Union Pacific Excursion Trains

Visiting the Chicago area Summer 1996

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Union Pacific 844 @ Elmhurst, IL 8/25/96

Union Pacific 844 is a 4-8-4 "Northern" class engine built in 1944. It is the last steam locomotive purchased by the UP. Unlike other steam locomotives which have been restored after years displayed in museums and city parks, 844 has never left the UP roster being saved to pull special trains. From the early 1960's until the middle 1980's 844 carried the number 8444. That's because UP was numbering diesels in 800's and renumbered the steamer to avoid confusion. They no longer give diesels 3-digit numbers and when diesel #844 (a GP-30 in case anyone cares) was retired, 844 got her old number back. The steam engine outlived its successor! She returned to the rails in 1996 after a lengthy overhaul


Union Pacific E9's at Illinois Railway Museum 9/1/96

844 was too heavy for a particular bridge so could not be used to pull the excursion out to IRM so UP sent their meticulously restored classic E units to handle the job.

I should explain that the UP "B" (cabless) unit was among those sold to Amtrak in the early 70's. When Amtrak bought new locomotives some B units were gutted of engines and other locomotive components and were made into steam generator cars to help cope with the transitional period when Amtrak had many new locomotives equipped to pull electrically heated cars but still had a number of trains made of cars that needed steam. After the transitional period, the UP unit was sold to the Alaska RR, then went to a museum. UP reaquired the unit and had it rebuilt back into a locomotive following the same updated design used on the two "A" units. Ironically the same shops that stripped the unit was the one which rebuilt it years later.

The steam generator car shown is also an ex-Union Pacific "B" unit which went to Amtrak eventually receiving the same conversion. It was later sold to a Michigan shortline before ending up in IRM's collection where it remains today, its glory days as a locomotive unit only a memory.

Major and startling update about that B unit-turned-boiler car! IRM acquired a couple of former Burlington Northern / Metra E9AM units from MARC which runs the commuter trains between Baltimore and Washingon. When Metra disposed of them, MARC bought a few and used them briefly. These units had been rebuilt in the 1970's for commuter service with updated components but still used the original twin engine configuration in the manner of all E's. A small railroad called the Wisconsin & Southern wanted a nice matching set of E's for their business train and they made a deal with IRM. IRM sent the E9B boiler car and one of the E9AM's to WSOR which transplanted all of the guts into the boiler car turning it back into a locomotive. Together with two other E units, WSOR now has a matched set of A-B-A E units. Not only that but WSOR's B-unit is now the only one anywhere running in its original configuration (leaving aside the more modern engine components) because all the UP E units including the B contain only a single larger engine which is radically different than the way E's were constructed. At some point in the distant future this unit will be returned to IRM.


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