Historic UP Steam engine passes through Crosby, Houston

CROSBY— Residents of Crosby had a rare treat last Friday when a steam locomotive passed through the town on its way to Houston.

The Union Pacific steam locomotive “Challenger,” also named Engine No. 3985, passed through the area on its way from Lake Charles, La. to Houston. Hundreds of onlookers lined the track; placing nails, pennies and other coins on the track to be flattened by the passing train which came through just after 11:30 a.m.

The Challenger was built in 1943 by the American Locomotive Company. One of 105 that were built between 1936 and 1943, the Challenger is the only one of its class to still be in operation.

Able to reach top speeds of 70 mile per hour, the Challenger was from the largest and most powerful steam locomotive class. When built, the Challenger operated on fuel coal, which required pulling a 32-ton capacity tender. In 1990, the engine was refitted to burn No. 5 oil.

The Challenger was originally designed as freight engine, but could be utilized for passenger use. It is in its capacity as a passenger vehicle that the challenger is now used. Union Pacific now uses the engine to pull cars for charitable events associated with the M.D. Anderson Cancer Center, the George Bush Presidential Library and Points of Light Foundation. After its arrival in Houston, the Challenger will transport a special passenger to Austin.

The train will take former President George Bush to the state’s capital where he will celebrate his 80th birthday on Saturday by going skydiving.