Monday, August 27, 2012

UP 844 steaming through the West

Written by  William C. Vantuono, Editor-in-Chief

Union Pacific steam locomotive No. 844, in many ways the 150-year-old railroad’s flagship, is on the fifth leg of the UP 150 Express, a multi-segment tour celebrating the company’s 150th anniversary, sharing UP’s rich history with the communities it serves throughout the railroad’s 32,000-mile, 23-state network.

No. 844, known as the Living Legend, is traveling 13,000 miles through 15 states as part of Union Pacific’s 150th anniversary celebration. The tour makes its next stop in Grand Island at the Nebraska State Fair activities and will be on display Sept. 1–3; then to Boone, Iowa, for display during Pufferbilly Days, Sept. 7-8. The locomotive will spend several hours in Ames, Iowa, on Sept. 9 before heading to North Platte, Neb., for Rail Fest Sept. 14-16. It’s scheduled to return to its home base at Cheyenne, Wyo., on Sept. 17.

While the UP 150 Express is on display in Grand Island, Boone, Ames, and North Platte, visitors can step inside UP’s vintage Promontory baggage car that has been transformed into a state-of-the-art traveling museum. The traveling exhibit closely replicates the full-scale Building America exhibit that opened earlier this year at the Union Pacific Railroad Museum in Council Bluffs, Iowa.

“Our 150th anniversary is a milestone that provides us with the opportunity to thank our communities for supporting Union Pacific,” said Senior Vice President Corporate Relations Robert W. Turner. “We are happy to celebrate our past and look forward to continuing to meet America’s freight transportation needs. The traveling exhibit takes visitors back in time using the latest interactive touch screen technology to illustrate how Union Pacific supported communities as they were established along the way as the transcontinental railroad was built. The interactive experience culminates with the modern Union Pacific Railroad, which transports goods American businesses and consumers use every day.”

No. 844, a 4-8-4 Northern type built in 1944 by the American Locomotive Co., is the last steam locomotive built for Union Pacific and the only steam locomotive never retired by a North American Class I railroad. It was one of 10 locomotives ordered by UP in 1944 designated as class FEF-3. The FEF-3 class was similar to the earlier FEF-2 class as both were designed as passenger engines and pulled such trains as the Overland Limited, Los Angeles Limited, Portland Rose, and Challenger. UP 844 was reassigned to freight service when diesel-electric locomotives took over passenger service and operated from 1957 to 1959 in Nebraska. Like its FEF-3 fleet-mates, 844 was originally designed to burn coal, but was later converted to run on diesel oil. Saved from the scrapper’s torch in 1960, it was chosen for restoration and is now used on company and public excursion trains, along with revenue freight during ferry moves.

No. 844 locomotive has operated hundreds of thousands of miles as UP’s ambassador of goodwill. It has made appearances at Expo ’74 in Spokane, the 1981 opening of the California State Railroad Museum in Sacramento, the 1984 World’s Fair in New Orleans, and the 50th Anniversary Celebration of Los Angeles Union Station in 1989. During the 1990s, 844 pulled numerous Denver Post Cheyenne Frontier Days special trains and visited several Oklahoma cities during the Oklahoma Centennial in 2007. In 2010, 844 traveled to Harlingen, Tex., and Milliken, Colo., to be a part of heritage celebrations in those communities.

For a video of UP 844 in action, CLICK HERE.