Union Pacific gives a young railfan who died of cancer a touching farewell.

Elliot Burgos loved trains.

Elliot’s parents, Jonathan and Shanda, say Elliot’s fascination began when he was young and never dissipated. One of the Mason City, Iowa boy’s favorite places was the Union Pacific yard in his hometown.

His father said he was just fascinated by trains, “By the power, by the cargo, by the horns, by all of it.”


Even after Elliot was diagnosed with brain cancer in 2016, he still loved to go down to the tracks and watch the big yellow locomotives roll by. With the help of some local UP employees, Elliot even got to take a cab ride around the yard. Shanda says the rail yard had quickly become a special place for her son and her family. But she never realized how special it was until five days after Elliot died. He was just 9 years old.

Following the boy’s funeral, the family decided to take his casket — which was painted to look like a locomotive — down to the rail yard one final time.

When they got there, UP employees, including a special agent, who had organized Elliot’s visit more than a year earlier invited them into the terminal. That’s when Shanda saw locomotive No. 8508. The number has significant meaning to the family since Elliot’s birthday is Aug. 5, 2008. In fact, the family had even put “8508” on Elliot’s casket.

As the family left the yard, UP’s local employees sounded the horn on multiple locomotives in honor of the young rail enthusiast.

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