Union Pacific has always been on the cutting edge of locomotive technology. In the 1950s, it became the only railroad ever to place a fleet of gas turbine-electric locomotives into regular mainline service. Here is the whole turbine story, from rare footage of an early steam turbine experiment in 1938 to the first gas turbine demonstrator in 1948. UP put 55 production units into service, the largest rated at 8,500 horsepower each â€“ the most powerful locomotives ever built! You'll see the demonstrators and all three production models (including the unique "Veranda" models) hauling tonnage on scenic mainlines, moving through yards, and being serviced in engine terminals alongside steam engines and classic F-units. Along the way you'll learn how turbine locomotives operate and will explore the differences and similarities between turbine-electric and diesel-electric units. The saga ends with an experimental coal-burning turbine locomotive built by Union Pacific itself in 1962.
In the decade they were operated, Union Pacific's 8500-series Gas Turbine Electric Locomotives earned two nicknames: UP dubbed them the "Super Fleet" for obvious reasons as they were the largest, most powerful locomotives ever employed by the railroad. More often the Turbines were referred to as "Big Blows" due to the deafening roar of their engines. Thirty of these GE-built giants were delivered to the UP between 1958 and 1961. Used primarily between Ogden, Utah and Green River, Wyoming, where the tough grades of the Wasatch Mountains required UP's sturdiest power, these monsters could log up to 10,000 miles a month hauling heavy mixed freight and coal trains. The 8500 series were permanently coupled six-axle units running on C-C trucks, and their prime mover was the most powerful ever used in a locomotive. The operating weight for the A and B units combined was close to 850,000 pounds, yet they could attain speeds of up to 70 mph!