Big Mike goes to work
Big Mike, a Mikado-type steam locomotive, was built in 1920 by the American Locomotive Co.
The powerful 2-8-2 Mikado was designed to include a large firebox supported by a two-wheel trailing truck located behind the rear driving wheels. The locomotive acquired the name Mikado because the first 2-8-2 engines were built for export to Japan.
Nicknamed Mike by railroad men, it was a very successful type of locomotive. More than 14,000 were manufactured between 1920 and 1944.
Boise's Big Mike was used as an all-purpose freight engine along Union Pacific's main line from North Platte., Neb., to Fruitland, Idaho.
A new home
Engine No. 2295 was "retired" by the Union Pacific Railroad and donated to the city of Boise in 1956. The locomotive was subsequently moved to 3rd Street entrance to Julia Davis Park.
On Dec. 9, 2007, Big Mike was moved to a new home on a siding on the east side of the Boise Depot, a former Union Pacific passenger depot located in the heart of Boise. Hundreds of people watched the move, which occurred at midnight on the cold winter's night. The "tender," which carried water and fuel for the engine, was separated from the engine and moved on Dec. 6, 2007.
All cleaned up
After the train was moved, it was power washed, the windows were repaired, and the engine and tender were repainted. Boise-based Hillside Landscape Construction built a new plaza, which features a freestanding kiosk with interactive display, interpretive signage, paved walkways, reseeded vegetation, trees and a wrought-iron fence.
The interpretive kiosk was designed and constructed by Mark Baltes of Boise-based Landmark Impressions. Signs featuring colorful illustrations, maps and photographs focus on:
• How steam locomotion works
• Big Mike train facts & specifications
• Engine 2295: The Big Mike story
• Union Pacific's Old Overland Route
• Chronological history & train crews of the Steam Era
The kiosk interactive display includes three short videos about:
• How engineers operate trains
• Locomotives in motion and photos of depots along Big Mike's route
• The move from Julia Davis Park to the Boise Depot
Funds for improvements
The Idaho Transportation Department awarded $309,000 in federal funds for the entire project, which included moving the historic locomotive, preservation efforts, construction of the new plaza and interpretive signage. The funds were designated for non-roadway improvements.
Private donors contributed $14,000 to the Big Mike relocation project; the city provided $13,500 of in-kind services.
Fun for kids
For information about the plaza and kiosk, contact Cheyne Weston at (208) 608-7637 or via email.