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Peak Diversity on the Union Pacific

May 6, 2014

Can you think of a 5-year interval, on any railroad, that offered more diverse motive power than 1955 to 1959 on the Union Pacific?

I can’t either.

Here’s a collection of images illustrating this amazing half-decade on the Union Pacific. (Click on any image for a larger image.)

The Age of Steam was in twilight, but you could still find steam locomotives of all sizes on the Union Pacific, especially the east end of the system.


UP 2-8-0  430, a 1900 vintage Baldwin  product, works a local in Spaulding, NE on Oct. 5, 1957


UP 2250, a  1914 Lima Mikado, is working in Council Bluffs in this 1956 view.

Umion Pacific Northern 830 hustles an eastbound freight near North Platte, NE in early 1958.

Union Pacific Northern 830 hustles an eastbound freight near North Platte, NE in early 1958.


Challenger 3959 has cut off its train and heads to the Cheyenne roundhouse in March 1956.

UP 4022 CY 1958a

Big Boy 4022 idles near the Cheyenne coal dock in September, 1958

Union Pacific’s unique gas-turbine fleet was 55 units strong in the late 1950’s, operating between Council Bluffs and Ogden.


Two-year-old Veranda gas-turbine 66 is serviced in Council Bluffs in 1956


Gas-turbine #1 awaits assignment in Cheyenne in August, 1959.

You could still catch doodlebugs in secondary passenger service until late 1958.


Brill Motor Car M-69 and a motor car trailer car shown on a local passenger train in Oregon in 1956

Steam, turbines, doodlebugs. What else was out there on the UP in the latter half of the 1950’s?  Oh yes, diesels. Specifically, first-generation diesels in the prime of their careers.


UP and  passenger partner, Milwaukee Road, E-units congregate at Denver Union Station in 1956


A spotless A-B-A set of GP’9’s handle an eastbound passenger special across the Santa Ana River in Riverside, CA  in 1958 .


EMD F-units were ubiquitous on Union Pacific freight trains.  Here F7 1457 and an F7B tag-team a westbound at Topeka, KS in 1957


ALCO power had a strong presence throughout the UP system. 11-year-old S-2 works the Omaha Yard in 1956


A matched quartet of ALCO FA’s hold their train near Cheyenne in March 1959.

The UP’s experimentation wasn’t limited to high-horsepower turbines. UP leased GM’s “concept-train” Aero-Train from November 1956 to September 1957. 


UP 1001 pauses at Columbus, NE in December 1956.

I’m not posting images of representative Baldwin or Fairbanks-Morse diesels from the time period in question because I think I’ve proved my point. Peak motive-power diversity on any U.S. railroad during any given half-decade was on the UP between 1955-1959.

3 Comments leave one →
  1. Tom Musser permalink
    May 7, 2014 7:33 am

    Excellent. Thanks.

  2. THE OZARK WEAVERS permalink
    May 7, 2014 3:06 pm

    POINT-VERY-WELL-MADE ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! Immensely-Interesting ! ! ! ! ! ! ! !

  3. May 8, 2014 10:27 pm

    Nice pics! Thanks for sharing!

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