Union Pacific 3985
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Union Pacific 3985, also known as the "Challenger", is a four-cylinder simple articulated 4-6-6-4 "Challenger" type steam locomotive owned and previously operated by the Union Pacific Railroad for their heritage fleet. Built in July 1943 by the American Locomotive Company (ALCO) of Schenectady, New York, No. 3985 is one of only two Union Pacific Challengers left in existence and the only one to have operated in excursion service.
|Union Pacific 3985|
The locomotive operated in revenue service until 1957. It was initially stored at the roundhouse in Cheyenne, Wyoming until 1975, when it was placed outdoors beside the Cheyenne depot. After a group of Union Pacific employees restored the locomotive to operating condition in 1981, No. 3985 was placed into excursion service as part of the Union Pacific's heritage fleet and became the largest operational steam locomotive in the world, a title it would hold until the restoration of Union Pacific Big Boy No. 4014 in May 2019. It remained in operation until mechanical problems took it offline in 2010, after which it was stored at the Union Pacific's Steam Shops in Cheyenne, Wyoming. Following No. 4014's restoration on May 1, 2019, No. 3985 was officially retired from excursion service in January 2020 as a result of its poor mechanical condition, with No. 4014 officially serving as the replacement for No. 3985.
Designed by UP chief mechanical engineer Otto Jabelmann in 1941, UP 3985 was part of the second-order of this second version of the Challenger. The design drew on recent experience with the enormous 4-8-8-4 Big Boy locomotives, and resulted in a locomotive in working order weighing some 317 short tons (288 t; 283 long tons) accompanied by a tender weighing 174 short tons (158 t; 155 long tons) when 2/3 loaded. Calculated tractive effort is 97,350 lbf (433.0 kN). The Challenger class was intended to speed up freight operations on the 0.82% grades across Wyoming; the 1.14% Wasatch Range climb east from Ogden was to be conquered by the Big Boys without helpers. The Challengers and Big Boys arrived on the scene just as traffic was surging in preparation for American participation in World War II.
Revenue service and retirement (1943-1957)
UP 3985 was part of the 4664-4 group of Challengers built in 1943. Although this group consisted of 31 locomotives, only 25 went to the Union Pacific. The other six were leased to the Denver and Rio Grande Western Railroad after completion, where they operated until the Rio Grande sold them to the Clinchfield Railroad in 1947. While the Union Pacific Challengers operated primarily in freight service, a few were assigned to passenger trains.
UP 3985 operated in its last "revenue" train service in 1957. The locomotive was officially retired in 1962 and was stored in the Union Pacific's roundhouse with Union Pacific Big Boy No. 4023 at Cheyenne, Wyoming. In 1975, it was brought out of storage and placed on an outdoor display beside the Cheyenne depot.
Restoration and excursion career (1981-2010)
Beginning in 1979, a group of Union Pacific employee-volunteers started work on restoring the locomotive and it was returned to operating condition in April 1981. The locomotive made its first run during Railfair 1981, where it attended the opening of the California State Railroad Museum in Sacramento, along with Union Pacific 844, which had been in excursion service since 1960. Originally built to burn coal, it was successfully converted to burn No. 5 fuel oil in 1990.
In 1991, No. 3985 went to Railfair '91 along with 844 and DDA40X No. 6936. The excursion also included UP 4-6-0 No. 1243 on a flatbed. The next year, the 3985 went to the National Railroad Historical Society's convention in San Jose, California. It participated in activities along with Southern Pacific 4-8-4 No. 4449 and SP 4-6-2 No. 2472.
In 1999, the 3985 double-headed with No. 844 on the way to Railfair 1999. After the event, the 3985 was forced to pull the return trip with the 844 dead in tow after the FEF-3 suffered a tube failure on June 24 while on display.
The locomotive has pulled many excursion trains in three alternate identities during its career. In November 1992, No. 3985 was chosen to pull the Clinchfield Santa Train as Clinchfield Railroad No. 676, the number chosen as a continuation of the CRR's E-3 locomotives, which were numbered 670–675. In May 1993, the locomotive masqueraded as sister engine No. 3967 as part of the 40th anniversary of the Rocky Mountain Railroad Club excursion, in which the original 3967, which was scrapped in 1960, pulled the same excursion on May 17, 1953. During the same time period, the engine was renumbered again to 3718, the number being a continuation of the few 4664-4 locomotives that were converted to run on oil in 1945, which were numbered 3708–3717.
Stationed at Cheyenne, Wyoming with other equipment in the UP's heritage collection, it was used for excursion trains and occasionally mainline freight on ferry moves. The most notable freight run of No. 3985 took place in 1990, in which American President Lines had a special request for the locomotive to pull a 143-car doublestack train between Cheyenne, Wyoming and North Platte, Nebraska. It was in the maintenance shop at Cheyenne in 2007 and underwent necessary repairs for service in 2008.
The locomotive made its last runs during the Missouri River Eagle Tour, which took place from September 30 to October 14, 2010. As part of the tour, No. 3985 was selected to pull the Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey Circus train from Cheyenne to Denver, Colorado, where the circus held a special performance to celebrate P.T. Barnum's birthday. Following the conclusion of the tour, it was taken out service for repairs and placed into storage.
Retirement from excursion service
In December 2018, Union Pacific requested from the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) waivers to exempt Nos. 3985, 844 and 4014 from federal Positive Train Control (PTC) requirements; in February 2019, the FRA officials responded that such waivers were not needed.
In January 2020, Union Pacific officially retired No. 3985 from excursion service. The UP steam program manager, Ed Dickens, said that the team did not feel like maintaining three historical steam locomotives at the same time as it is too much for them to handle. The locomotive also required a full rebuilding due to its poor mechanical condition. Therefore, No. 4014 has officially replaced No. 3985 in excursion service for the foreseeable future. No further information about the future of the locomotive has been released and No. 3985 continues to remain stored at the Union Pacific roundhouse in Cheyenne, Wyoming as of 2021, with no plans to bring it to operation anytime soon.[a]
Notes and References
- Retired Challenger 3985 tender No. 25-C-311 is now connected to Big Boy 4014 as of April 2019.
- "Challenger No. 3985" (PDF) (Press release). Union Pacific. Archived from the original (PDF) on June 1, 2017. Retrieved May 6, 2019.
- Boehner, John (November 1982). "3985: The Engine, the People, the Restoration" (PDF). Trains. Kalmbach Publishing. pp. 32–38. Archived from the original (PDF) on May 19, 2019. Retrieved May 19, 2019.
- Drury 2015, p. 319.
- Solomon 2009, p. 70.
- Kalmbach, A.C., ed. (August 1944). "Almost Identical Twins". Trains Magazine. 4: 29.
- "Union Pacific Steam Program". American-Rails.com. Retrieved June 27, 2019.
- Pentrex. (1991), Sacramento Railfair 1991., Pentrex, OCLC 26339443, retrieved 2020-04-17
- Pentrex. (1992), San Jose steam celebration., Pentrex, OCLC 29295667, retrieved 2020-04-17
- Pentrex (Firm) (1994), Up 3985 over Cajon., Pentrex, OCLC 43598532, retrieved 2020-04-17
- California State Railroad Museum. (1999). Railfair 99 : California calls you. The Museum. OCLC 56116815.
- "Union Pacific's Clinchfield Challenge DVD". Pentrex. Archived from the original on June 5, 2017. Retrieved May 18, 2019.
- "Union Pacific's 40th Anniversary Steam Excursion DVD". Pentrex. Archived from the original on May 11, 2017. Retrieved June 14, 2019.
- "Heavy Freight and Union Pacific 3985". Pentrex. Archived from the original on July 17, 2019. Retrieved July 17, 2019.
- "Challenger No. 3985". Cheyenne Depot Museum. Archived from the original on August 14, 2016. Retrieved June 30, 2019.
- "Union Pacific Railroad's World's Largest Operating Steam Locomotive to Pull 'Ringling Bros.' Circus Train on Way to Sedalia, Mo., Celebration". Union Pacific. September 15, 2010. Archived from the original on August 19, 2014. Retrieved May 5, 2019.
- Shapiro, Mary (October 7, 2010). "Full steam ahead". St. Louis Post-Dispatch. Archived from the original on July 10, 2019. Retrieved July 10, 2019.
- Grant, Rich (May 5, 2016). "There's Only One Time to See Two "Big Boy" Locomotives at Cheyenne's Depot Days". HuffPost. Archived from the original on July 9, 2019. Retrieved July 9, 2019.
- "Big Boy 4014 gets drivers; UP asks for PTC waivers for three steam locomotives". Trains. December 13, 2018. Archived from the original on June 8, 2019. Retrieved June 9, 2019.
- Wrinn, Jim (February 28, 2019). "FRA: UP doesn't need waiver to run steam 11,000 miles in 2019". Trains. Archived from the original on June 9, 2019. Retrieved June 9, 2019.
- Keefe, Kevin. "The Challenger at high tide". Classic Trains.
- "Union Pacific No. 3985's next stop". Retrieved April 5, 2020.
- Union Pacific Permanently Retires Challenger 4-6-6-4 Steam Railway issue 503 March 2020 page 21
- Botkin, William E.; Hill, Ronald G.; Kindig, R.H. (1985). Union Pacific 3985 (1st ed.). Collage. ISBN 978-0918654366.
- Ehernberger, James L. (1993). Union Pacific Steam Challenger Portraits (1st ed.). Challenger Press. ASIN B000TXFDIC.
- Kratville, William W. (1980). The Challenger Locomotives (1st ed.). Kratville Publications. ASIN B0006E9WN6.
- Stagner, Lloyd E.; Reisdorff, James J. (2003). Fifty Years of Union Pacific Steam Excursions (1st ed.). South Platte Press. ISBN 978-0942035636.
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