Historic railroad visits Tucson

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TUCSON, Ariz. -- It's a trip back in time.  A ride aboard a 1940s era locomotive.

Union Pacific railroad is sending a historic steam engine through Arizona to help celebrate the state's upcoming centennial.

The train made whistle stops in Vail and Tucson today and we hopped on for a ride.

Trains may have moved into the background of America's fast paced, jet-setting society.

"This locomotive was built in a time when we didn't have the modern airline system we have. We didn't have the interstate highway system. So this is how people traveled by rail," said engineer Ed Dickens.

But there is still very much a fascination.

"I'm here to celebrate the days that steam engines ran these tracks," said train enthusiast William Kalt.

Union Pacific's steam engine number 844 is a relic of those days. The last steam locomotive built for the train company.

It's been 34 years since the steam's been down these tracks.

Union Pacific Railroad is celebrating the southwest.

It traveled through new Mexico to help the land of enchantment kick off its centennial celebration.

And now in Arizona, helping celebrate the state's 100th birthday.

A lot of people crowded the rail in Vail at noon to check it out.

"This type of machine really hasn't' been seen around here in some time.  And back in the days these things operated, they were commonplace," Dickens said.  "To see this operating is something you won't really see, except on the UP railroad."

It's 450 tons, 5,000 horsepower, and 100 miles per hour of fascination for fans of local history.

"Let me tell you it's an exciting day to have another steam locomotive back in these parts," Kalt said.

When the locomotive pulled into Tucson there were more than 100 people waiting for it. and the engineer says that's one of his favorite parts of his job.

"The tracks are lined with wonderful people. It really is a privilege and an honor to travel around and relive history," Dickens said.

And train lovers, young and old making sure this bit of history doesn't die.

"It's really humbling for all of us," Kalt said.

If you missed your chance to see the train, it will be on display Friday at the train yard at Silverlake Road and Fairland Stravenue.

And the train will be stopping at the depot on Toole Avenue Saturday at 9:15 A.M.