Union Pacific's Ex-Demonstrators

Photo #1)-- EMD SD40X #434D demonstrator spent time on several U.S. railroads prior to touring on Canadian rails. (Karl Henkels photo in April 1965)

Union Pacific railroad has stirred the imagination of trackside observers, regardless of age for decades. That excitement has been fueled over the years by an exceptional steam program, the rumbling of dual-engine locomotives, and the flashy colors of a "Proud Heritage" diesel fleet. The western railroad giant's willingness to sample new technology has added to that popularity.

Although no one is keeping score, UP has possibility hosted more freight-hauling demonstrator and / or proto-type locomotives than any other class one railroad since the start of the diesel era in 1947. (Note: There is a fine line that separates demonstrators from proto-types we'll leave that distinction to the experts.) UP has made a fairly common practice of purchasing diesel demonstrators at reduced prices. This "bargain hunting" tactic has served the railroad industry titan well and provided valuable advantage beyond the potential cost saving. For example:

  • Ex-demonstrators had the same warranty as a new locomotive
  • Any noteworthy mechanical / electrical issues were corrected prior to the railroad's acceptance.
  • Plenty of field test data was available beforehand to effectively evaluate a new model's performance.

Today's UP roster has become far more standardized than in prior decades. If for no other reason than where there was once five major freight locomotive builders, now only two exist. Additionally, the heated horsepower race of the 1960s and 1970s has subsided; and the locomotive market no longer witnesses the introduction of a new diesel model nearly every year.

"Uncle Pete's" bargain hunting practices are profiled briefly here.

* * * A Cross-Section of UP-Owned Demos * * *

Alco RSC2

When Alco learned that UP was planning to dieselize; it was quick to introduce the railroad to the new 1500-hp RSC2 road-switcher. The six-axle puller impressed management sufficiently to purchase the demonstrator #1190 as well as to place multiple orders for additional RSC2s along with a small number of the four-axle version. (Note: Photo is of sister unit #1282. - Joe McMillan photo)
Ex-Alco RS27 DL640-4

RS27 Demonstrators polished UP rails during 1960. Although no orders for additional Alco units resulted, UP elected to purchase four of the five demos (#DL 640-2 to 640-5) and numbered them 675 to 678. The remaining demonstrator DL 640-1 was upgraded by the builder to a Century 424 and sold to the Pennsylvania RR. (F.H. Worsfold photo **)
BLW DRS 64-1500

The program to fully dieselize the UP roster shifted into high gear during 1947 /48 and witnessed the purchase of 362 passenger, freight and switcher locomotives. All of the major builders participated, including Baldwin which had been showcasing its new six-axle (four powered) DRS 64-1500 #1250. (RR wallin collection **)

During 1939, two EMC-built demonstrator switchers worked on the UP; they were SW1 #911 and NW2 #899. At the end of the six-month demo period, the 600-hp SW1 was returned to LaGrange. As for 1000-hp the NW2, it was purchased along with an order for an additional 14-like models. (Note: hoping to find an image.)
EMD E7A: Train of Tomorrow

The four-car GM Train of Tomorrow spent 29-months touring North American railroads; it also inspired the construction of 232 more passenger dome cars. The last stop on the train's 65,000-mile journey was the Union Pacific where it donned standard UP attire and road number 988. (Todd Schannuth’s photo collection: ThemeTrains.com)

UP's ranks of ex-demonstrators included three F7As; two of which were #1481 and 1482 (ex-EMD 459A & 459D respectively). F7A #1483 (ex-EMD 5040) was lesser known because most of its time had been spent demonstrating on the Norfolk & Western, which by-the-way never purchased any EMD freight cabs. (Photographer not known)

SD24 Demonstrator #5579 was the first six-axle 2000+ horsepower freight locomotive to appear in an EMD catalogue. Built with a high short hood during the summer of 1958, it was acquired by UP in September 1962 and give road number 448. Photographer George Cockle caught the turbo-charged locomotive at Omaha, NE in June 1976.

GP30 Demonstrator #5629 was purchased in July 1962 one year after it left EMD's McCook plant on a nation-wide tour. Initially, the new EMD model was going to be called a GP22, however EMD marketers chose GP30 in an effort to strategically outpace GE and its recently introduced U25B. (Craig Walker photo)

UP 762 was built as EMD 5652, one-fourth of a 15,000-hp GP35/DD35 set that took to the rails in September 1963. The snazzy red/white demo was also exhibited at the American Railroad Progress Exposition in Chicago during mid-October that same year. (Craig Walker photo at Los Angeles in October 1974.)

EMD's DD35 was in essence two GP35s sharing a common frame. Besides the lack of a cab, the double-diesel was unique for its two four axle flexi-coil trucks. By late September 1964, the UP roster included the two ex-demos and 25 additional DD35s. (Ed Fulcomer photo)

Today's SD70-ACe-T4 measures 76'-8" (app.). In contrast, EMD's first group of SD40X demonstrators were were built on SD35 frames at 60'-8" in length. Beyond the armour yellow and harbor-mist gray, the only constants perhaps are the UP shield and flared radiators. #3044 is ex-EMD 434E. (Deane Motis photo)
EMD GP40X (of 1977)

The high-adhesion trucks featured on EMD's first GP40X prototypes made the locomotives unique, as well as distinctive. UP purchased six of the 3500-hp model, including the #9002 which was recorded in Cicero, Illinois enroute to its new owner on 4 March 1978. (Jim Claflin photo **)
FM H20-66

Fairbanks-Morse's lone H20-44 demonstrator was built in 1947; the unit's end cab design made it unique among most road-switchers. Retired by UP in 1963, it went to Southwest Portland Cement where it worked until 1987. The loco now resides at the IRM. (Creative Commons photo).
GE 4500-hp Turbine

Although it was carried on the roster, GE's 4500-hp GTEL proto-type was never actually owned by UP. However, the dual-cab turbine was instrumental in the later development of the railroad's second and third generation (8500-hp) GTELs. (Bulder photo / Craig Garver collection)
GE UM20B A & B

GE's four-unit UM proto-type set (two 1600-hp cabs and two 1200-hp boosters worked on the Erie RR from 1954 to 1959. Each was rebuilt with a 2000-hp powerplant and sold to the UP as #620, 620A, 621B, 621A. Their tenure on the "Uncle Pete" lasted until 1963. (Dick Rumbolz photo / Chuck Zeiler collection)

GE's last of three U25B demonstrator sets took to the rails in early 1962. The 2501 seen here in this Emery Gulash photo taken in Detroit while on the Chesapeake & Ohio was the only low-nose unit in the quartet. The entire set was acquired by the UP in 1963 with 2501 renumbered 633. (Dave Jakubiac collection)
GE 44-Tonner

A forgotten demonstrator? This small 44-Ton industrial-type loco spent 27 years on the UP, primarily in various forms of shop service. It was built in February 1947 as a GE Demonstrator, but probably never spent time on any other rails until leaving the UP in 1974. (Don Ross collection).
Notes and Credits
  • Diesels of the Union Pacific: 1934 to 1982 by Don Strack
  • UP Motive Power Review 1968-1977 (F. Hol Wagner, editor)
  • Extra 2200 South (issues 67-71)
  • Flickr.com
  • Train Orders.com

(If you know name of The UP #1482 photographer (above), please contact me.)


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