Union Pacific provides memorable weekend for railfans of all ages

Click on pictures below to enlarge.
Images of diesels are courtesy of Union Pacific.

No. 844 drivers

Builder's plate from SD70ACe
by Joseph Stachler

OMAHA - Railfans and families gathered outside the Qwest Center in downtown Omaha to get a look at one of the select few steam locomotives still owned and operated by a major railroad. No. 844 is a 4-8-4 Northern and was the last steam locomotive built for Union Pacific. The steamer was parked on an adjacent siding where people could get a close view of the the engine, oil tender, water tender, four passenger service cars and a freight car.

But some of 844's thunder was stolen from a surprise appearance of two brand new Electro-Motive diesel-electric locomotives (model SD70ACe) painted in vintage roadnames. No. UP 1982 bears the two-tone blue scheme of the Missouri Pacific Lines and No. UP 1983 was decorated in Western Pacific green, orange and silver.

Even if kids and their parents were not aware of the historical significance of railroad names from the past gaining new life on the rails, everyone was captivated by the striking new locomotives. Union Pacific Chairman and CEO Dick Davidson chose to unveil the locomotives alongside the vintage steamer on July 30. Omaha, Nebraska is the home of Union Pacific corporate headquarters.

"It is important that we take an historical perspective of who we are and how we got here," Davidson said. "Our reputation as Americaís greatest railroad has been strengthened by the many lines that have become a part of the UP. It is time we pay homage to those railroads and the generations of men and women who helped to build a great nation and the foundation for our future."

See these two new diesels in operation (8 mb)
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UP's Heritage Series will see a total of six new locomotives painted in the vintage liveries of railroads that have since become part of Union Pacific. The other four roadnames will be Chicago & North Western, Missouri-Kansas-Texas (Katy), Southern Pacific, and Denver & Rio Grande. The locomotives will be added to the roster of Union Pacific's fleet of freight engines in service across the country.

"Thousands of Union Pacific employees will soon reach retirement age and to continue to meet our service demands, thousands of new employees will be hired to take their place," Davidson said. "We want to instill in these new employees the importance of UPís rich history and the major role each of these railroads played."

The use of the older roadnames and logos also plays a role in maintaining Union Pacific's trademarks of these other railroad identities. Union Pacific recently sought licensing deals with model railroad manufacturers to be paid royalties for the use of their logos and decorations on products. That extends to the use of the logos and decorations of the older railroads they now own.

Union Pacific also owns No. 3985, an articulated steam locomotive known as the Challenger. It is the largest operating steam locomotive in the world. Today, Union Pacific is the largest railroad in the United States due to the acquisitions of such railroads as Missouri Pacific.

Shrewd railfans also noticed the lack of General Motors' distinctive GM logo on the Electro-Motive builder's plate of the new engines. GM sold their Electro-Motive Division (also known as EMD), which had been developing and building diesel-electric locomotives since the 1930s, to Greenbriar Equity Group and Berkshire Partners LLC in April, 2005.

July 31, 2005