`s Fair in New Orleans,' says Rollins. It`s a beautiful job to work on. For retirement I sure didn`t want to walk away from this wonderful job.'
Yes, there are not too many people that are familiar with all 454 tons of this Union Pacific steam locomotive.
'It`s a wonderful job and he`s doing a wonderful job,' says Rollins.
'Thank you Bob,' says Dickens.
And even if history only stayed for a half hour, it was worth watching it pass by.
Yes that steam locomotive will be mist.