Union Pacific Diesel Locomotives
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This page was last updated on August 21, 2015.
Diesel Locomotive Assignments
By the mid-1950s, freight traffic on the UP west of Green River was essentially dieselized. The Northwestern District was worked by F7s and F3s (and after their rebuilding, F9s). Until about 1957, FM road switchers and Erie builts worked the main line and branches between Hinkle and Spokane, known as "The Washy." Switchers appeared to be mostly EMD, with a few Fairbanks Morse units holding down some assignments.
With the arrival of large numbers of GP9s in the early 1950s south and west of Salt Lake City, the EMD F3 and F7 cab units were sent to the Northwestern District, which also sent the remaining Alco FA cab units to the Eastern District and the Fairbanks Morse units to the NWD. Switchers were predominantly, if not exclusively, EMD. The Eastern district was the realm of the Alco and Baldwin switchers and road switchers.
On the Eastern District (Kansas and Nebraska divisions) after the mid 1950s, there was a good representation of Alco power, including PA and FA cab units, and RSC2 road switchers, along with EMD F3/F7 and E-units. The Omaha Shops were part of the reason that older power seemed to gravitate to the Eastern District. They were the "ALCo shop," then later, home to the last EMD 567- engines like the GP9s, GP30s and GP35s as well as the DD35s. In the later years, one UP official is reported to have said that GP30s were kept in "the triangle," the mainlines between the three main points of North Platte-Omaha- Kansas City.
By the end of the steam era in 1958 and 1959, the gas turbines, Standard, Veranda and three-unit, along with GP9s and F-units, handled traffic west of Green River. The delivery of SD24s in 1959 bumped the GP9s on the South-Central District to a more secondary role. Though SD24s ruled the S-CD, they were seen across the rest of the system. Into the 1960s, the SD24s remained in control on the S-CD, but photographic evidence suggests that the GP30 was the locomotive of choice on the Northwestern District, replacing the F-units and reducing the role of GP9s to largely local and secondary service.
The arrival of the double diesels in 1963-1965, and the SD40s in 1966 and SD45s in 1968, seemed to diminish apparent areas of assignment across the system. The Radio Control-equipped SD45s in 1968 were popular on the NWD. SD45s were also assigned to the Kaiser pool, also in 1968, and were confined west of Salt Lake City. But U50Cs and DD35s roamed the whole railroad. There were small pockets remaining where oddballs or small groups of locomotives called home. The 3040-series SD40Xs, for example, on the iron ore trains through Salt Lake City, and SDP35s in their last few years serving as leading units between Council Bluffs and North Platte on C&NW run-through trains.
Major changes came in 1969 with the implementation of a "System-wide Pool" of mainline power. This strategy did away with the previous district and divisional assignments, and resulted in less regional assignment and usage of power.
The following comes from Union Pacific Motive Power Review 1968-77:
One step to improve motive power utilization was taken in 1969. According to the UP Bulletin on the subject, effective July 4, "... the pooling of power system-wide is in effect. All power other than that assigned on locals will be pooled immediately and will move on trains to destination, regardless of district to which previously assigned." The bulletin went on to say that units should be closely watched and that, when possible, units should not be fueled in Iowa or Utah where a fuel tax would have to be paid. Further, units, especially at Pocatello, Idaho, should be operated on a first in, first out basis, giving preference to SD40s and SD45s in returning power to the Eastern District. This system-wide pooling did a great deal to improve utilization of power, but it also meant that parts for all models had to be stocked at all servicing points. (Union Pacific Motive Power Review 1968-77, page 59; Motive Power Services, 1978)
In the mid 1980s, the last of the GP30s seemed to be in small scattered batches outside of the Eastern District in their final years of service. A few cycled in and out of the Los Angeles Basin on locals. Two units, UP 800 and 802 were among the last on the Northwestern District and frequently worked the Canadian Pacific run through trains between Hinkle and Eastport, as well as the Coeur d'Alene local. In the same period, three GP30s (UP 805, 856, 871) worked out of Ogden, Utah, on the Park City Local.
Mark Amfahr wrote the following in an email to the UP Modelers Yahoo group on March 26, 2004:
1975-77 era, generally speaking:
- SDP35s were most often found leading on North Platte-Fremont-Council Bluffs manifest run through trains (not only CNW but any participating railroad; MILW, RI, etc).
- DDA35s and DD35s were most often running in the North Platte-Salt Lake City-Los Angeles corridor.
- U30Cs and later C30s used in manifest service were most often kept east of North Platte, often on the run through trains. In coal service they ran as far west as the southern Wyoming mines, then east to the train's destination, usually in run through service.
- U50Cs, when they were running, were kept on the Denver-North Platte-Council Bluffs-Kansas City routes, generally avoiding the heavier grades of the Wyoming division and west, likely to keep the tractive and braking amps to a minimum.
- DDA40X / 8000s were most often found on the various "Van" trains operating between North Platte and the Pacific Northwest, and Los Angeles. Since those units weren't considered acceptable as run through power, they weren't seen as often east of North Platte, or on the trains to/from Western Pacific and Southern Pacific. The main exception was due to the fact that there was an imbalance in the "Van" train's traffic (heavier westbound), so those "fast" units could often be seen operating eastbound on manifest trains, such as working the HL back east from Hinkle or the CN from LA.
- SD45s were nearly always west of North Platte, usually to/from the Pacific Northwest and on the KUE/KUW Kaiser coal trains in cooperation with the DRGW.
(This information was first published in the UtahRails.net blog on May 13, 2014)
I was recently asked about a mid-1960s proposal for a Union Pacific 18,000 HP 3-unit 16-motor FT-4 turbine locomotive.
The only reference I can find is in Tom Lee's "Turbines Westward", page 48:
"At one time the Union Pacific had given consideration to ordering a third generation of turbines, but the road was unable to find a builder interested in providing a locomotive built to U.P.'s fuel specifications. Proposals were submitted by Pratt & Whitney for an aircraft type gas turbine power plant that could be installed in a locomotive car body, proposed to be built at the Omaha shops, but the project was never seriously considered."
One can only speculate that this proposed FT-4 turbine would have looked like, if UP had been able to get a vendor interested. It might have looked like the 1-30 series GTELs but with a two-unit, 18000 hp power plant furnishing 16 motors spread across three units, much like the 1-30 series was 8500 hp furnishing 12 motors spread across two units.
(This information was first published in the UtahRails.net blog on May 13, 2014)
One thing that became obvious as an all-time roster of UP's steam locomotives, from 1864 to 1962 was compiled and presented: the ever-changing improvements in locomotive design either from the builders or by Union Pacific itself. Like almost all large railroads, no matter the era or its corporate structure, Union Pacific has always looked to improving locomotive design, and lowering the cost of operating its fleet of locomotives, whether they were steam locomotives, diesel locomotive, or turbine locomotives.
A study of the personalities can be fascinating; identifying the people at the top of the MP&M department who were instrumental in the 1920s and 1930s in producing locomotive designs that fulfilled UP's operational needs. It's a clear pattern. After UP locomotive design was released from the clutches of the Common Standard era, and its cookie-cutter "locomotives by the thousands" concept, they started down their own path. The 5000-class 2-10-2s of the post WWI era were the start, then the 7000-class 4-8-2s of 1922 came next, then the 9000-class 4-12-2s of the mid- and late-1920s.
As UP recovered from the Depression of the early 1930s, they focused on the Streamliners for passenger service, and the new 4-6-6-4s for freight service. The Challengers were the brainchild of A. H. Fetters and Otto Jabelmann, and their concepts culminated in the 4000-class of the early 1940s. I have to mention here the brief attempt in the mid-1940s for UP to buy "off the shelf", Baldwin's massive 5000 hp beast, which today's railfans know as the Centipede. It appears that Baldwin, for whatever reason, did not take UP's needs and timeline very seriously because the order was canceled 18 months after being placed, after UP discovered that Baldwin had not even started construction. This may have been the start of UP's "we'll go it alone" thinking that resulted in the 51-75 series gas turbines.
When David Neuhart came to the head of the MP&M department in 1949, he continued the culture he had been part of for over 20 years. It is well known that on his watch UP put into service the Gas Turbines, but Neuhart also pushed GE into producing its own line of diesel locomotives (the U25B), and pushed EMD into designing a turbocharger for their 567 diesel engine (the GP20 and SD24). He then pushed EMD into greatly improving their electrical designs, with the DDA40X being the vastly successful test beds for all of the improvements. EMD's offering of its Dash 2 line of locomotives in 1972 was the result. Thirty-five years later, the SD40-2 and the GP38-2 are still the standard for reliable locomotive design. Union Pacific was such an important customer for General Motors that GM could not ignore UP. During the early 1980s Union Pacific was pushing GM into improving the SD40-2, until UP got sidetracked with the MP merger. Leadership at UP changed and without the pressure from UP, General Motors ended up producing the less-than-successful SD50 and GP50 series.
UP's U50 Fuel Tender
(From an email to The Winged Shield group, dated May 11, 2000)
Q: You mentioned in your book about the proposal of fuel tenders from U-50s and you said this idea never made it past the drawing board. Do you know if it made the drawing board? and is there any proof of this drawing around as I would be interested in seeing what they would of came up with. (Jim Booth, Jr.)
A: I saw an engineering sketch that Greg Davies had when I was in Omaha in June 1978. About three weeks before, I had talked to Frank Acord in his business car here in Salt Lake and told him of my interest in a complete roster of UP's diesel locomotives. We spent an hour or so talking during which he told me about his experience in his early years as a mechanic working on UP's Shays at both Provo and Lynndyl. Then he invited me to see him in Omaha. I took him up on his invitation, and after a brief discussion in his office, he took me out into the open office area on the 9th floor and announced to all the people there that they were to help me in any way that I asked. He turned me loose in the Mechanical Department files. I copied lots of stuff off microfilm, and made a full legal tablet full of notes.
I also talked to Greg Davies in his office, and he invited me to his place that evening. While there, he showed me all of the stuff he was working on at the time, including files, photos, and drawings (I have a copy of the steam roster he was working on). One of the drawings was the one of a basic side view of the lower part of a U50 carbody, on the regular B+B trucks. The unit was cut off at the walkway level and there were two round fuel tanks mounted above that. I think the two tanks were 4,000 gallons each, likely being about the width of the former carbody. I don't remember a date on the drawing, but there was a note that the fuel tender was to be operated between two U28Cs, each upgraded to 3,000 horsepower. The traction motors on the fuel tender were all powered from the U28Cs. Since the U28Cs were still in favor, or at least not yet out of favor, I'm guessing that time period would have been about 1970-1971. Remember, it was only a proposal, and the drawing was likely meant to merely illustrate that proposal.
I was in Omaha two nights. On the second night, I spent about two hours with Lloyd Edson, who I had talked to several times in Salt Lake. Lloyd was my majority source of information for the research I did on the turbocharged GP9s, along with a lot of other information about UP's early diesel years, since he was first on the mechanical engineering staff in 1953. That night, he pulled out all his personal notes about the turbocharger projects, and my articles on the subject are based mostly on what he shared with me that night. A couple hours after meeting with Lloyd, I climbed aboard the westbound Amtrak SFZ. I was still with UP at the time, so the Amtrak trip was at no-cost (or maybe very low cost, I don't exactly remember). (Don Strack, May 11, 2000)
(From an email to The Winged Shield group, dated May 20, 2000)
Q: Where is the radio antenna (firecracker) on an RCS SD45? I think it's aft of the radiator fans, but need to confirm this. (Gary Binder)
Q: What are the dimensions of the RCS antenna ground plane? It appears to have four support legs, am I correct? (Gary Binder)
A: Yes, it's at the rear of the radiator hatch, just behind the curved grab iron, but still on the hatch itself.
I measured an SD45 RCS ground plane back 25 years ago. The four support legs and roof mounting pieces were standard 1-1/2 angle iron. At Salt Lake, we had to cut the platform off to lift the units with the 250-ton crane because the platform interfered with the cross piece of the crane. If you look at photos of some units up close, you can see a weld line on the legs, about three to four inches above the roof.
On the platform itself, the outside edge that faced to the side of the unit was tapered from a 2-inch thickness at the center part where the support legs attached, out to 1-1/2 inches at the front and rear edges. If you can find a down-on shot, you can probably guesstimate the size of the platform by comparing it with the width of the cab roof. I think the platform is square. (Don Strack, May 20, 2000)
Two-Window Windshields vs. Three-Window Windshields on SD60s
(From an email to the Streamliner group at YahooGroups, September 14 and 15, 2000)
Q: Does anyone know why UP has 2 different front window types on their SD60Ms? Some versions have the 2 piece North American style while others have the 3 piece Canadian style. Is there a reason UP has done this? (Spence Watson, September 14, 2000)
A: When we did the first SD60M's, we still had 3 and sometimes 4 man crews, as did the Canadians, where the 3-piece windshield (and sometimes a 4-piece windshield) was common. The reason was that with a 4-man crew and with everyone on the head end, the guy sitting in the middle seat can see ahead with the 3-piece windshield. With a two-piece design, he's staring at the center post. After the first couple of orders, we got new crew consist agreements that reduced the number of crew personnel to 2 or 3. With that, the center seat is usually unoccupied. No worry about the guy in the center seat being unable to see ahead. That was part of the reason for the change. The SD90MACII has a two-piece windshield that uses the same glass as the GE's. This does not apply to any SD60M's. (Steve Lee, September 15, 2000)
SD24s and Big Boys
Were UP's SD24s delivered in time in 1959 to operate with UP's steam Big Boys?
(From a series of emails posted to The Streamliner group at YahooGroups in May 2001)
Q: Is it just possible that the first SD24's - low noses, "Dependable Transportation" and all - actually made their early road trips through Cheyenne while Challengers and Big Boys were in their final days of service? Or were the steamers immediately retired in Cheyenne just prior to or on delivery of the first SD24's to Omaha/Council Bluffs? (David Garon, May 12, 2001)
A: I have never seen a photo of UP steam and SD24s side by side. We have all seen that magic date of July 1959 as being the end of steam on UP. But steam on UP really ended with the delivery in 1957 of the 50 GP9 cab units and 50 GP9B booster units in the 300-class. Sure, there was some last gasp runs during the peak periods over the next two years, but the end really was in 1957. West of Green River, and on the Kansas Division, the end came in 1954 with the delivery of the 75 GP9 cab units and 75 GP9B booster units in the 130-class. Steam only stayed on across the Wyoming Division east of Green River because fuel was cheap (as in free) and maintenance facilities were readily available. I worked with many shop mechanics who were laid off from Cheyenne in 1955-1956, coinciding with the opening of the Salt Lake shops in 1955. They were told that steam was dead on UP, and that if they wanted a job, there was work in the new Turbine and Diesel facility in Salt Lake City.
One piece of paper I'd like to see are the train sheets for Cheyenne during 1957-1959. I wonder how many steam locomotives were actually in regular operation during that time, and how many trains they operated on.
One of the projects I'd like to do someday is a locomotive directory for UP in 1955, showing steam and diesel, and turbine. 1954 was the pivotal year for motive power on UP. At the beginning of 1954, there were 879 steam locomotives and 758 diesel and turbine locomotives. At the beginning of 1955, the totals were 621 steam and 1,032 diesel and turbine locomotives. So a 1955 locomotive directory would show the year of change, 1954, very well. (Don Strack, May 13, 2001)
A: By that standard, we'd also have to change the "end of" dates for a host of other railroads, and we'd also have to apply it to diesels. For example, the "end" of the DDA40X's would have to be changed to 1980, the use of 25 of the units in 1984-1985 being just "last gasp runs."
You might be surprised to learn how much UP steam was in operation in eastern Wyoming, Western Nebraska and northern Colorado in 1957-1959. The number of fans who kept track of such things was much smaller back then than it is today, and they didn't have the ability to broadcast the news like we do now, so a huge amount of stuff went relatively unnoticed except for the remaining UP records.
Cheyenne was still doing classified repairs on steam into 1956-1957, just at a much lower level of activity than previously.
The last formal retirements didn't take place until 1962. Formal retirement defined as retired from the roster per ICC requirements and written off as an asset after disposal, which usually meant sales for scrap or sale of the scrap if the company cut the engine up itself.
The July 1959 date is very well documented. It was the date the last 4-6-6-4 came into Cheyenne on a freight from North Platte, and the only UP steam that ran after that time was 844(4) and 3985.
UP used steam on the eastern end of the Wyoming Division into July of 1959 and used it in Colorado and Nebraska in 1957-1959, as well. The last months of operation of the 4000-series are documented in Ehernberger's books Sherman Hill and Big Boy Portraits, wherein he lists the train sheet information for all Big Boy moves in June and July 1959 including the names of the engineers and firemen.
Like many railroads, UP expected and planned to operate steam sporadically into the early 1960's, and as such, they overhauled and maintained in "stored serviceable" status a number of locomotives. In the event, many of these locomotives were used only during grain rushes and other traffic peaks (some were never used at all), as there were several economic factors that got in the way, such as recessions and the steel strike.
Also, railroads figured out how to better utilize their diesel fleets. One of the fears of many railroad managements at the time was that they would end up buying too many diesels, resulting in some expensive and relatively new motive power being stored during low-traffic periods, and they wanted to avoid that at all costs (the payments go on whether the units are stored or not). If you go back and read the trade press in the mid-to-late 1950's you will note a number of railroad CEO's predicting that at least some steam would remain on their respective railroads, at least in stand-by service, into the mid-1960's. In UP's case, by 1962 they understood that diesels and turbines could handle the load, so all of the stored steam was retired, except for 844.
It is true that in all senses, UP never fully dieselized, as 844(4) was and is still active as far as the FRA and it's predecessor, the ICC are and were concerned. People can quibble about that if they wish but it's true, and the reports and paperwork remain on file in both Washington DC and Omaha to back it up.
Most people know that 844 was used as a snow melter in Council Bluffs in late 1959 and early 1960. The 3710 was used as a source of steam for a separate snow melting machine in the North Platte yards occasionally until 1967 or so. However, it was no longer a locomotive; it was classified as a piece of Roadway machinery and was numbered 900079. When it was no longer needed for this job, it was donated to the City of North Platte, which renumbered it 3977 (it's original number) and put it on display in Cody Park, where it remains today. I do not know if it moved itself and/or the melting machine in this service or not, but even if it did, it might have looked and sounded like a locomotive but for ICC and accounting purposes it was not. (Steve Lee, May 13, 2001)
A: Lloyd Stagner states that in 1959, "...eight 3700's [oil fired Challengers] worked between Cheyenne and North Platte between July 2 and July 23..." and this was the last "regular" use of steam. Some 4000's had been readied for service as well, but remained in storage during most of July. This was because traffic was hurt by a labor dispute in the steel industry, and the SD24's arrived as well. Management apparently expected traffic to recover sufficiently by September to warrant returning the big steam power to work, but the steel dispute persisted into November and by that time new diesel deliveries had obviated the need for steam. Approximately 30 serviceable steam locomotives were held in reserve during 1960, but the arrival of the GP20 fleet removed any need for their use. Do we know if any of the new SD24's in service North Platte-Cheyenne between July 2 and July 23, 1959?. (David Garon, May 14, 2001)
A: I have some engineer's time books from that period. The first record of a 400 is on August 4th (UP 403, 400B, 410B), Laramie to Rawlins on NWF. This engineer did not make any steam runs during this time or any time during 1959. He worked between Rawlins and Cheyenne. The vast majority of trains he ran were diesel or turbine during this period. There was some steam recorded. He seemed to have been high enough on the seniority list to get all road jobs including some passenger runs. I think he had some east bound runs with SD24's as well. Of course he was only one guy. I don't know about the rest. (Steve Solombrino, May 15, 2001)
A: I remember lines of steam engines waiting to be scrapped in Pocatello in the late 50's (ca. 1958-1959). Dad was a fireman then and I remember going with him on high nose GP and cab unit four-axle units. I don't remember SD's around here until the early 60's but I was too young at that time to understand or care about the details of what they were. I do recall Dad telling me that Idaho had a tax penalty for UP if they brought new power into the state so they didn't bring units here until they were some number of years old. (Randy Norton, May 15, 2001)
Log Book, UP GP9 no. 341
Taken from its log book on July 16, 1978, from an original note completed on November 8, 1980.
|new to Jan. 1959||(unknown, no log entries)|
|Feb. 1959 to Jan. 1960||road service on UP|
|Jan. 24-30, 1960||Class A repairs at Salt Lake City|
|Feb. 1960 to May 1960||road service on UP|
|May 10-19, 1960||in Omaha Shops for truck, and engine change and painting|
|Jun. 1960 to Aug. 1963||road service on UP with one trip to L. A.|
|Aug. 19-23, 1963||in Omaha Shops for new engine, generator, and #1 truck and painting inside and out|
|Sep. 1963 to Feb. 1964||road service on UP|
|Feb. 1964 to Jun. 1969||road service on OSL and OWR&N|
|Jun. 1969 to Jul 1970||local service out of The Dalles, Oregon|
|Jul. 1970 to Jul. 1972||road service on OWR&N|
|Jul. 1972 to Nov. 1973||local service out of Spokane, Washington|
|Dec. 1973 to present||local service out of Salt Lake City, Utah|
EMD Main Generator, 57-G-51
Applied new to UP GP9 no. 314
June 1960 -- Removed at Omaha
July 1960 -- Applied to UP GP9 no. 336 at Omaha
September 1961 -- Removed at Salt Lake City, rebuilt and re-installed to no. 336
July 1963 -- Removed at Omaha
(from a brass plate attached to generator, no entry after July 1963)