In today's age of electronics, computers, and high-tech diesel power,
it's hard to remember that the world of railroading was once powered by
steam, and steam only. For the first 100 years that railroads were the
prime mover of freight and passengers, boiling water in a boiler was the
only means of motive power. By the 1960s, steam engines were largely gone
from the rails, replaced by diesel power. It's easy to forget that steam
engines were not replaced because they couldn't do the job, but because
they couldn't do the job as efficiently as diesels.
Today, most steamers earn their keep hauling tourists and railfans on short
excursions. However, ever since boilers went cold on Class 1 railroads 50
years ago, steam engines have still been called into service to haul freight.
This list is a compilation of 'last runs', starting with Union Pacific in
1959, up to today.