UP Steam Locomotive Renumbering

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This page was last updated on January 16, 2023.

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1885 Renumbering

By 1885 all of Union Pacific's associated and controlled branch roads and feeder lines each had their own individual numbering patterns. Within the 16 companies, it was reported that there were 10 engines with the number 1. By this time the Union Pacific empire had reached a size that there were confusing ranges of equipment numbers that made centralized management very difficult. On June 1, 1885, a new numbering pattern for all locomotives and cars went into effect. This included all of the roads in Nebraska, Kansas and Wyoming. In Utah and Idaho this included Oregon Short Line Railway, but not the Utah Central Railway. It also included the roads in Oregon and Washington.

"Until the system renumbering plan went into effect during 1885, each Union Pacific subsidiary line had their own set of numbers assigned to various pieces of rolling stock. While looking at the locomotive lists, you will note in the sixteen subsidiaries of the system, there were ten locomotives numbered one!" (James L. Ehernberger, "Union Pacific Equipmemnt 1885 Renumbering," 1989)

These 16 subsidiaries included the following.

Colorado Central
Colorado Central, Julesburg Branch
Denver Pacific
Denver, South Park & Pacific
Denver, Western & Pacific
Echo & Park City
Kansas Central
Kansas Pacific
Marysville & Blue Valley
Omaha & Republican Valley
Omaha, Niobrara & Black Hills
Oregon Short Line
Salt Lake & Western
St. Joe & Western
Utah Eastern
Utah & Northern

Oregon Short Line

Oregon Short Line Railway and its (by 1881) associated UP-controlled feeder lines in Utah and Idaho each had their own individual numbering patterns. In addition to Oregon Short Line Railway these roads included Utah Central Railway and Utah & Northern Railway. By 1885 the Union Pacific empire had reached a size that the quantities of locomotives and cars managed and at times shared between the roads, made overseeing the fleet difficult. On June 1, 1885, a new numbering pattern for all locomotives and cars went into effect, including Oregon Short Line Railway (but not the Utah Central Railway).

UP continued to increase its control over the Utah and Idaho roads, and by August 1889 it consolidated its interests under a new railroad called Oregon Short Line & Utah Northern Railway. The new OSL&UN began immediately to renumber its entire fleet, both standard gauge and three-feet narrow gauge, into UP's 1885 numbering pattern.

Union Pacific receivership in October 1893 allowed its creditors to split the empire into its component railroads, including moving OSL&UN into its own status as an independent road in November 1893, with its own receivers. In February 1897 the property was sold under foreclosure to the newly organized Oregon Short Line Railroad, with March 15, 1897 being the date that the sale took place.

During this entire time between its creation in 1889, and its foreclosure sale in 1897, OSL&UN's locomotives remained numbered in the 1885 Union Pacific numbering pattern. When it was organized in 1897, OSL was independent from Union Pacific, and its management immediately set about renumbering its locomotives into a new numbering pattern as evidence of that independence.

OSL's 1897 numbering pattern remained in effect until the March 1915 system-wide renumbering that brought all of UP's subsidiary roads into a common numbering pattern.

Oregon Railway & Navigation

(including Oregon Railroad & Navigation, and Oregon-Washingtom Railroad & Navigation)

ORy&N and its successor companies ORR&N and O-WRR&N, had at least two semi-independent numbering schemes. The first was ORy&N's initial scheme dating from 1879 when the company was organized. In 1887 ORy&N was leased to UP subsidiary OSL for operation, but the locomotive numbering system remained unchanged.

Union Pacific purchased controlling interest of ORy&N in 1889 and in 1890 all ORy&N locomotives were renumbered into UP's 1885 system-wide numbering pattern. This numbering pattern remained in effect until 1894 when as part of UP's 1893 restructuring and receivership, ORy&N was released and became an independent company under its own control, including a new numbering pattern for its locomotives.

In July 1894 the ORy&N entered its own receivership, with the intention of the road being independent from Union Pacific, along with releasing it from its lease to Oregon Short Line & Utah Northern. The OSL&UN entered into its own receivership, also indpendent from Union Pacific in June 1895

In 1896 Oregon Railway & Navigation was reorganized as the Oregon Railroad & Navigation. The new company was controlled by UP, GN, and NP as a compromise to the cut-throat competition for railroad traffic in the Pacific Northwest. In 1899 UP purchased the interests of its two rivals in ORy&N, but the road's locomotives continued to be numbered in the 1894 numbering pattern.

By 1910 Harriman and his Union Pacific empire had control and ownership of several railroads in the states of Oregon and Washington, and December 1910 all of them were consolidated as the Oregon-Washington Railroad & Navigation Company. The 1894 numbering pattern remained in place, with the smaller roads joining. The OWRR&N locomotive fleet continued to grow as new locomotives were purchased under Harriman's Associated Roads Common Standard designs.

1915 Renumbering

Similar to the general 1885 renumbering of equipment for all of Union Pacific and its subsidiaries, in 1915 the railroad also completed a general renumbering effort for all equipment including locomotives, freight cars, passenger cars, and motor cars.

In March 1915 Union Pacific put in place a new numbering plan that was meant to bring all of its controlled and leased railroads into a common numbering pattern. These controlled and leased railroads included OSL and OWRR&N, and most of the locomotives were renumbered into, in most cases, their final road numbers that would be used through to steam's last days in the late 1950s.

LA&SL (SPLA&SL until 1916) was still semi-independent and retained its original numbering for locomotives and cars.