Union Pacific 3985
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|Union Pacific 3985|
Union Pacific Challenger No. 3985 running through Alton, Iowa on October 1, 2008
Union Pacific 3985, also known as the "Challenger", is a four-cylinder simple articulated 4-6-6-4 "Challenger" type steam locomotive owned and previously operated by the Union Pacific Railroad. Built in July 1943 by the American Locomotive Company (ALCO) of Schenectady, New York, No. 3985 is one of only two Union Pacific Challengers left in existence, and the only one to have operated in excursion service.
The locomotive operated in revenue service until 1957. It was initially stored at the roundhouse in Cheyenne, Wyoming until 1975, when it was placed outdoors beside the Cheyenne depot. After a group of Union Pacific employees restored the locomotive to running condition in 1981, No. 3985 was placed into excursion service as part of the Union Pacific's heritage fleet and became the largest operational steam locomotive in the world, a title it would hold until the restoration of Union Pacific Big Boy No. 4014 in May 2019. It remained in operation until mechanical problems took it offline in 2010, after which it was stored at the Union Pacific's Steam Shops in Cheyenne, Wyoming. Following No. 4014's restoration, No. 3985 was officially retired from excursion service as a result of its poor condition.
Designed by UP chief mechanical engineer Otto Jabelmann in 1941, UP 3985 was part of the second order of this second version of the Challenger. The design drew on recent experience with the enormous 4-8-8-4 Big Boy locomotives, and resulted in 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). The Challenger class was 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 Challengers and Big Boys arrived on the scene just as traffic was surging in preparation for American participation in World War II.
Revenue service and retirement (1943-1957)
UP 3985 was part of the 4664-4 group of Challengers built in 1943. Although this group consisted of 31 locomotives, only 25 went to the Union Pacific. The other six were leased to the Denver and Rio Grande Western Railroad after completion, where they operated until the Rio Grande sold them to the Clinchfield Railroad in 1947. While the Union Pacific Challengers operated primarily in freight service, a few were assigned to passenger trains.
UP 3985 operated in its last "revenue" train service in 1957. The locomotive was officially retired in 1962 and was stored in the Union Pacific's roundhouse with Big Boy No. 4023 at Cheyenne, Wyoming. In 1975, it was brought out of storage and placed on an outdoor display beside the Cheyenne depot.
Restoration and excursion career (1981-2010)
Beginning in 1979, a group of Union Pacific employee-volunteers started work on restoring the locomotive, and it was returned to operational condition in April 1981. The locomotive made its first run during Railfair 1981, where it attended the opening of the California State Railroad Museum in Sacramento, along with Union Pacific 844, which had been in excursion service since 1960. Originally built to burn coal, it was successfully converted to burn No. 5 fuel oil in 1990.
In 1991, No. 3985 went to Railfair '91 along with 844 and DDA40X No. 6936. The excursion also included UP 4-6-0 No. 1243 on a flatbed. The next year, the 3985 went to the National Railroad Historical Society's convention in San Jose, California. It participated in activities along with Southern Pacific 4-8-4 No. 4449 and SP 4-6-2 No. 2472.
In 1999, the 3985 double-headed with No. 844 on the way to Railfair 1999.. After the event, the 3985 was forced to pull the return trip with the 844 dead in tow after the FEF-3 suffered a tube failure on June 24 while on display.
The locomotive has pulled many excursion trains in three alternate identities during its career. In November 1992, No. 3985 was chosen to pull the Clinchfield Santa Train as Clinchfield Railroad No. 676, the number chosen as a continuation of the CRR's E-3 locomotives, which were numbered 670–675. In May 1993, the locomotive masqueraded as sister engine No. 3967 as part of the 40th anniversary of the Rocky Mountain Railroad Club excursion, in which the original 3967, which was scrapped in 1960, pulled the same excursion on May 17, 1953. During the same time period, the engine was renumbered again to 3718, the number being a continuation of the few 4664-4 locomotives that were converted to run on oil in 1945, which were numbered 3708–3717.
Stationed at Cheyenne, Wyoming with other equipment in the UP's heritage collection, it was used for excursion trains and occasionally mainline freight on ferry moves. The most notable freight run of No. 3985 took place in 1990, in which American President Lines had a special request for the locomotive to pull a 143-car doublestack train between Cheyenne, Wyoming and North Platte, Nebraska. It was in the maintenance shop at Cheyenne in 2007 and underwent necessary repairs for service in 2008.
The locomotive made its last runs during the Missouri River Eagle Tour, which took place from September 30 to October 14, 2010. As part of the tour, No. 3985 was selected to pull the Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey Circus train from Cheyenne to Denver, Colorado, where the circus held a special performance to celebrate P.T. Barnum's birthday. Following the conclusion of the tour, it was taken out service for repairs and placed into storage.
Retirement from excursion service
In December 2018, Union Pacific requested from the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) waivers to exempt Nos. 3985, 844 and 4014 from federal Positive Train Control (PTC) requirements; in February 2019, the FRA officials responded that such waivers were not needed.
In January 2020, Union Pacific officially retired No. 3985 from excursion service, as the railroad felt they could only maintain and operate two historic steam locomotives at a time (Nos. 4014 and 844), in addition to the locomotive requiring a full rebuild as a result of poor mechanical condition. No further information about the future of the locomotive has been released, and the 3985 continues to remain stored at the Union Pacific roundhouse in Cheyenne, Wyoming.
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