Union Pacific Challenger
The Union Pacific Challengers are a type of simple articulated 4-6-6-4 steam locomotive built by American Locomotive Company (ALCO) from 1936 to 1944 and operated by the Union Pacific Railroad until the late 1950s.
|Union Pacific Challenger|
A total of 105 Challengers were built in five classes. They were nearly 122 ft (37 m) long and weighed 537 short tons (487 tonnes). They operated over most of the Union Pacific system, primarily in freight service, but a few were assigned to the Portland Rose and other passenger trains. Their design and operating experience shaped the design of the Big Boy locomotive type, which in turn shaped the design of the last three orders of Challengers.
Two Union Pacific Challengers survive. Union Pacific No. 3985 was restored by the Union Pacific in 1981, then operated in excursion service as part of its heritage fleet program. Mechanical problems forced it out of service in October 2010; it was retired in January 2020 after the restoration of Big Boy 4014. UP No. 3977 is on display in North Platte, Nebraska.
The name "Challenger" was given to steam locomotives with a 4-6-6-4 wheel arrangement: four wheels in the leading pilot truck to guide the locomotive into curves, two sets of six driving wheels, and four trailing wheels to support the rear of the engine and its massive firebox. Each set of driving wheels is driven by two steam cylinders. In essence, the result is two engines under one boiler. Union Pacific developed five types of Challengers: the "light" CSA-1 and CSA-2 classes and the "heavy" 4664-3, 4664-4, and 4664-5 classes.
The railroad sought powerful locomotives that could handle mountain grades at high speeds. Previous articulated locomotives had been limited to slow speeds by their design. Technical breakthroughs allowed the UP Challengers to operate with 280 lbf/in2 (1.93 MPa) boiler pressure, something usually reserved for passenger locomotives like the FEF Series. They had 69-inch (1,800 mm) drivers, mammoth wheels usually seen on passenger locomotives only, because freight engines normally require the extra torque provided by smaller wheels. Speeds in excess of 60 miles per hour (100 km/h), while unheard-of on other railroads using articulated steam locomotives, became commonplace on the Union Pacific.
When the first Challengers entered service in 1936, on the UP's main line over the Wasatch Range between Green River and Ogden, the locomotives had problems climbing the steep grades. For most of the route, the maximum grade is 0.82% in either direction, but the climb eastward from Ogden, into the Wasatch Range, reached 1.14%. Hauling a 3,600-short-ton (3,300 t; 3,200-long-ton) freight train demanded double heading and helper operations, and adding and removing helper engines slowed operations. Those limitations prompted the introduction of the Big Boy in 1941, as well as a redesign of the last three orders from 1942 to 1944.
Using the experience from the Big Boys, UP chief mechanical engineer, Otto Jabelmann, redesigned the last three orders of Challengers in 1941. The result was 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). From 1941, the Challengers were 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 105 locomotives were divided into five orders, which can be put into two groups: the first two orders of light Challengers, and the final three of heavy Challengers. Along with the Big Boys, the Challengers arrived on the scene just as traffic was surging in preparation for American participation in World War II.
|Class||Quantity||Manufacturer||Serial Nos.||Year built||UP No.||Notes|
|CSA-1||15||American Locomotive Company||68745–68759||1936||3900–3914||Converted to oil fuel in 1941–43; renumbered 3800–3814 in 1944. None preserved. All Scrapped between 1957 and 1958|
|CSA-2||25||American Locomotive Company||68924–68948||1937||3915–3939||Converted to oil fuel; renumbered 3815–3839 in 1944. None preserved. All Scrapped 1958|
|4664-3||20||American Locomotive Company||69760–69779||1942||3950–3969||3968 converted to oil fuel in 1946, renumbered 3944 in 1946. None preserved. All Scrapped between 1958 and 1959|
|4664-4||31||American Locomotive Company||70158–70162
|1943||3975–3999||31 built but only 25 delivered to UP (see below); 3975–3984 converted to oil fuel in 1945; renumbered 3708–3717 in 1952. No. 3985 in excursion service from 1981 to 2010. Retired in January 2020. Remainder scrapped in 1957|
|4664-5||20||American Locomotive Company||72792–72811||1944||3930–3949||3930/31/32/34/37/38/43/44 converted to oil fuel in 1952 and renumbered 3700–3707. None preserved. All Scrapped between 1957 and 1959|
As part of Union Pacific's fourth order in 1943, ALCO built thirty-one locomotives for Union Pacific using the same specifications. However, the War Production Board diverted six locomotives after completion to the Denver and Rio Grande Western Railroad via a lease through the War Department's Defense Plant Corporation. Locomotives 3900-3905 formed the Rio Grande's Class L-97. These were later sold to Clinchfield Railroad in 1947 and were renumbered as 670-675, where they formed the Clinchfield's Class E-3.
Only two of the original 105 Challengers survive today, both of which are from the 4664-4 order built in 1943. One, No. 3977, remains on static display in North Platte, Nebraska while the other, No. 3985, has been restored to operating condition by Union Pacific as part of its steam program, though it has remained in storage since 2010. 3985 was later officially retired from excursion service in January 2020 and currently remains in storage in Cheyenne, Wyoming.
|Type||Number||Image||Date built||Serial number||Location||Coordinates||Notes|
|4664-4||3977||June 1943||70160||Cody Park, North Platte, Nebraska||Displayed next to EMD DDA40X #6922.|
|4664-4||3985||July 1943||70174||Union Pacific Railroad, Cheyenne, Wyoming||No. 3985 was restored in 1981 and used by Union Pacific on excursions until October 14, 2010, when mechanical problems led it to be taken out of service and later being officially retired from excursion service in January 2020. Its tender No. 25-C-311, is now assigned to newly restored Big Boy No. 4014 (since April of 2019).|
- Keefe, Kevin. "The Challenger at high tide". Classic Trains.
- "Union Pacific No. 3985's next stop - Trains Magazine - Trains News Wire, Railroad News, Railroad Industry News, Web Cams, and Forms". cs.trains.com. Retrieved 2020-04-05.
- Drury 2015, p. 319.
- Kalmbach, A.C., ed. (August 1944). "Almost Identical Twins". Trains Magazine. 4: 29.
- Solomon 2009, p. 72.