|UP 2905 leads an unlikely consist on a sunny day in July 1971 (location unknown). Bob Gottier photo, author's collection.|
Today’s Throwback Thursday takes us back 44 years to July 1971. We’re trackside on the UP, in the middle of the road’s “bigger is better” motive power era. We observe an unwieldy consist of UP 2905-632-43 (C630, U25B, U50B), moving about a yard. Though there is no location given on this slide, we can still imagine what it must have been like to be trackside and watch this consist go by – what a jaw-dropper this must have been!
Throughout the 1960’s (and earlier) Union Pacific experimented in its’ quest for the best motive power with several locomotive models unique to the road (or that saw limited application elsewhere) such as the DD35A, U50C, Alco C-855, and ultimately the DDA40X’s (“Centennials”). In this search for superior motive power, the road tested products from each of the three major builders (EMD, GE, and ALCo), in a head-to-head evaluation. Knowing that large-scale replacement of first-generation motive power was not far off, this would be a critical step in wisely selecting future locomotives – not only important (and expensive) assets from an accounting perspective, but crucial to ensuring the high quality of service the road is known for. Ten ALCo C630’s were purchased in October 1966, UP 2900-2909. These would ultimately be the last ALCo’s purchased by the road, and evidently were not held in high regard by mechanical forces, departing the active roster in November 1973 after nine years of service. A sale to DMIR February 1974 sent the 2905 northward, and even further so after a resale to Canadian Ore hauler Cartier in April 1974. Extant until at least 1986, the unit’s demise is likely lost to history. The trailing unit, UP 43, represents the most apparent example of the “bigger is better” mentality - inspired by Motive Power and Machinery director David S. Neuhart - in this image. Built using the trucks and span bolsters from traded-in General Electric jet turbine power locomotives (another uniquely UP design) the unit was effectively two U25B’s on one very large frame. Built in August 1964 the unit survived just ten years, retired in January 1974 and traded to GE. By this time, the usefulness of medium-horsepower six-axle locomotives was becoming clear, as well as the virtues of an easy-to-maintain locomotive. Comparatively high maintenance, many of the distinct double-diesels were soon vanquished from UP’s roster; the last, the DDA40X’s, surviving until 1983. Perhaps the most interesting unit, in my opinion anyhow, is UP 632, the middle unit in the consist. Build by GE in May 1962, it is in fact the oldest unit of the group. Though UP had a penchant for purchasing used demonstrator locomotives from the various builders, this was indeed a production-built hi-nose U25B, the only ones so constructed except for the demo units. One of 16 U25B’s on the roster, the 632 was actually somewhat more unique than the others: in April 1969, the locomotive was rebuilt with a 12-cylinder engine and new alternator, and used as a testbed for the upcoming U50C’s. Eventually repowered with a 16-cylinder engine, the locomotive was wrecked and retired in 1972. A 1974 sale to Rock Island took the unit to Silvis, IL, where it sat while being used as a parts donor to another wrecked U25B. In 1978 the remains were rebuilt into a slug and numbered to Rock Island 283. Following the demise of the Rock in 1981, the slug was sold to Chrome Locomotive in that year and presumably scrapped.
In addition to the locomotives, there is also plenty other to see in this photo, including the yard speaker (remember those?), the old Ford pickup, the UP aircraft wing car in the background, and some other high/wide loads. I think it’s pretty safe to assume the photographer had a pretty good day trackside!
‘Til next time,