Thursday, December 26, 2013

Cool Chromes -- Union Pacific's Challenger

Cool Chromes is a semi-regular feature that looks at recent slides that have gone through the scanner. All the latest scans can be found here
Union Pacific 3985; Harriman, Wyo.; May 26, 1985
From the time it was restored in 1981, Union Pacific No. 3985 has been (off and on) the largest steam locomotive operating in North America, if not the world. No. 3985 was built by the American Locomotive Company in 1943 and was one of 105 nearly identical locomotives ordered by Union Pacific with the 4-6-6-4 wheel arrangement -- UP dubbed this class of locomotives as Challengers. Today, only two Challengers survive, with sister 3977 on display in North Platte, Neb. No. 3985 was taken out of regular service in 1957 and officially removed from the roster in 1962. Restoration for its second life as an excursion engine began in 1979.

Union Pacific 3985; Laramie, Wyo.; May 1985
My first encounter with No. 3985 was on May 26, 1985, on an excursion out of Denver, Colo., heading to Laramie, Wyo. UP operated many fan trips over Sherman Hill (located between Laramie and Cheyenne, Wyo.) with diesels pulling the train from Denver into Wyoming where the steam locomotive would take over. The Sherman Hill trips were famous for their numerous quality photo runbys, and Steve Lee and the rest of the UP Steam Team didn't disappoint -- plenty of smoke was the norm. The two shots above and the one below were taken on this particular trip.
Union Pacific 3985; Sherman, Wyo.; May 1985
I would do another Sherman Hill trip in 1988, but for this post let's skip ahead. Our next shot shows Union Pacific sending both of its active steam locomotives -- No. 3985 along with 4-8-4 No. 844 -- to Railfair at the California State Railroad Museum in Sacramento in 1991. The two are seen at a classic California location, Keddie Wye, on their way to the Fair. No. 3985 would return to California in 1992 for the convention of the National Railway Historical Society in San Jose.
Union Pacific 844 and 3985; Keddie, Calif.; April 27, 1991
Following the San Jose convention in 1992, No. 3985 made its most ambitious trip off UP rails, heading to the former Clinchfield Railroad in the Appalachian Mountains. The Clinchfield operates a Santa Train that distributes toys to the towns along the line, and 1992 was the 50th running of the famous train. To celebrate the anniversary, CSX (successor to the Clinchfield) arranged for 3985 to come east. The Clinchfield at one time operated Challengers very similar to UP's, so 3985 was given a makeover to "Clinchfield 676" (one number higher than the last actual Clinchfield 4-6-6-4). Our final shot of the day shows the 50th Anniversary Santa Train at Boody, Va., on November 21, 1992. And you can find a complete set of Union Pacific Steam Program photos here.
"Clinchfield 676"; Boody, Va.; November 21, 1992

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