Union Pacific GE Dash 8 Locomotives

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(This article is an updated and expanded version of an article published as part of the book GE's Dash 8 - C Series, Dieselization Enters the Third Generation by Diesel Era, Withers Publishing Co., 1994; and in "The Streamliner", Volume 11, Number 2, 1997)

(This article will not be updated after the initial online publication in 2009)

A First

Union Pacific's locomotive number 9100 deserves a place in locomotive history - it was the first General Electric Dash 8-40C locomotive built. Its arrival, along with the succeeding purchase of 459 more units (making UP the largest operator of Dash 8s) was a natural extension of UP's experiences with GE locomotives.

UP and General Electric

Union Pacific's association with General Electric dates to 1939, when a pair of experimental steam turbine-electrics (UP 1 and 2) operated briefly on UP. Although not successful with its steam turbine design, GE returned to the railroad business after World War II and in 1949 constructed a gas turbine demonstrator that proved to be highly successful, paving the way for a 25-unit fleet of 4,500-horsepower gas turbines placed into service on Union Pacific in 1954. Through the late 1950s and early 1960s, an additional 30 turbines were purchased by UP. Originally rated at 8,500 horsepower, the output was soon boosted to 10,000 horsepower.

About the time the last turbines were delivered, UP purchased its first GE diesel-electric, an A-B-B-A set of experimental cab units built by GE at its Erie, Penn., plant in 1954. After testing on the Erie Railroad from 1954 to 1959, they were painted Armour yellow and sold to UP in October 1959. While each unit was powered by a 12-cylinder power plant, GE had begun development of a 16-cylinder engine that would first appear in 1959 in a pair of 2,400-horsepower demonstrators designated as model XP24. Further refinement of the XP24 resulted in the introduction of the 2,500-horsepower U25B model in 1961.

After road tests of the XP24 were completed, UP became the first buyer of production U25Bs, ordering four units in 1961. Three additional four-unit orders were delivered in 1962 and 1963. UP also bought four of the U25B demonstrator units, bringing its fleet of U25Bs to 16 units.

Always looking for more horsepower, UP requested bids from all three major locomotive builders for double-engined locomotives. The Electro-Motive Division of General Motors (GM-EMD, or just EMD) responded with the DD35, ALCO Products with the C-855, and GE with the U50. Three U50s were ordered in 1963 and their success resulted in 20 additional 5,000-horsepower GE U50s joining the roster in 1965. EMD contributed 45 DD35s, while ALCO was limited to the three original C-855 demonstrators.

In 1966, three years later, Union Pacific sampled 10 2,800-horsepower U28Cs along with 10 ALCO 3,000-horsepower C-630s and eight EMD former-experimental 3,000-horsepower SD40s (known to locomotive historians as SD40Xs). The U28C design had its strengths, but the acquisition of a 150-unit fleet of U30Cs (the U28C's successor) was delayed until 1972. Between the delivery of the U28C and the U30C, GE constructed 40 more giant double-diesels for UP - the U50C model, concurrent with the 47 6900-class Centennial DDA40Xs. While the Centennials remained in UP's highest priority service for an average of ten years, the U50Cs were all out of service within just five years. The failure of these U50Cs - all were out of service by 1976 - is attributed to the aluminum wiring and cables used in their construction and their high axle loading - 442,700 pounds spread out over just six axles.

With coal business booming during the 1970s, in 1977 UP began buying C30-7s, GE's replacement for the U30C model, eventually owning a fleet of 140 units, in addition to the 150-unit fleet of U30Cs. Assigned to the Wyoming main line and used primarily in unit coal train loading at various south central and western Wyoming coal mines, the C30-7 fleet has turned in an acceptable performance, although the units have undergone several upgrade and modification programs.

In 1981, UP placed an order for 30 C36-7s. Although the quantity of units ordered fluctuated during the year, the order was canceled in 1982 due to an ongoing recession. It wasn't until 1985 that a firm order for C36-7s was placed - not by UP, but by its merger partner, Missouri Pacific.

The C36-7s were delivered in a single 60-unit order to Missouri Pacific between September and November 1985. Numbered 9000-9059 (changed to 2600-2659 after the 1995 merger with C&NW), the units suffered greatly from initial diesel engine failures. Some members of the fleet are on their fourth prime mover, compared to many SD40-2s built in 1979 and 1980 that are still operating with their original engines. After the units had been in service for just 2-1/2 years, the prime movers on the entire fleet required a complete change-out and upgrading of such vital components as the radiator cores. Coincidentally, at this time all units received Union Pacific lettering. Fortunately, the troubles with the C36-7s were noted by GE, which took corrective steps in designing the follow-on Dash 8 line.

A New Model

UP's formal experience with the new General Electric Dash 8 began with the delivery of UP 9100 on December 1, 1987 (the unit has an official builder date of November 1987). These were the first of all the Dash 8s to be completed, with the first order being for 75 units, delivered with road numbers 9100-9174 between December 1987 and February 1988. The first 50 were built with remanufactured trucks from U30C trade-ins. These trucks came in two variations, General Steel Industries castings and Adirondack castings, both of which were rebuilt to match the new standard high brake cylinder mounts. Like all of the 256 standard-cab Dash 8-40Cs that followed, these units had operating weights of 391,000 pounds for each unit and 83:20 gear ratios. Other than their road numbers, the first Dash 8 order on UP is easy to distinguish by the high sand fill located on the top of the rear of the radiator compartment.

Parts contributed in 1987 by the U30C trade-in units (39 from UP and 11 from MP) included not only truck frame components, but also traction motor frames, along with other parts used on the new Dash 8s. Along with the 50 trade-in U30C units, UP shipped five carloads of various locomotive parts to GE for use as credit against the new locomotives. Many U30C trucks live on underneath UP's Dash 8-40Cs.

Before the first order was completed and off the erecting shop floor, UP signed the contract for a second group of 75 Dash 8-40Cs, road numbers 9175-9249, with delivery taking place between July and October 1988. As in the first order, a portion of this order, 9175-9233, used the trucks from trade-in U30Cs. The 75 units of this order were the first UP GEs equipped with flange lubricators, which spray a small amount of grease on the wheel flange of the lead axle of the rear truck, reducing friction. Flange lubricators increase fuel efficiency five to seven percent, and increase wheel and rail life. The only major visible evidence of this equipment are the grease reservoirs, which are located behind the 5,000 gallon fuel tank.

Other than minor differences all UP standard cab Dash 8-40Cs are highly uniform in appearance. The second order differs in the relocation of the sand fill lower on the rear of the radiator compartment. Both the first and second orders of UP Dash 8s have spare knuckle holders mounted on the truck side frames. Like the first 75 Dash 8-40Cs, the second 75 were immediately placed in high speed double-stack and TOFC service, and began accumulating close to 20,000 miles of service every month.

One unit of this order, the 9185, was never delivered to Union Pacific. At this time, GE had only one six-axle Dash 8 engineering test bed, the 607, which had been built to the "early" Dash 8 pattern. GE needed a more recent locomotive with the latest enhanced features for testing new engineering designs. The builder arranged with the UP to acquire a single unit out of the second order. The 9185 was picked arbitrarily, and arrangements were made to provide the UP with a replacement 9185 as the first unit of UP's next order. The first 9185 continued to wear UP paint through the end of October 1988, even making an appearance at GE's Family Days open house that year. On November 9, 1988, the 9185 was named and dedicated for a GE design engineer, Web W. Morse, who had passed away the previous September. Mr. Morse had played a large role in the development of the Dash 8 line. His name was lettered on the cab-sides, and his initials, WWM, were placed in the front number boards. The original UP identification of 9185 in white letters remained on the upper rear of the carbody until it was repainted to GE's own red and grey scheme. The first 9185 now wears GE's red, grey and black demonstrator colors, with GE road number 001, and continues to help GE design engineers to test new component designs before they become part of production units. To replace the first 9185, GE built a second 9185, delivered with the follow-on order of thirty-five units during November 1988.

The third order, 35 units in the UP 9250-9284 group, immediately followed the second order, with delivery beginning in November 1988 and continuing through December. The second 9185 was delivered as part of this order and was the first unit shipped, followed by the 9250-9284.

This third order of Dash 8s included a new feature in the contract for the implementation of GE technical supervisors to oversee the maintenance of Dash 8s at UP's Salt Lake City (Utah) shops. Other GE service personnel were concurrently assigned to other maintenance points, such as North Platte, Nebraska, to attend to the Dash 8 fleet during any unscheduled maintenance and at the regular 92-day inspections. These GE personnel assured that the Dash 8 fleet received the proper service and OEM (Original Equipment Manufacturer) replacement parts. The contract also guaranteed a minimum level of locomotive availability, which is measured for each locomotive per year. If the fleet performed better than expected, GE could accumulate reserve horsepower hours which could be drawn upon in the future if the fleet fell short of the guarantee. If the availability fell short, and the reserve didn't have sufficient hours, a no-charge lease of the six GE-owned locomotives 9350-9355 in the fifth-order Dash 8-40Cs was used to make up the difference.

The first serious wreck involving a UP standard cab Dash 8, 9259, occurred on January 25, 1993 at Wallula, Washington. The unit was returned to service in late 1994 after undergoing wreck damage repair at Conrail's Altoona, Pa., shop.

The 65 units in the fourth order, 9285-9349, and six units in the fifth order, 9350-9355, are essentially identical to the third order, except for units 9355 and 9285-9291, which were built with GE's new 1716 high-efficiency turbocharger for field testing. UP 9350-9355 and 9285-9293 were delivered in December 1988, with the remaining 56 units coming in January and February 1989, bringing the total non-wide nose Dash 8-40C fleet to 256 units.

The fifth order, UP 9350-9355, was for the six warranty protection units, called "reliability lease" units by GE and UP personnel. These units were owned by General Electric and leased to Union Pacific as GECX operational lease units until such time as the availability of the regular fleet fell below the contract figure. Then all or part of this order were operated by UP at no cost, until GE and the railroad's own shop forces can bring the fleet availability again up to its desired level. The lease was for a three year period, ending in 1991, at which time Union Pacific formally purchased all six units.

Beginning in early March 1990, GE initiated a modification program to change the inlets for the dynamic braking feature from the top of the units to the side, just behind the cab on the engineer's side. GE had found from tests on UP, as well as other western roads, that in heavy storm situations, melt water from snow and ice accumulation at times drained into some of the dynamic braking circuitry causing an increase in burned-out dynamic braking grids. After a successful test of the side-inlet design on the first 9185 at Erie, the 105-unit group 9250-9355 were all modified during 1990, with 9251 being the first completed, on 6 March 1990. The entire Union Pacific standard cab Dash 8 fleet was later modified to the new inlet style, with the work being done by UP's own mechanics at the Salt Lake City shops, under the supervision of GE personnel assigned there. Concurrent with this modification was the application of dampeners between the locomotive frame and the locomotive trucks, along with other maintenance-reducing enhancements to the trucks themselves, including replacement of all traction motors. As each unit was scheduled through the Salt Lake City shops, it would receive fully rebuilt trucks, by complete change-out of both trucks, and the dynamic brake side-inlet modification. The trucks were removed from the units at the Salt Lake City shop and transported to GE's Apparatus Service Shop in North Salt Lake, Utah, where GE personnel completed the rebuild program. Upon rebuild, the trucks were transported back to UP's shop and installed under a different unit. The swapping of trucks further scrambled the mismatched combination of truck designs under UP's Dash 8 fleet. The use of trade-in U30C trucks had made for some interesting combinations of the four known truck designs under individual locomotives, and the truck change-out program added even more variety.

The Wide Nose Dash 8-40CW Fleet

In response to concerns for increased crew safety, Union Pacific and General Electric worked closely to design a version of what has been called the North American Safety Cab, a concept already well developed in Canada. The result was GE's wide-nose demonstrator 809 (former B39-8 808, and originally built as B36-8 demonstrator 606) completed during fall 1988. GE 809 was sent to each of the railroad's major terminals for crew evaluations. Union Pacific reaction to the design of the cab on the 809 was mixed, with many details in need of improvement. General Electric, with a great deal of input from Union Pacific operating department personnel, went back to the drawing board and came up with the new design that made its first appearance on UP 9356 in December 1989. (Wide-nose SD60Ms from competitor EMD entered service on UP in January 1989.) One of the design differences between the GE and EMD versions is the sloping front cab windows to reduce glare. Another improvement, made on both GE and EMD units, is the nose mounted headlight, moved from above the windshields, to eliminate the glare of the headlights off of the top of the low nose at night.

Union Pacific's first order of wide-nose Dash 8s (also called "Super Cabs") came in December 1989 through March 1990, with the delivery of 50 units carrying road numbers 9356-9405. This order, and all following orders of Dash 8-40CWs weigh in with a operating weight of 399,000 pounds.

Prior to delivery to UP, one of the units in this order, the 9400, was equipped with a sign on each side of locomotive, attached to the handrails, commemorating the 1000th Dash 8 locomotive built by General Electric. The 9400 was first displayed at GE's 75th Anniversary open house during March 1990 at Erie, then was delivered to the UP. Considering that the Dash 8 was only introduced 2-1/2 years before, in late-1987, and the total numbers of locomotives built by all builders in the previous 15 years, 1,000 units of any locomotive model is truly noteworthy. Although UP 9400 is the locomotive to actually carry the commemorative sign, UP 9379 is the real 1,000th Dash 8 locomotive. When the unit was completed, GE promotional people felt a road number such as 9379 to be "odd" and possibly confusing. The easy to remember 9400 was chosen to carry the sign because of the simplicity of its number.

The new cab design necessitated other changes in the configuration of the Dash 8 series, including the relocation of the handbrake from the engineer's side of the low nose to the fireman's side, at the rear of the locomotive. These were also the first UP GE's delivered with cab air conditioning. Its equipment housing is located behind the fireman's side of the cab.

Besides the new nose and cab design, this order was the first for the application of the side-inlet for the dynamic braking grid package, located on the engineer's side, just behind the cab. Just as these units were being delivered, GE began a modification program to add the side inlet to the 9250-9355 group of standard cab Dash 8s, with all of the 105-unit group completed by the end of 1990.

After delivery of 9356-9359 in late December 1989, a problem was discovered in the design of the throttle controller. A correction to the problem forced a delay in the delivery of additional new units, delaying completion of delivery from late January until late March 1990. The throttle design problem came at a time of severe cold for much of the UP system. Normally, the six warranty protection units (UP 9350-9355) could have covered the unusually large numbers of units temporarily out of service due to the cold weather, but throw in the delayed delivery of much needed new units due to the throttle problems, and GE was forced to furnish additional protection units to UP at GE's own expense.

As a provision of the guaranteed reliability of the new Dash 8s, GE agreed to furnish Union Pacific with equivalent horsepower pending the expected correction to the throttle problem. This equivalent horsepower took the form of ex-ATSF C30-7s owned by GE, and later used by them as part of their national GECX lease fleet. These units had been in storage at GE's Erie erection shop, pending rebuild into Super 7 specification locomotives. To bring these C30-7s (still in both regular ATSF yellow warbonnet and ATSF/SP merger Kodachrome paint, with 8000 and 8100 series road numbers) up to operating standards, GE contracted with the Livingston Rebuild Center in Livingston, Montana, to do an operational check and to perform as-needed repairs. Many of the C30-7s were then operated as helpers on Montana Rail Link's trains west out of Livingston over Bozeman Pass and were the first GE's used directly by MRL. As the C30-7s became operational, they were turned over to UP for their use. With the arrival of UP's new Dash 8-40CWs by mid March 1990, the former ATSF C30-7s were returned to GE. At the peak, there were 29 C30-7s in use on UP.

A second order of 50 Dash 8 wide nose units came to Union Pacific in November 1990 to January 1991. These units carried road numbers 9406-9455. These were the first GEs to receive ditch lights as standard equipment, and have an improved anti-climber and internal collision posts for better crew protection. After delivery was complete, UP 9409, 9413, 9416 were loaned to GE for testing on Canadian Pacific during February 1991 for evaluation of GE Dash 8 locomotives by that road. While on CP, the three units were used in coal and grain service in western Canada. They were returned the next month.

In October 1991, UP received its third order for wide-nose Dash 8s. These 25 units in the road number group 9456-9480 are similar to the previous order, except for the deletion of the rear number board panels, which had been unused and left blank on previous UP Dash 8s.

The final unit in the third order was UP 9480, which was delivered to UP on April 12, 1992. This unit is equipped with GE's Integrated Function Computer (IFC) cab and Westinghouse Electro Pneumatic Integrated Control (EPIC) 3101 enhanced electronic braking. The IFC cab is a major part of the super cab concept and is equipped with computer screens, replacing air gauges, and electronics that replace air brake control valves. GE developed its IFC system during 1990 and 1991 on its own B-trucked demonstrator, road number 832, a B32-8 originally built to Norfolk Southern specifications. By late 1991, the new electronic cab was ready for installation into a production unit, with UP 9480 selected as the test unit. While the unit was completed in October 1991, testing of the new cab electronics forced UP 9480 to be held at GE-Erie until April 1992.

The IFC application consolidates into one system many of the individual electronic packages that were previously added later to locomotives, such as the End of Train Device receiver and Event Recorder, which were supplied by outside vendors and required considerable extra-option wiring and increased maintenance. In addition, the IFC has multi-colored liquid-crystal displays which provide the engineer with information previously conveyed through conventional gages and indicators on the control console. The UP's prototype IFC application includes Westinghouse's enhanced technology EPIC 3101 electronically-controlled air braking system in place of the previous standard pneumatic and electric-over-pneumatic brake valve. The EPIC system eliminates many high-maintenance air brake components, and unitizes many air brake control valves into easily replaceable packages. (UP SD50 5000 was equipped with a preliminary version of the EPIC braking system in March 1990, and has since been returned to its original 26L schedule equipment.)

IFC-equipped Dash 8-40CW 9480 and EMD's equivalent ICE (Integrated Cab Environment) SD60M 6268 were first placed into captive service between Denver and Cheyenne for evaluation, training, and continued design improvements. The GE IFC and EMD ICE high technology cabs, along with the EPIC braking systems, have proven to be an on-going development challenge for both the vendors and for Union Pacific. The 9480 returned to GE during fourth quarter 1992 to receive even more technological enhancements in the form of electronically controlled fuel injectors to improve its fuel efficiency.

During August and September 1993, UP changed the model designations of all of its Dash 8 fleet. Union Pacific's Transportation Control System (TCS) computerized car tracking system allows just eight characters in the locomotive model field in TCS-LL14 physical characteristics screen. By mid 1993 there had been complaints from some of the railroad's managers and dispatching personnel that the crews preferred only the wide-nose units on the point and that the "DASH840C" designation in the LL14 screen did not fully describe whether a Dash 8 was either a standard cab and or a wide-nose unit. To have a better and more descriptive designation in its computer system, in August 1993 UP changed the DASH840C to either C40-8 for the standard cab version, or C40-8W for the wide nose version. This change also brought UP's computer system into compliance with the American Association of Railroads (AAR) Uniform Machine Language Record, or UMLR, a concept that established a standard for exchange computerized information between AAR's member railroads. The newer Dash 8s for UP had been delivered with 4,135 horsepower, rather than the original 4,000 horsepower. Other, slightly older units had been upgraded by GE. In response to the need to have the LL14 screen display the true horsepower for these later locomotives, in September 1993, the model designations for 9406-9480 were changed from C40-8W to C41-8W.

The fourth order, for 50 units (UP 9481-9530) was delivered between August and October 1993. The fifth order, for the 25 units with road numbers 9531-9555, came during the following month, November 1993. These 75 units were almost entirely identical to the previous orders. One of the units in fourth order, UP 9504, was almost the first C41-8W to vacate the roster. New in September 1993, it was wrecked on October 1, 1993 at Keystone, Nebraska, and was first thought to be unrepairable. The unit was sent to the Jenks shops in North Little Rock and was returned to service in mid July 1994.

The final two units in the fifth order are to be part of Union Pacific's entry into the technology of high-horsepower Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) fueled railroad power. Both units were converted to burn LNG by General Electric and were undergoing tests for this new type of railroad fuel, at least until the motive power shortage of late 1995. As LNG-units, both locomotives were to be coupled to a common, single 30,000 gallon, 71-foot long tender, two of which were completed at Process Engineering at their Manchester, N.H. plant in November 1993, with two more planned but not completed. It was planned that by the time of their delivery, these General Electric Dash 8 units would be joining the Morrison Knudsen 1,200 horsepower switchers and the EMD LNG-fueled SD60Ms 6364 and 6365 to form the first fleet of railroad units testing this promising new, and environmentally friendly fuel. By mid 1997, motive power shortages forced these units into regular revenue service, with the LNG fuel program for road locomotives on temporary hold.

The sixth group order of C41-8Ws for UP (UP 9556-9559) was an add-on order for just four units, all to replace four other units (UP 6326, 9259, 9502, and 9504) lost through wreck damage during 1993. Delivered in December 1993, they completed the railroad's Dash 8 purchases.

Union Pacific keeps a large portion of their Dash 8s operating on their Nebraska to West Coast mainlines, moving the railroad's high priority traffic. Until the delivery of the newer Dash 9 and A.C. locomotives, the Dash 8s were also the primary power on coal trains, with over 135 units dedicated to this service. GE traction motors hold up well to the occasional overloads much better than do EMD's motors. Some railroads prefer their Dash 8s in coal service; the UP also likes them on hotshots, a complete switch of direction from the 1980s, when SD40-2s were hotshot power and C30-7s coal power. As more Dash 8-40CWs and SD60Ms arrived on the property, some of the original standard-cab Dash 8s were reassigned to coal and general freight service. With 460 units on its current roster the UP has the largest fleet of Dash 8s in the world.

In April 1995 Union Pacific merged with the Chicago and North Western (C&NW). C&NW brought with it to the merger a fleet of 77 GE Dash 8 locomotives, or as C&NW calls them, C40-8As. The fleet was purchased to power C&NW's unit trains of coal coming out of Wyoming's Power River Basin, and remained in that service until the delivery of 130 newer GE C44-9Ws and 35 GE AC4400 units. The former C&NW units have been assigned UP numbers 9023-9099, although not in consecutive order due to differing mechanical configurations. By July 1996, 14 units have been renumbered.

With a total fleet of 537 units, including the 77 ex-C&NW units, UP's Dash 8s consistently achieve some of the highest monthly mileage figures in the entire UP fleet. As far as the Union Pacific is concerned, the Dash 8 is a proven machine, and will remain in service for quite some time.

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