Fate of Union Pacific 3985 & The Other Historic Engines

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Fate of Union Pacific 3985 & The Other Historic Engines
Posted by David Ng on Tuesday, January 14, 2020 10:26 AM

As many of us (or all of us) know, 3985 is done for good: Image may contain: text

As Ed has said, 3985 is really worn, and as of now, it is still the policy for only two engines to run. Ultimately, I agree and disagree. 3985 has held a great career until her last run, and ultimately it was her mechanical problems that took her down for good. While she will be missed, it's great to know that 4014 is a worthy replacement for her. However, I still believe that just because two steam engines are running doesn't mean that a third can join. Of course, that depends on the amount of people working with the crew, but if there is indeed enough, why not bring it back?

Ultimately, the fate of 3985 will be decided by the crew, but it is nevertheless true that we will miss this engine. So what do you believe will be the Challenger's fate? Restored for display or kept for future restoration?

In addition, there are also rumors of 5511 moving to Evanston, and 838's boiler eventually being fitted to 844. Is there anything to confirm on that? In addition, what will happen to the E9s and DDA40X diesels, as well as the CNW F7A 401, UP E9B 966B, and DRGW F9B 5763? The operational diesels have not been seen since 2017.

Also, if someone knows a writer for Trains Mag who writes about UP Steam, I suggest asking them to write about 3985's retirement if they are up to it.

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Posted by Overmod on Friday, January 24, 2020 3:31 PM

Ample threads here, and elsewhere, discussing the situation.

When work is done to 3985, it will be to the full standard done on 844 and 4014: full teardown and restoration of all devices and systems, with all changes made for easier maintenance and documentation of materials.

There is no point in spending all that money now, after the expenses incurred on the 'hurry-up' completion of 4014, simply in order to have a 'third' active large steam engine.  Any residual question about the economics of this was removed with the advent of the lower margins and tighter need for 'economies' inherent in PSR.  

This does NOT mean 3985 will be ignored, or retired for permanent static display.  It simply means the work will not be done while 4014 and 844 are capable of fulfilling the publicity requirements ... which they do, in spades.  

I do think a TRAINS staffer could get a coherent statement out of Ed Dickens, and perhaps the higher-ups to whom he reports, about the detailed plans for the next few years -- or the present absence of same, if so.  It would certainly make an interesting article if fact-based and neutrally reported.

On the other hand, groups genuinely interested in seeing 3985 restored to operation need only 'put their money where their mouth is' and raise funds.  Beyond a certain point, I would not be surprised to see UP quietly contributing, even if no more than 'resources at cost', toward either a full mechanical restoration or an ongoing progressive reworking of the components not subject to 1472-day inspection or 'degradation in storage'.  But do not expect that of them as some kind of free commitment...

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Posted by charlie hebdo on Friday, January 24, 2020 3:47 PM

Agree. Although UP stock, operating ratio and profits are riding high, that is based on cost-cutting, as revenues are declining and the outlook for 2020 is a soft "meh" at best. Given that investor opinion is a major factor in corporate decisions and investors have myopia and are largely NOT railfans,  don't be surprised at a NS-style tragic ending lurking in the wings. 

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Posted by Flintlock76 on Friday, January 24, 2020 4:19 PM

And that is the reality of any corporate steam program.  Whether it lives or dies depends on who's sitting in the CEO's seat.

Certainly that CEO could be overruled by the board of directors and the chairman of the same, but I don't think it's happened yet. 

As Steve Lee, former head of the UP steam program put it to his crew, "Every year is our last year!" meaning if they couldn't make a case for the continuation of the steam program as a corporate tool they wouldn't be around for long. 

As it is, UP's steam program belongs to the "Executive Department," so they and no others have the say-so as to whether it lives or dies. 

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Posted by Leo_Ames on Saturday, January 25, 2020 8:46 AM

The Rio Grande F9B went west quite sometime ago and has been rebuilt into a rotary snowplow power unit. 

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Posted by Thomas 9011 on Wednesday, January 29, 2020 1:58 AM

So someone posted something and it's a fact now? I have said it a hundred times. Unless you hear it from Ed Dickens then don't believe it. Anything else is just gossip.

As someone who has visited the Union Pacific steam shop on a regular basis since the late 80's I will give you my two cents on this issue. People seem to forget that years of substantal mechanical work was already given to the #3985 when it went into overhaul in late 2010. I believe it had 4 solid years of time and money thrown at it before the #844 needed a lot of mechanical work which stopped work on the Challenger. After the #844 was finished it wasn't long before the Big Boy project started taking shape. All work stopped on the Challenger.

Ed has stated in a 2018 video that if he gets his way, he would like to see the Challenger run again. Furthermore as stated in the video he said he ordered duplicate parts for the Challenger (as parts for the Big Boy were being made) as many of the parts on the Challenger are identical to the Big Boy.  

So where does that leave us now? Offically there is no plans to restore or run the Challenger in the near future. Really why would you want to? You have two fully functional steam locomotives. The crew just went through years of Hell to get that running. I am sure they are not eager to jump into another massive overhaul.

Does that mean the Challenger is done for? No. It's a back burner project on those days when there is nothing to do. Everyone I have talked to on the crew has said the same thing. The locomotive needs a proper frame up restoration like the Big Boy had. That will take a lot of money and a lot of time.

I personally don't see a restoration happening for several years. It also wouldn't surprise me if the #3985 was donated to some other organization along with the parts for someone else to get going. Last I heard the DD40X needed truck work as was only running on a single engine. I believe both E-8's are operational but the E8-B unit is not. The CNW F units need a lot of work and there are no plans to restore them.  

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