2010-04-20

UP Retires ex-Rio Grande Tunnel Motors To Dead Line At Burnham


It was bound to happen. With a continued lack of demand because of the recession, old locomotives that have seen their share of railroad miles are rounded up and sent via "funeral train" to a retirement storage, known as a "dead line." Intrepid photographer Kevin Morgan chased a funeral train on April 17, 2010. This time it seems to be a large
percentage of tunnel motors that had been marked for retirement, with 17 out of 21 (81%) being SD40T-2s. The train continued on to the dead line at Burnham.

There is the possibility that a few units will find work on short lines. Montana RailLink likes SD-45s and other leasing companies may take one or two. Even Wheeling & Lake Erie, the short line that is Grande in all but name, has been known to take a tunnel motor. Still, most of these are not going to see much use, unless a surge brings them out of retirement for a few months. After they rust a bit at Burnham, they will likely see the scrapper's torch, unless a museum can raise the funds to take one or two home. While specializing in narrow gauge and steam, the Colorado Railroad Museum in Golden has acquired standard gauge, diesel, four-axle locomotives D&RGW #5771 and #5753 (an F9 A and B combined set) as well as a stripped-to-the-bone D&RGW #3011 GP30. Still, the museum has no but has no example of standard gauge, six-axle power, which is the current industry standard for both class 1 railroads in Colorado, BNSF and UP. The Pueblo Railway Museum, while specializing in standard gauge, diesel power, has no Denver & Rio Grande Western locomotive, nor any EMD locomotive, despite the fact that the Rio Grande ran EMD power almost exclusively through Pueblo.

For the record, the only Rio Grande unit left unpatched by the Union Pacific was SD-40T-2 #5371. It was sent from UP"s Steam Shop in Cheyenne WY to the Utah State Railroad Museum in Ogden UT. (photo), All other Rio Grande units were retired, repainted or patched with a new number to fit UP's numbering scheme. This has led to some interesting hop-scotch for some units. For example, Kevin Morgan says of this otherwise nondescript unit,
[UP Locomotive 2885] has a long history of numbers! It was delivered as DRGW 5351 in in October of 1974. It was then painted in Espee colors and fly letters after the Rio Grande / Espee merger. After the Espee / UP merger, it was renumbered to UP 4004 on March 29, 1999. It kept that number for less than a year. It moved to UP 8574 on March 17, 2000 to make room for the SD70Ms. UP then moved it one more time, to UP 2885 on December 20, 2002. Just over seven years later, it is off to retirement. 

Opinion
I wonder why UP doesn't save itself the time and energy and let existing road units--especially the older ones--serve out their time under the original road number it had on day one of new ownership. It keeps the numbering systems separate and thereby eliminates numbering collisions. It would also spare the eyes--and hearts--of Grande fans who can't stand Armour Yellow infringing on a perfectly good Grande paint scheme.