Union Pacific's EMD GP30s

Index For This Page

This page was last updated on December 27, 2015.

(Return To UP Diesel Index Page)

(This article is an updated and expanded version of an article published in Diesel Era, Volume 10, Number 2, March-April 1999)

The EMD GP30

EMD's GP30 was introduced in July 1961 in response to General Electric's own U25B. The new GE locomotive (introduced in 1959) caught EMD's design engineers a bit off guard by offering a 2,500 horsepower road switching locomotive. The U25B's 2,500 horsepower was 500 more that EMD's then currently available GP20, and has been said by some to be the start of a horsepower race that continues today. GE's four-axle U25B included a sealed carbody, with a central filtered intake air supply, design features that EMD included in its new GP22 design, designated for its 2250 horsepower, and which later became the GP30. The GP30's carbody was truly unique, and in a reflection of the times, included a degree of styling used on GM's automobiles. This unique styling was of necessity, however. The GP30 locomotive included a electrical cabinet much taller than the cabinet used on earlier EMD designs. Rather than the arched design (similar to steam locomotives) of the previous GP7 through GP20 series locomotives, the later GP30 design included a cab roof that was stepped, with rounded edges, allowing the needed height for the new taller electrical cabinet. The extra height was continued back to include the dynamic braking enclosure.

When GP30 demonstrator 5629 (also its EMD order number) was completed in July 1961, it was painted in an unlettered version of Union Pacific's yellow and gray paint scheme, and headed out for road testing. Its initial testing lasted from July to September 1961, when it was returned to EMD. (Trains magazine ran a photo of the yellow and gray unit at Ogden, Utah, in its February 1962 issue.) EMD 5629 had carbody features different from later GP30s, including a numberboard roofline set back to mid-cab, and traction motor blower side panel that extended just part way down on the left (fireman's) side, along with openings in the side frame below the walkways, similar to EMD's earlier GP20. An October 1961 rebuild gave the demonstrator unit the later, production GP30 brow, but retained the other original features, including GP20-style classification lights. During the early 1970s, while the unit was in UP's Salt Lake City shops, the author was able to confirm that the earlier, set-back numberboard roofline had merely been covered over, and still remained under the sheet metal of the later design change. The October 1961 rebuild also resulted in the GP30 demonstrator receiving a new black-and-white demonstrator paint scheme, and a new number: EMD 1962. The unit was sold to UP in September 1962. Its earlier test and demonstration on UP resulted in an order for 75 production units, to be numbered as UP 800-874.

UP's GP30s

Of the 948 GP30s built by EMD, Union Pacific purchased 152 units in the one year period between July 1962 and July 1963. Included in the total were 112 units with cabs, and 40 cabless, or "booster" units. This 152-unit fleet was delivered in four separate groups: UP 800-874, UP 875, UP 700-735, and UP 700B-739B. The first order, UP 800-874, was delivered in July to August 1962, under EMD order number 5643. As already mentioned, former demonstrator UP 875 came in September 1962. UP 700-734 came in February and March 1963 under EMD order number 7648, with UP 735 tacked on the order in June 1963. The final delivery, booster units with numbers 700B-739B, came in April to July 1963, under EMD order number 7651.

The first GP30s on the railroad were the 75 units in the 800-874 series, which had operating weights of 259,900 pounds. These first units were built without trade-in units from UP. All of the later 700 class GP30s and GP30Bs were built using trucks and traction motors from trade-in F3s and F7s, both A units and B units. UP 735 was built three months after the 700-734 group by using components from wrecked F9A 516 which was used as a direct trade-in. UP 700-735 were ballasted to 262,200 pounds. All of UP's GP30s were equipped with EMD 16-cylinder 567D3 turbocharged engine, and 62:15 gear ratio.

UP's GP30s did not have oilbath air filters. They used what were called Rotovanes, a design similar to the DynaVane primary air filters. Only their SD24s and GP20s on UP had oilbath air filters, and they were converted to paper air filters in the early 1970s. GP30s on other roads had sight glasses in the panel immediately behind the engineer for their oil bath air filters because of internal clearance concerns.

The later cabless booster units, UP 700B-726B were ballasted to 258,800 pounds. UP 727B-739B were equipped with steam generators for passenger service, and had operating weights of 262,900 pounds in freight service and 272,100 pounds in passenger service.

Back in March 1999, a discussion among locomotive historians wondered where the water tanks were on these steam generator equipped GP30Bs. Each unit was equipped with a 1200-gallon water tank about 5-1/3 feet in diameter, located in the enclosed car body adjacent to the steam generator itself.

Steam generator equipped GP30Bs were used along with the 1400-class SDP35s on Vietnam-era troop trains. These troop trains operated between Fort Riley, Kansas. and the West Coast. They were also regularly used on many of the road's secondary passenger trains. By the early 1970s all steam generators had been retired in place on the locomotives.

GP30s At Work

With their delivery in 1962 and 1963, UP's GP30s immediately entered mainline service on the road's most important trains. They ranged system wide, from Omaha/Council Bluffs and Kansas City in the east, to Seattle, Portland, and Los Angeles in the west. The delivery of SD40s in 1966, SD45s in 1968, and the start of deliveries of SD40-2s and U30Cs in 1972 saw the GP30s bumped to secondary service, and even local service. In 1974 and 1975, UP received 60 new GP38-2s, which displaced the GP30s assigned to local service in the Pacific Northwest.

Eight UP GP30s (UP 804, 807, 809, 813, 815, 817, 820, 835) were leased to Kennecott Copper Corporation from September 1975 to November 1978 (along with four D&RGW GP30s and two ATSF U25Bs) for waste rock train service in Kennecott's giant Bingham Canyon mine near Salt Lake City. The units were assigned vacant Kennecott 700-series number slots among KCC's 85-ton electric locomotives. In Kennecott service, the units were used singly with trains of eight to ten side dump cars moving waste rock from the working levels of the mine, out to the extensive waste dumps. At the end of the lease period, with the arrival of additional high cab GP39-2s for Kennecott, the UP GP30s were in pretty sad shape and were given a complete rebuild during late 1978 by UP's Salt Lake shops.

UP 800-803, 805, and 806 were equipped with full pilot snowplows in August 1973, for service on the Park City Branch in northern Utah. Upon the retirement of UP 806 in December 1985, that unit's snowplow was installed on UP 871 in February 1986, which replaced the 806 on the Park City Local. UP 871 was retired in September 1988.

UP's Park City Branch had always been a unique operation. The branch was completed to Coalville, Utah, as a coal-hauling, three-foot narrow gauge line in 1874. In 1880, the line was extended to Park City and converted to standard gauge. Until the mid 1960s, the branch subsisted on mineral traffic from the Park City mines and agricultural traffic from the surrounding rural communities. During the diesel era, motive power usually consisted of GP7s and GP9s. In the mid 1960s, a new station called Phoston became a major source of traffic for the branch, serving as the load-out for as many as 10 carloads per day of phosphate from a mine located 40 miles east in the Uinta Basin. Throughout the remaining 1960s and into the mid 1970s, the phosphate traffic was the focus of the branch line operations, but was limited by the axle loading of the branch's 90-pound rail.

As already mentioned, motive power on the Park City Branch was given a boost in 1973 with the assignment of more powerful GP30s to replace the GP7s and GP9s. At the same time, Union Pacific laid heavier rail between the mainline connection at Echo and the Phoston load-out. During the last years of the operation of the Park City Branch, the branch was popular with the railfan community because it was one of only two or three locations in the country where GP30s were being operated in sets of two or three units. Also, the Park City GP30s were unique on UP because they were the only GP30s on the railroad that were equipped with snowplows, needed for the year-round operation of the branch. As the GP30s began showing their age, the railroad tried operating newer more powerful locomotives along with them, usually without success. In November 1985, UP tried operating a single six axle SD40 along with a single GP30; but the sharp curves on the branch soon caused problems and the operation of the branch was returned to using sets of the GP30s. On several occasions, GP35s were used along with the GP30s. By the time of the last run of the branch in July 1986, GP30s were truly unique on both UP and on the rest of the nation's railroads. The two GP30s used during that last month of operation on the branch, UP 802 and 842, were two of only 29 of the type remaining on Union Pacific, from the 152 units that were delivered in 1962 and 1963.

At the end of their careers, UP's GP30s were used mostly as local power. They were used in the Northwest, in Southern California, and in eastern Kansas, near Topeka and Manhattan. For at least a full year, motive power at Utah's Clearfield Freeport Center (at one time UP's single largest source of carload traffic) consisted of two sets of paired GP30s. Today that same assignment is held by similar sets of ex-MoPac GP15-1s, and during the late 1960s and throughout the 1970s, Freeport motive power was six of UP's 10-unit fleet of SD7s. At Freeport, the GP30s worked in pairs, switching the many rail-served industries and warehouses at this former U. S. Navy warehousing complex, located on UP's mainline between Salt Lake City and Ogden. The Naval supply depot at Clearfield was closed in 1962 and privatized as a tax-free warehousing district where companies could store goods without concern of inventory taxes. Today, the Freeport center is the home of such nationally known companies as Fram automotive filters and Utility truck trailers, along with Arrow Dynamics, builder of those heart stopping coaster rides at many of the world's most famous amusement parks. After Arrow fabricates these rides, with their dramatic loops and sharp turns, they are disassembled and shipped worldwide, starting their journeys at Clearfield, loaded on flat cars handled by Union Pacific. In addition to switching in and around the Freeport Center and Clearfield during the work week, the UP's GP30s also worked daily between Salt Lake City and the Freeport Center, and between Ogden and Freeport. On weekends, the units usually tied up at Salt Lake City for inspections and fuel.


In an attempt to increase the GP30's potential as a unit for high speed piggyback service, to supplement the road's DDA40X Centennial units, in early 1970, UP 719 was equipped with 59:18 gear ratio and a 16 cylinder 567D3A engine. The engine was the same as that used in the 2500 horsepower GP35s, and included power assemblies upgraded to use components of EMD's 645-design engine. After its modification, UP called it a GP30MA. The need for high speed service was later filled by the 8000-class SD40-2s (see Diesel Era, Volume 9, number 1), so in mid 1980, the modified GP30's engine was replaced with one of the original GP30 design, and the unit was returned to its original 62:15 gear ratio.

During the early 1980s, negotiations were under way to allow the railroads to reduce train crew size, and to remove that icon of American railroading, the caboose, from the rear of all trains. The effort to reduce mainline crews took until October 1984 on UP, and until July 1985 for the road's local and branch trains. In an early demonstration of changes the company was willing to make to accommodate the concerns of the operating unions, Union Pacific took steps to modify several locomotives to accept additional personnel in the locomotive cab due to the removal of cabooses from local service. In one design, UP GP35 761 was modified in March 1983 to add space in the cab by relocating the water cooler from the cab interior to a special enclosure located on the walkway, behind the fireman's side of the unit's cab. In another design, in May 1983, UP GP30 808 was given an extended (by 18 inches) numberboard box to accommodate crew luggage during cabooseless operations. In April 1984, UP GP35 756 joined the 808 when its numberboard box was also extended to allow more room to stow the crews' luggage. These modifications proved to be much to costly to do on every locomotive assigned to local service, but the GP30 and the two GP35s retained the features until their retirement.

The final solution, although still of limited usefulness, for more room in the cab came in mid 1985 when 50 large, slope-topped silver-painted boxes were fabricated for application on the outside of the cab, atop the right-side battery box, in front of the engineer. The boxes were manufactured in Omaha and applied by Salt Lake shops to approximately 20 former MoPac GP38-2s that had been transferred to UP in 1984. The boxes, and their location, were very unpopular with the crews and UP soon started to remove them.

GP30 Retirements

The first five GP30s to leave the active roster were retired due to wreck damage. First was five-year-old 857, after a wreck at Wamego, Kansas, in December 1967. The unit was retired in January 1968 and scrapped by UP at Omaha. GP30B 710B was wrecked at Grand Island, Nebraska, on 17 December 1970, immediately retired, and sent as trade-in to EMD on new DDA40Xs. UP 864 was wrecked at Gowanda, Colorado, in December 1972, retired in February 1973, and scrapped by UP at Omaha in September 1973. In June 1977, two GP30Bs, UP 712B and 725B, were involved in a wreck at Speer, Wyoming, and were scrapped by UP at Omaha in August.

Four more booster units were retired on 25 October 1980. UP 719B had been wrecked in August 1980 at North Platte, Nebraska, and like the others before it, was scrapped by UP at Omaha. UP 738B was sold for scrap to New Jersey scrapper Naporano in June 1981. UP 720B was sold for scrap in April 1981 to Bargains Galore, a metal salvage broker in Vancouver, Washington, but actually scrapped by Joseph Simon & Sons of Tacoma in June 1981. The fourth unit, UP 708B, donated its long hood to the repair of 853, then was sold for scrap to Erman Corp, in Kansas City in January 1981.

Between February and June 1981, six more GP30Bs were retired. Four (UP 705B, 706B, 714B, and 730B) were sold for scrap to Bargains Galore and scrapped by either Simon, or its Tacoma neighbor, General Metals. The other two, UP 727B and 734B, were retired and sold to Precision National in June 1981.

In September 1981, Union Pacific placed the 28 remaining GP30Bs into storage at Yermo, California. In August 1983, all 28 units were removed from storage and sent to Salt Lake City to have their engines and other usable components removed, to be used on 18 different 700 and 800 class GP30s that had been retired, and which UP wanted to return to service. After having their engines removed, all 28 GP30Bs were retired in September and November 1983. Of the 28 units, 18 were returned to storage at Yermo, the other 10 units remained in storage at Salt Lake City and were sold for scrap within two years. The 18 units stored at Yermo remained there until their sale in September 1986, at which time they were moved in a single movement to high-volume scrapper St. Louis Auto Shredding in National City, Illinois, a St. Louis suburb, leaving Yermo on 7 October 1986. It might be interesting to point out that St. Louis Auto Shredding had been organized in 1975 as a subsidiary of Pielet Brothers Trading Co. of Des Plaines, Illinois (Not to be confused with Pielet Brothers Scrap Iron & Metal (now Mid West Metallics), which became famous for scrapping hundreds of trade-in units for EMD). The company was associated until 1988 with Illinois Scrap Processing Co., also a Pielet company, which scrapped many trade-in units for EMD. St. Louis Auto Shredding scrapped about 100-150 railroad locomotives from 1975 to 1988, when they stopped bidding on railroad locomotive scrapping business.

The cab units that received engines from the GP30Bs included UP 703, 704, 707, 719, 727, 728, 733, 811, 821, 829, 834, 836, 853, 855, 856, 863, 865, and 866. These 18 units had been retired between late 1982 and mid 1983. Due to a growing shortage of four axle motive power following the UP/MP/WP merger, all were reinstated in September 1983 and rebuilt using the engines (along with main generator on some units) from the stored GP30Bs. UP 707 was the last to be returned to service, in January 1984. Unfortunately, the rebuild effort didn't last long, and 14 of the 18 units were retired on 15 March 1984. Their numbers included: UP 703, 704, 707, 719, 727, 728, 733, 811, 816, 821, 836, 853, 855, and 865. Also retired on the same day were UP 735, 848, and 858, which had not received replacement engines.

In June 1984, all 84 remaining GP30s were placed into Priority III status, meaning retirement after any major failure. In the two year period between the first months of 1984 and the end of 1986, UP retired and sold for scrap, 44 GP30s, along with the previously mentioned 28 GP30Bs. All went to the various salvage dealers that were active at the time, including: St. Louis Auto Shredding; Durbano Metals in Ogden, Utah; David J. Joseph Co., with salvage yards in Nebraska, Utah, and Texas; Bargains Galore, who used Simon & Sons and General Metals, both of Tacoma, Washington; Erman Corp, of Kansas City, Kansas; and Southwest Railroad Car Parts, of Jewitt, Texas. These GP30s and GP30Bs were all sold by UP as scrap, and had all been stripped of usable parts by the railroad at Omaha, Nebraska. The units were sold "as-is, where-is", by weight, and the salvage companies were responsible for movement to their various scrap yards, which at times took as long as a year after the final sale.

During the same period, in 1983-1985, another seven units were sold for operation. In January and February 1983, December 1984, and September and October 1985, as the units were retired and auctioned off by UP, Great Northern Transportation (Colorado & Eastern Railroad; COE) bought UP 708, 718, 721 813, 817, 833, and 835. This start-up shortline operator had plans to operate several shortlines using these former UP units. However, financial reality soon caught up and the units remained stored in Council Bluffs, Iowa, until at least July 1992. A total of 14 UP units were sold to this company. Most were sold to recover costs stemming from an EPA mitigation law suit for a Superfund site in Commerce City, Colorado. By 1993 all of the units had been sold for their scrap value, although at least two were later rebuilt.

UP 860 was retired in March 1985, and sold to Durbano Metals in October. Durbano has scrapped hundreds of freight cars and more than 30 of UP's retired locomotives at its salvage yard in Ogden, Utah. After being cut into gondola-sized pieces, these cars and locomotives are shipped off to the Nucor steel plant on UP's Malad Branch in northern Utah. Adjacent to the Nucor plant is a salvage yard of David Joseph Co., which has also scrapped hundreds of UP cars and locomotives over the years. At the Plymouth plant, Nucor turns the scrap steel from into steel shapes that are manufactured into steel roof trusses and steel grinding mill balls. Until approximately 1986, Nucor used retired Baldwin switchers at the Plymouth. The Baldwins were replaced by UP 860, which Durbano had found to be in operating condition, and sold to Nucor. The unit continues to operate today (1998), having been repainted into a solid red scheme.

In March 1986, UP 849 was donated to the Feather River Rail Society at Portola, California. By April 1986 only 29 GP30s remained active, from an original fleet of 152 units. By the end of 1987 there were only 10 units remaining, including UP 701, 723, 726, 804, 820, 824, 829, 844, 871, and 874.

During 1987, 16 more GP30s were retired. Thirteen were sold for scrap, to the same salvage dealers as the units during 1984-1986. By November 1987 only 13 GP30s, all A-units, remained in service on the Union Pacific.

Seven units (UP 702, 706, 711, 730, 732, 828, and 832) were sold to National Railway Equipment on 8 January 1988, and later sold to Soo Line the following August. UP 805, 828 and 832 were extensively rebuilt in September and November 1990 by Generation II, to Caterpillar-powered GP30Cs, and numbered (out of sequence) as Soo 4300-4302. The three units operated for a while in transfer service in the Minneapolis/St. Paul area and were later sold to Twin Cities & Western. The Caterpillar rebuild program was not a success, and the other five units remained stored at Soo's Shoreham Yard in Minneapolis until late 1992, when they were returned to NRE. Their current disposition is unknown. (One report has it that all five, plus three others, UP 833, 837, and 851, were sold in November 1992 to IBS Scrap of Peoria, Illinois, formerly I. Bork & Sons.)

Burlington Northern's GP39M rebuild program started in April 1988 when BN found that it needed additional medium-range horsepower units for local and secondary mainline service. Both EMD and Morrison Knudsen contracted to furnish BN each with 100 rebuilt units over a five year period. Included in what BN called GP39E (for EMD), GP39M (for M-K), these units were rebuilt from GP30 and GP35 core units into 2300 horsepower units for local service, using fully updated components comparable to production GP39-2 locomotives. With the initiation of the contracts, BN only had 30 GP30s and 44 GP35s of its own, with the other 126 "GP39" units having to come from other sources. Suddenly, there was a market for used and retired GP30s and GP35s for use as core units for the two contractors' remanufacture programs. In anticipation of the program, Helm Financial purchased UP 827 and 840 in March 1988. M-K purchased the two units in May and they were completed as BN GP39Ms 2801 and 2802 in November 1988. Over the following two years, six more ex-UP GP30s entered the program. M-K itself bought UP 726 and UP 829 in November 1988, which became BN 2807 and 2809 in February and March 1989. UP 804 and 871 were sold to Wilson Railway Co. in November 1988, and these two units became BN 2817 and 2818 in August 1989. The last two UP GP30s to be rebuilt to BN GP39Ms were UP 723 and 874. These had been sold to Railway Motive Power Services of Spokane, Washington, in September 1989, but the units' turbochargers were soon found to costly to repair. RMPS traded the two units to BN for a couple BN GP9s, and BN had the two former UP GP30s rebuilt to GP39Ms 2833 and 2834 in April 1990.

During 1987 and 1988, five units were sold to Precision National. Included were UP 715 (wrecked and sold as a stripped frame), 820, 824, 830 and 834. Most were still at Precision's Mt Vernon, Illinois, facility in 1994, but were gone by the time of Precision's bankruptcy auction in late 1997.

Beginning in January 1989, the last operating GP30s on UP were UP 701, 723, and 874. UP 701 and 723 were operating on locals in Nebraska and Kansas; UP 874 was being used on the Reno Local on the former Western Pacific. UP 701 last ran on UP on 9 January 1989 at North Platte, Nebraska. UP 723 was removed from service at Council Bluffs, Iowa, in June 1989 and was retired. UP 874 made it to July, when it was sent to Salt Lake City for mechanical work. The shop forces at Salt Lake promptly retired the unit because of its Priority III status.

UP 701 and 723 were the last 700-class GP30s to operate on UP, retired in July and June 1989.

UP's last GP30 was number 701. It was retired on 28 July 1989, then leased in October 1989 to the City of Mineral Wells, Texas, for service on the newly organized, city-owned, 22-mile long, Mineral Wells & Eastern Railroad, formerly Union Pacific's Weatherford, Mineral Wells & Northwestern Railway. UP 701 was sold to the City of Minerals Wells in February 1990 for a reported $60,000.

While no GP30Bs have been preserved, there are at least two UP GP30s that are formally situated in museums: UP 844 and UP 849. UP 849 was donated to the Feather River Rail Society, Portola, California, in March 1986, and delivered the following July.

The last 800 class GP30, UP 844, was retired in January 1989 and was donated to the Nevada State Railroad Museum at Boulder City, Nevada, in March 1989. UP 844 had last operated in the North Little Rock, Arkansas, area during mid November 1988. The retirement of GP30 844 in January 1989 allowed UP's operating steam 4-8-4 Northern to be renumbered back to its original number, 844, in June 1989. The steam 844 had been renumbered to 8444 in 1962 to avoid conflict with new GP30s. The 1944-built 4-8-4 steam locomotive had outlived its 1962-built "replacement".

Although not actually situated in museums, the eight former UP GP30s rebuilt to BN GP39Ms (BN 2801, 2802, 2807, 2808, 2817, 2818, 2833, and 2834) along with their sister GP39Ms will preserve the unique GP30 styling for many years to come.

Union Pacific's GP30 Fleet

Qty. Build
EMD Order
UP 700-734 35 2-3/63 7648  
UP 735 1 6/63 7648  
UP 700B-726B 27 4-6/63 7651  
UP 727B-739B 13 6-7/63 7649 Steam generator equipped
UP 800-874 75 7-9/62 5643  
UP 875 1 6/61 5629 Sold to UP in September 1962

Selected Bibliography

"Morrison-Knudsen 1988: Locomotive and Carbuilding Activities", by Norman E. Anderson, Pacific Rail News, Issue 308, July 1989, page 18

"Morrison-Knudsen 1989-1990 Recap", by Norman E. Anderson, Diesel Era, Volume 2, number 5, September/October 1991, page 7

"Morrison-Knudsen 1991 Year in Review", by Norman E. Anderson, Diesel Era, Volume 3, number 4, July/August 1992, page 37

"EMD's GP30, Dieselization Enters the Second Generation", by Warren L. Calloway, Diesel Era, Volume 6, Number 3, May/June 1995, page 39.

"Union Pacific GP30s", by George Cockle, Mainline Modeler, Volume 10, Number 10, October 1989, pages 66-69.

"The GP30 Story", by Win Cuisinier, Railfan & Railroad, Volume 6, Number 7, January 1987, page 42.

"UP's GP30s Fade Away", by Ken Meeker, Pacific Rail News, Issue 267, February 1986, page 8

"EMD GP30, Part I", by David Peck, Mainline Modeler, Volume 10, Number 5, May 1989, pages 52-56.

"EMD GP30, Part II, Phase I - Short Cab", by David Peck, Mainline Modeler, Volume 10, Number 6, June 1989, pages 38-43. HO scale drawing.

"EMD GP30, Part III, Phase 2 - Long Cab", by David Peck, Mainline Modeler, Volume 10, Number 7, July 1989, pages 52-55. HO scale drawing.


Photo album of UP GP30s, including detail photos for modeling use.