Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Union Pacific's GP-9B's

Union Pacific 180B, Argo Yard, Seattle, February 9, 1961. The most notable thing about Union Pacific’s Argo Yard was its accessibility. You could virtually park your vehicle next to a unit, if it was on the closest in track.

The southern most outlet from Argo Yard was adjacent to the Airport Way Overpass. This made for some really interesting audio tracks, especially in the evening, when there was little traffic on the Overpass. And back in those days, when rush hour was over, it was over! Things got really quiet down at that end of town.

Anyway, as to the audio recordings made at Argo. Southbound power could wind up a tad bit for their run down past Milwaukee Roads Van Asselt Yard to the tower at Black River Junction. So EMD’s slipping up from run one through run five or so gave a nice sound track.

But, if Elwin and I were really lucky, we would also snag a southbound Pacific Intermountain Express double-bottom tanker climbing up and over the Airport Way Overpass from their nearby yard. Loved the sound of those PIE Kenworths (built a few miles from this location!) running a gear pattern to gain speed climbing and crossing the Overpass.

(Little did I realize then, that in later years I’d get to know Freightliner trucks real well, as the Corporate Audio-Visual Producer in Portland!)

The road switcher “B” unit craze lasted only a short time, with Union Pacific adding 75 units, numbers 130B through 204B in 1954, and an additional 50 GP-9B’s, 300B through 349B in 1957. Arguments for producing a unit without a cab ranged from “no crew required” to cost savings realized by eliminating cab control stands, seating, and toilets.

Although I cannot locate alleged “cost savings figures,” methinks the manning issue was uppermost on managements mind. Remember, in this time frame, crew size was an issue, with manpower downsizing the goal.

By 1959, Union Pacific began a limited program of converting GP-9B’s to GP-9Bm’s, kicking horsepower rating up from 1,750 to 2,000 hp through the addition of a turbocharger.

From a purely practical point of view, cabless units could not pilot a train, requiring a control unit to be of any practical use. Or was that always the case?

Railroad Stuff: Union Pacific 180B, built by EMD as a GP-9B, 1,750 hp. Erected March 1954, serial number 19256. To Illinois Gulf Central as remanufactured GP-11, number 8462.

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