I think it's the drivers. I've seen both 3985 and 4014 up close. They are massive but the drivers aren't huge. I think 80 inch drivered Northerns seem so massive because of the wheel size. Standing next to a wheel that is taller than most people has the effect of making machinery just feel that much larger.
Little wonder that the man with his hand on the throttle of a beast such as this running at speed, towing an obedient long line of freight, passenger cars, would generate awe and a romance in railroading. Just hearing that whistle made what hairs are left on this septuagenarian stand up...and salute?
Pretty humbling to compare what these guys have done...in comparison to the recent lubing I gave my gorgeous 3rd Rail 'sister' engine, 2929.
Thank you for the 12+ minute video. In comparison to other "gnus" of the day, this was totally refreshing.