As usual, we stayed fairly close to home for the Labor Day weekend. On Sunday, the Union Pacific was bringing a World War II steam engine, dubbed “Big Boy” through Denver on a midwestern tour. We decided to meet up with it at one of the smaller towns east of the city, and take advantage of the opportunity to visit the Wild Animal Sanctuary.
Lara and the boys have been to the animal sanctuary a few times, but normally in the fall when the bears had already started laying down for the winter. In early September, the mid-day heat meant the animals were generally searching for shade, but they were still largely out in the open and visible. We were able to see a number of bears and lions, and a variety of other exotic animals, though many were in the middle of an afternoon nap.
Then it was off to Strasburg to catch the train. We figured a number of people would venture out to see this amazing engine, but as we pulled into town, we realized we drastically underestimated the draw. We could hardly get into town, as the traffic was backed up for blocks. We found parking on a side street, and walked the rest of the way to the station.
When we got there, the train had already arrived (about 20 minutes ahead of schedule), and was mobbed by people. We staked out a spot near the front to be ready for departure. After loading up with water, the whistle blew and the bell started to ring. Slowly but surely, the train pulled out of the station and was on its way.
Then on Monday, we went back to one of our standbys, the Wings Over the Rockies air museum at Centennial airport. They had a handful of WWII aircraft on display. The headliner was a B-17 Flying Fortress. They were giving 30 minute flight tours, starting at $500 per person ($850 if you wanted to sit in the Bombardier’s seat). We didn’t go for a ride, but we hung around to watch it take off and land. It’s definitely an impressive machine, even after all these years. It turns out that the aircraft is based in Conroe, TX. That’s a short drive from Grandpa Ashley’s house, so maybe we’ll get another look at the plane when we visit during fall break.
Here’s a brief video showing the Big Boy starting to roll, and the B-17 getting ready for takeoff…