Wednesday, May 14, 2014

4449-844 Doubleheader: Union Pacific #844

Union Pacific's #844 is one of the most famous and most well-traveled steam locomotives in the world. A member of Union Pacific's third version of the Four-Eight-Four locomotive (the FEF-3 Class), it was built in 1944 as the last of a group of ten locomotives that would be Union Pacific's last steam locomotives, making #844 was Union Pacific's last steam engine. It was built to pull either freight or passenger trains and originally burned coal, though it was converted to burn oil with two years. Though diesel locomotives took over the duties it was built for, #844 was never retired with its sisters as the age of steam came to an end on the Union Pacific in 1960. Instead it was saved for special service, pulling excursion trains and making special appearances across Union Pacific's vast system. In June 1962, a new diesel locomotive was assigned its number of 844, and so it was renumbered to #8444, but on June 2, 1989, the diesel had been retired and the steam locomotive reclaimed its original number. Today, a modern Union Pacific diesel wears the number 8444. The locomotive has worn several paint schemes over the years. When it first entered excursion service it was painted black with a silver smokebox and a white pinstripe along the running boards. In September 1987 it was repainted into two-tone-grey with yellow pinstripes, a paint scheme used on some Union Pacific passenger steam locomotives in the late 1940s (but not necessarily 844). Since emerging from a major overhaul on September 20, 1996, it has remained it the basic black it wears today, as it was originally delivered in 1944.

Though it is the only one in operation, #844 is not the only surviving Union Pacific 4-8-4. Sister locomotive #838, another FEF-3, was also retained by Union Pacific as a parts source for #844. It is kept in storage in Cheyenne with #844. Other survivors are FEF-1 #814, on display at the Railswest Railroad Museum in Council Bluffs, Iowa and FEF-2 #833, on display at the Utah State Railroad Museum in Ogden, Utah.

#844 is the only steam locomotive owned by a major railroad to have never been retired, and, except for maintenance and rebuildings, has remained in service since it was built. Union Pacific is America's largest railroad, and from its home base in Cheyenne, Wyoming, #884 has traveled across the entire system, from Nebraska to Texas to California. It last came to Portland in 1989, so news that it was returning again was significant.

Continue to Southern Pacific #4449

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