Union Pacific Equipment Records
Index For This Page
This page was last updated on July 28, 2014.
Beginning in 1926, Union Pacific's mechanical department maintained a large ledger book that recorded all of the railroad's equipment, including steam locomotives, freight cars, passenger cars, and diesel and gas turbine locomotives, along with thousands of former freight cars and passenger cars converted to non-revenue purposes. These non-revenue cars, known as "Roadway", included snow plows and cranes and derricks, as well as hundreds of boxcars, flatcars and tank cars retired from revenue service.
The title shown at the top of each page varied according to the type of equipment:
- Record of Freight Train Cars (includes cabooses)
- Record of Freight Train Cars (8/53, 5000 sheets printed)
- Record of Passenger Train Cars and Work Equipment (circa 1926) (includes cabooses)
- Record of Passenger Train Cars, Cabooses and Roadway Equipment (2/54, 500 sheets printed)
- Record of Locomotives (circa 1926) (includes early Streamliners and diesel units)
- Record of Locomotives and Diesel Units (2/54, 500 sheets printed)
The date range appears to be from January 1, 1926 through the mid 1980s, with a few renumber and retirement dates as late as 1986. Included are the cars leased by UP to Rock Island, and returned to UP in mid 1980.
With over 5200 pages, the entire book was microfilmed on three rolls of 16mm microfilm in 1992. Copies of all three rolls were obtained in mid 1995 courtesy of William Kratville at the Union Pacific museum in Omaha.
Roll 1 and Roll 2 cover the freight cars and cabooses. Roll 3 includes the last freight coverage, and the remainder of the railroad's equipment.
Each page includes either 50 lines of data, one line per car, or 100 car numbers, with the page being divided vertically, 1-49 on the left side and 50-99 on the right side.
Each car number is shown, along with its build date, manufacturer, cost, previous number, renumber date (Converted or Changed From), and retirement date (Month Vacated), as well as a Remarks column.
Some of the early pages were typewritten, but most were handwritten, with the associated variations in legibility and readability. The record book was big and heavy, and many pages received damage while the book was being handled. Also, over time, the pages that were updated or referenced regularly, received damage from skin oils, and dirt and dust that was attracted to the oil, making the data at such locations unreadable due to smudges. (These dirt smudges are why the use of gloves is mandatory in today's archives.)
The file name in the caption for each image reflects the railroad name (LA&SL, OSL, OWRR&N, etc.), along with the type of service, then the number series on each page, then the roll number (r1, r2, r3), then a simple sequence number.
What's In A Name
All three rolls of microfilm were digitized in late 2011. At that time, for indexing and cataloging, it became necessary to assign a name to each image. The scheme used assigned a roll number (r1, r2, r3, for roll 1, roll 2, roll 3), then a simple sequence number for each image as it appeared on the roll, meaning that "r2-1035" designates roll 2, image 1035.
The Digital Images
Back in 1995, I received three rolls of 16mm microfilm, containing over 5200 images of Union Pacific equipment records. The gift was unsolicited, but I immediately went looking for a microfilm reader to see what was there. After a long search, I ended up at the LDS church's genealogy library. Using one their hundreds of microfilm readers, I was at least able to develop a very basic list of what type of records were on each roll. Over the years, each time I came across the microfilms, I would think, "someday I need to do something with these." Back in 2004, I sent the films to a friend who tried to get the microfilm digitized by a "friend of a friend," but the effort resulted in a set of totally disappointing, low resolution images that were completely useless.
Fast forward to late 2011. Several times over the years I had tried to find a commercial business that specialized in the digitization of microfilm. I had called a couple companies; and emailed several more, and the prices were as varied as the sources. Finally, in late 2011, I found a local company in Salt Lake City, and they did a fine job at producing a full set of images, each at 300 dpi. The price for the digitization was surprisingly low, considering the historical value of what was on the microfilm. Even better was that another Union Pacific historian helped with the cost.
All in all, the project has been very rewarding, since we Union Pacific historians had all, at one time or another, had our hands on what has become known as "Virginia's Big Book," named for Virginia Abel at UP's headquarters in Omaha. Virginia Abel was the lady in charge of equipment records for Union Pacific until her retirement in 1995. I met her in 1995, and she let me photocopy a few of the pages of what she called "the equipment register." Since the records were way too extensive to ever be transcribed and computerized, she protected the large book (about 12 inches thick) as if it contained pure gold. The story goes that in the late 1980s, the book was almost thrown away as being obsolete, but Virginia rescued it. In 1992, she was able to get the book microfilmed as the valuable historical record that it is. I was told that when she retired, the book was immediately moved to the Union Pacific Museum. I last saw the book in 1995, and I've heard that it has gone missing a couple times, but it has always turned up. As far as I know, today it sits safely in some undisclosed location within the museum in Council Bluffs, Iowa.
In what seemed an almost insurmountable task, I set about at least looking at each digital image, to determine what was on each page. It soon became apparent that the images were about 25 per cent out of sequence, making the search for a specific piece of equipment definitely not a simple page by page effort. So, I needed to make an index of some sort. Just the boxcars take up over 1700 pages, but to their benefit, steam locomotives are on just 225 pages. Passenger cars are on 237 pages. UP's non-revenue Roadway (maintenance of way) equipment, take up a bit over 700 pages. Included in the hundreds and hundreds of Roadway cars, are the railroad's snow plows and cranes and hoists, along with hundreds of retired steam locomotive tenders, which ended their service lives as tank cars assigned to Roadway service. Numerous passenger cars ended their lives in Roadway service. Finally in July 2014, I was able to set aside time to look at each image and give it a file name that matched its contents.
I have uploaded all of the images to several galleries in a separate folder called Union Pacific Equipment Record, for anyone to use as they see fit.
(View a basic index of the UP Equipment Record; PDF; 4 pages)
Please note that the page numbers shown in the index are in sequence with the actual images on the original microfilms. The images in the photo albums do not include the numerous blank and unused pages, as well as several "re-takes" in which a page was not properly aligned when initially positioned, and a second exposure was needed.
- Automobile and Box Cars - 1728 pages
- Ballast Cars and HK Hopper Cars - 160 pages
- Business Cars - 15 pages
- Cabooses - 94 pages
- Covered Hoppers - 250 pages
- Diesel Locos - 162 pages
- Express Box Cars - 5 pages
- Flat Cars - 250 pages
- Furniture - 8 pages
- Gondola Cars - 389 pages
- GTE and Steam Tenders - 31 pages
- Hopper Cars, not HK Hopper cars - 234 pages
- Misc - LNP&W - 1 page
- Misc - Mt. Hood - 3 pages
- Misc - P&IN - 2 pages
- Misc - Spokane International - 9 pages
- Miscellaneous - 8 pages
- Motor Cars - 15 pages
- Ore Cars - 26 pages
- Passenger Cars LA&SL - 20 pages
- Passenger Cars OSL - 20 pages
- Passenger Cars OWRR&N - 45 pages
- Passenger Cars UP - 150 pages
- Refrigerator Cars - 57 pages
- Roadway Equipment (MW) - 716 pages
- Rock Island - 66 pages
- Steam Locos - 217 pages
- StJ&GI - 31 pages
- Stock Cars - 189 pages
- Streamliner Cars - 27 pages
- Tank Cars - 43 pages