Thousands visit Evanston to see legendary steam engines

Eager spectators lined the railroad tracks and surrounding area of Depot Square trying to get photos and videos of Big Boy No. 4014, as the engine pulled into town during the late morning hours of Sunday, May 12. (HERALD PHOTO/Sheila McGuire)

EVANSTON — This past weekend was an exciting time to be in Evanston. According to Micki Cox of City of Evanston Facilities Department, the population of Evanston increased by an estimate of 3,000 to 4,000 people who came to watch the UP Big Boy No. 4014 and the Living Legend No. 844 steam engines return to Evanston. 

Cox was responsible for leading tours of the Evanston Roundhouse and Railyards Complex throughout the week for the Union Pacific’s 150th anniversary celebration of the completion of the transcontinental railroad.

“On Monday the 6th, I had a Special Interests Tour group of 45, and that tour returned on Saturday, the 11th with 70 people from all over the U.S. and the world, and again on Sunday, they brought eight more. The Special Interests Tours originate in Willow, New York. Also, on Sunday the 12th, I led two large groups on a tour of the railyards. A group of 35-plus was from Germany and another group of 16 was from England,” Cox said.

Parkd cars lined Depot Square and all along Front Street all the way to the railyards, and many parking lots in town were full. Many license plates were from Utah and surrounding states as well as local plates. Restaurants and hotels were filled.

Many attended a Mother’s Day picnic held by the Evanston Chamber of Commerce.

Suds Bros. restaurant manager Rhonda Berlener said they averaged 400 patrons throughout Sunday.  They opened early at 11:30 a.m., as people were standing outside waiting. Guests had to wait at least 45 minutes to an hour to get a table and the last people came in the door at 7:45 p.m., so they stayed open late.

“We also catered for the Special Interests Tour group at the railyards on Saturday morning,” Berlener said. “People in the group told us they loved Evanston and were very impressed with the renovation of the railyards.”

R&R Station experienced similar crowds with approximately 500 people eating there on Sunday. A waitress there said they usually close at 2 p.m. on Sunday, but had so many people waiting to eat that they stayed open until 5 p.m.

“We only had two cooks and they were exhausted at the end of the day,” the waitress said, “but it was wonderful to see so many people in town. They were so pleasant even when they had to wait at least 45 minutes for a table. Many of them told us they were really impressed with the town’s hospitality and friendliness.”

Laura Hughes, greeter at the Uinta County Museum, said it had listed 129 guests on Saturday and 50-plus guests on Sunday visiting the museum. However, the Evanston Depot and the Joss House were open for visitors on Sunday and no guest list was recorded at those two buildings.

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