Union Pacific Roadway Index

Index For This Page

This page was last updated on April 24, 2022.

(Return to UP Index Page)


Railroads move commodities from point 'A' to point 'B.' To do that, they use railroad cars that they own, other railroads own, or cars that are owned by private companies. Standard designs are used, allowing any car to go anywhere. This is called 'interchange' and is governed by government rules for safety, and by the interchange rules of the railroads' own trade association, the American Association of Railroads, or AAR. Another name for cars used in interchange is to call them revenue cars, to distinguish them from non-revenue cars, or cars used by the railroads themselves, on their own tracks, for their own purposes.

These special purpose cars, or non-revenue cars, are used by the railroads to maintain their own tracks and right-of-way, or their own bridges and buildings. The generic name for this is 'Maintenance of Way' or MOW, or simply MW.

The types of cars used in MW service include box cars, flat cars, tank cars, and several specialized cars that have been converted for special purposes. In earlier times, these special cars included bunk cars, and kitchen and dining cars used by the railroad's employees as they work at remote locations and need someplace to eat and sleep. There were hundreds of retired passenger cars that ended their careers as bunk cars and kitchen and dining cars.

In addition to using cars retired from revenue service, there are numerous cars built specifically for non-revenue service. These include snow plows, wreck derricks and cranes, and pile drivers.

Roadway Service

Roadway service was Union Pacific's term for equipment assigned to non-revenue service (snow plows and derricks), and maintenance of way (trackwork and bridges and buildings), along with other assignments under the overall name of "Company Service". The assignment was usually abbreviated in equipment records as "Rdwy."

Union Pacific has had a large fleet of Roadway cars throughout its entire history, with its Roadway fleet usually consisting of older cars that have outlived their usefulness in revenue service.

Jim Ehernberger adds:

Looking back as far as 1910, I have a copy of a Form 70 that referred to these as "Roadway Service Equipment," so it was here a long while. The system-wide renumbering plan for all equipment in 1885 used the term "Car Equipment" for all cars, both revenue and non-revenue. In the 1930-1951 Form 70s they were titled "Roadway Equipment."

I personally believe that using this term was actually proper. The reason being is that this equipment is not only for the Maintenance of Way Department, but it also applied to many other departments: Mechanical, Stores, Dining Car and Hotel, Bridges and Buildings, Communications, and probably various others. It simplified the fact that all of this equipment was in non-revenue service. Looking at the listings, especially in later years, you can see some pattern for assignments, but filling in the blanks was their main goal, otherwise they would not have been able to keep each department as a separate record, etc.

Roadway Equipment fits them all nicely. Some cranes, for example, are used by the M/W, but also some are store cranes, and some were used around roundhouses and ash pits, etc., in steam days. Derricks and snow plows are assigned to the mechanical department, but used for operating purposes. (Jim Ehernberger, email dated June 25, 2015)

Dick Harley adds:

In the late 1800s and early 1900s, there was probably as much new construction of "roadway" as there was maintenance of existing roadway. So only some of the equipment was actually used for both new construction and Maintenance of Way purposes. The term Roadway Equipment would cover it all. Historical precedent would keep the name even as new construction declined and maintenance became a larger percentage. (Dick Harley, email dated June 25, 2015)

In 1926, Union Pacific created its Equipment Record ledger. The blank sheets used to record the numbers and description of equipment assigned to maintenance were imprinted as "Union Pacific System, Record of Passenger Train Cars and Work Equipment," with some of the earliest typewritten entries included as "Roadway Flat" and "Roadway Ballast." Other typewritten entries were for "Boarding" and "Tool." In 1954, additional blank sheets were printed, and labeled as "Union Pacific Railroad Company, Record of Passenger Train Cars, Cabooses and Roadway Equipment."

It wasn't until late 1973 that the term "MofW" was first seen in internal communications. These same internal communications also used the term "outfit" cars when referring to this same non-revenue equipment. The term "Roadway" is seen in the Equipment Record as late as 1983 when the Canada Discovery Train was purchased, shown as "See Roadway 920000-920016" (see r3-0629).

An early use of MofW instead of B&B (for Bridges & Buildings) was when 20 American-series sleepers were converted to B&B service, on a painting and lettering drawing initially dated June 1968. A change in December 1968 on the same drawing specifically changed the stenciling from "B.&B. to M. of W. Bunk Cars."

On Union Pacific, the use of "Roadway" cars assigned to non-revenue maintenance of way activities was in line with the Roadmaster (or Road Master) as the job title of the company official in charge of the maintenance of tracks, bridges and buildings.

The term "Roadway" dates back to the last 20 years of the 1800s, and was a common term used to describe a railroad's bridges and track structure, including the rail, ties, and ballast. When the federal Interstate Commerce Commission embarked on its effort to assign cost and value to the nation's railroads in the mid 1910s, the agency used the "Roadway" term on all of its forms to describe all costs associated with anything other than actual rolling equipment, or buildings and structures.

Equipment Numbering

Prior to the change in 1959, to distinguish their non-revenue cars from their revenue cars, Union Pacific used a '0' prefix for the car numbers, such as 03000 for a rotary snow plow, or 03110 for a pile driver. As the railroad grew and grew, and gained subsidiaries and feeder branchlines, the fleet of non-revenue cars continued to grow. Numerous attempts were made at a common numbering system for all of Union Pacific's various subsidiary companies, and each continued the use of a '0' prefix for non-revenue equipment. Examples include 0975 for an OWRR&N Roadway boarding bunk car, 0152 for an OSL Roadway gondola, and 010011 for an LA&SL pile driver.

For a researcher, there are two milestones to keep in mind for Union Pacific's cars assigned to Roadway service. The first is the 1936 lease by Union Pacific of its owned and controlled companies: Oregon Short Line Railroad in Idaho and parts of Utah, Montana and Wyoming; Oregon-Washington Railroad & Navigation Company in Oregon, Washington and a part of Idaho; and Los Angeles & Salt Lake Railroad in California, Nevada and Utah. On January 1, 1936, Union Pacific leased these subsidiary companies for operation. (Read more about what Union Pacific called a "unification")

Each company's non-revenue Roadway equipment was also leased to Union Pacific. There are numerous photos that show non-revenue equipment with the reporting marks of the leased railroad, but fully lettered as Union Pacific. Leasing the non-revenue equipment also gave Union Pacific the freedom to move the equipment around the system as required. There is some indication in the records that after 1936, whatever equipment that was transferred from revenue accounts, to non-revenue accounts, was retired as being "Worn Out," then "sold" to Union Pacific. The equipment was usually kept in service on the leased railroad, but not always. As Union Pacific changed its corporate structure in the 1980s, there was no longer a need to keep the leased companies separate, and in December 1987, all were formally merged into Union Pacific.

New Number Series, 1959

The second milestone for Union Pacific's non-revenue Roadway equipment is 1959, when Union Pacific gathered all the non-revenue equipment into a common number series, setting aside the 900000 series of numbers. In 1958 Union Pacific had started using a new computerized car scheduling system, which did not allow leading zeros in the car numbers. The system-wide 900000 series numbering scheme would allow easier movement of non-revenue equipment among the leased companies. (Read more about UP's new computer system)

Beginning in 1959, all non-revenue equipment in the new 900000 series was renumbered to match the new numbering scheme, with zeros added to fill out the six-digit number. The rotary snow plow and pile driver mentioned above were renumbered from 03000 to 903000, and from 03110 to 903110, respectively. The OSL gondola mentioned above was renumbered from 0152 to 900152; the OWRR&N bunk car was renumbered from 0975 to 900975, and the LA&SL pile driver was renumbered from 010011 to 910011. There were numerous conflicts, but these were worked out as they became apparent.

After 1959, any equipment retired from revenue service and transferred into non-revenue service was renumbered directly into the 900000 series numbers. More research is needed to answer the question of ownership of non-revenue equipment in the period between 1936 and 1959, but after 1959, all 900000-series cars appear to have been owned by Union Pacific for the purposes of maintaining the track and right-of-way of the leased railroads (OSL, LA&SL, OWRR&N and others) leased from 1936 through 1987.

Painting and Lettering

Until 1952, research among photos indicates that wrecking cranes (derricks) and locomotive cranes, pile drivers and rotary plows were painted like steam locomotives, meaning Black with Aluminum lettering. Painting standards called for MOW "house cars" to be painted with C.S. 22 - No.32 Outfit Car Gray on their sides and roofs. Ends, trucks and underframes were called out to be No. 33 Freight Car Red. (Dick Harley, via an email dated February 22, 2012)

In December 1952 instructions were issued that repainting outfit cars, exterior of cars, except trucks, should be with aluminum paint. Trucks, except wheels and axles, to be painted with black freight car paint. Stenciling on sides and ends, locomotive black enamel. Stenciling on truck bolsters was to be white lead paste. (From an original document by John Weatherby in Union Pacific public relations files, dated May 6, 1970 (code 050670w); courtesy of Thornton Waite, February 24, 2002)

Kenefick Green (Roadway Green)

Beginning in the late 1968, many types of Roadway equipment, including cabooses, began to be painted a light green color. Painting diagrams of the era do not show a specific name, but the color was known among employees as "Roadway Green." The same color is commonly known among railfans as "Kenefick Green." The color is named for John Kenefick, who came to Union Pacific in April 1968 as vice president of operations, and became president of UP from 1971 to 1986. Union Pacific's snow plows, derricks and cranes (and their associated trains) continued to be painted Aluminum.

The earliest reference the new green color in Union Pacific documents is dated December 24, 1968, on the the Painting, Lettering & Numbering drawing for the first 20 cars of the American-series sleepers when they were converted to Roadway Bunk cars in 1969. The PL&N drawing was issued on June 6, 1968, with a revision dated December 24, 1968 that changed the Aluminum paint, to green paint, with the note for Revision B reading as, "12-24-68, Changed exterior color scheme of 906052-906071 from Aluminum to our approved green paint and changed stenciling B.&B. to M. of W. Bunk Cars." The first cars were completed in May 1969.

John C. Kenefick first came to Union Pacific in April 1968 as vice president of operations. In July 1969, he was named as UP's executive vice president, and in September 1970, he was named as UP's CEO, replacing Edd H. Bailey, who had retired as CEO, but remained as president. In October 1971, Kenefick became UP CEO and president when Bailey fully retired. He held the president and CEO position for almost 15 years, until January 1986 when he became an officer of Union Pacific Corporation, the parent company of UPRR.

While Robert Darwin was researching his book about Cheyenne, Wyoming, in the early and mid-1990s, Union Pacific president Edd Bailey mentioned to him that Kenefick's wife suggested the green color during a luncheon in Omaha and that Kenefick acted on the suggestion in order to please her. (Robert Darwin, email dated June 27, 2013)

Many observers have noticed that the so-called "Kenefick Green" is very similar to New York Central's "Jade Green." New York Central's green is actually called Century Green, first used beginning as early as June 1959 on NYC cabooses. There is a story that NYC's Century green was picked from a stack of paint swatches by Ruth Wetzel, an employee of the New York Central's engineering department, and wife of NYC design engineer Don Wetzel. Don Wetzel worked for New York Central from 1950-1967, and is best known for designing and operating the jet-powered RDC car tested on NYC in 1966.

This New York Central green is not the same as the later Penn Central green, which was called Deepwater (or Deep-Water) green. The Penn Central green has its own backstory. The first issue of a special Penn Central employee newspaper called Penn Central Post, dated March 1, 1968, published to coincide with merger day, included an article about the new color used on freight cars coming out of the former PRR Hollidaysburg, Pennsylvania, shops. Quoting the article, "the new Penn Central color, officially called Deep-Water Green.")

An unconfirmed source has said that in 1968 Kenefick directed the change in color for Union Pacific's maintenance of way (Roadway) equipment, reportedly because he had noticed during his years on New York Central, from 1954 to 1968, that light green was more durable than other colors used by railroads, especially the bright aluminum then being used by Union Pacific. In comments made in early 2006, Mr. Kenefick mentioned that any light green would have worked and he found it amusing that everyone nicknamed it Kenefick Green. He made sure that the interviewer understood it was not Penn Central Green!

There was a later color control card, possibly dated after 1979, showing the color as "C.S. 22 - No. 35 "Quartz Green Exterior Freight Car Enamel."

In January 1985 UP began painting former MP maintenance of way equipment into the "Kenefick" green scheme. (Pacific News, July 1985, page 22)

Many of the cabooses assigned to maintenance of way service were painted in the standard Roadway paint scheme of the period, either Aluminum or Roadway Green, the same utilitarian paint scheme as all other non-revenue equipment. Roadway green was used on several cabooses renumbered in late 1989 for use as offices on Roadway projects.

As a side note, for its bridges, Union Pacific used a similar color called "Green Finish Coat Bridge Paint" with the color control card dated September 1970. Comparing the Roadway green freight car paint with the bridge paint is difficult because they have different sheens, similar to flat vs. glossy.

MoW (Roadway) Updates

July 2019
"Union Pacific in July took delivery of a RELCO built MofW work train set #958200. The set is made up of special flats/gons and a rebuilt SD-40-2 locomotive (former number unknown); the set was seen working near Sidney (Nebraska) on July 22nd." (The Mixed Train, Camerail Club, Issue 7, 2019, page 6)

Buda Cars

UP's Buda Cars -- Information about the small inspection cars used by Union Pacific and its subsidiary roads in the late 1920s to the 1960s.

Burro Cranes

UP Burro Cranes -- Information about UP's small Burro cranes, used for roadway maintenance.

Crane or Derrick?

Cranes and Derricks -- Brief summary information about cranes and derricks, and the companies that build them.

Hi-Rail Cranes

Hi-Rail Cranes -- Information about UP's cranes equipped to operate on both rails and highways.


Caterpillar Sidebooms -- Information about UP's use of off-rail Caterpillar pipe-laying sidebooms.

Lucky Loaders

"In June 1984, Union Pacific placed its first "Lucky Loader" into service. These are specialized cranes that are equipped to travel along the tops of gondolas to distribute and reclaim track materials, such as spikes, tie plates, and connector bars. The Lucky Loader cranes are equipped with 20-foot arms and 45-inch diameter electromagnets." (Union Pacific INFO magazine, June 1984, page 19)

UP Lucky Loaders -- A roster listing of the six known "Scrap Loader Cranes" built by Lucky Manufacturing Co. of Huntsville, Alabama.

Roadway Trains

UP Roadway Trains -- Listings of UP's derrick and snowplow trains, mostly in October 1974.

Miscellaneous Notes

900000-series Notes -- Miscellaneous notes about UP's Roadway equipment.

Equipment Record Book

A review of Union Pacific's equipment record book reveals that there are 712 pages of non-revenue equipment, with a maximum of 50 cars shown on each page. Some pages are duplicated, as they were transferred to new pages to clean up the record, but the remaining pages show the many hundreds of cars assigned to non-revenue Roadway service:

Union Pacific Roadway Equipment Record

Roster Listings

900000-Series, 1984 Listing -- The Roadway (company service) fleet for maintenance of way in 1984

900000-Series Cranes and Derricks -- Listings of UP's derricks and cranes.

900000-Series Former Passenger Cars -- Information about non-revenue cars converted from passenger cars.

900000-Series Miscellaneous -- Includes former express box cars, retired tenders used for fuel storage, and heavy-duty flat cars rebuilt from Harriman-era baggage cars.

900000-Series Snow Plows -- An index page for information about all of UP's snow plows; includes articles and roster listings.

900000-Series Jordan Spreaders -- Information and roster listings of UP's fleet of Jordan Spreaders.

900000-Series Pile Drivers -- Information and roster listings of UP's fleet of pile drivers.