Thursday, March 6, 2008


Union Pacific 66, Cheyenne Wyoming, August 1958. You’ve got to hand it to Union Pacific – they did not shy away from experimentation with curvature straightening big box horsepower!

Not since the Norfolk & Western’s
Jawn Henry,” the name given to this locomotive, taken from the legendary black construction worker who pitted his hammer and drill against a steam drill and died in the attempt, and Chesapeake &Ohio’s trio of coal-fired steam turbines, had such an audacious leap outside the box been undertaken.

Not many folk know it, but the Union Pacific’s dabbling in turbines began back in 1938, when General Electric came up with two turbine units, which proved to be miserable failures, ultimately scrapped in 1939.

But leave it to the Union Pacific’s “Department of Research and Mechanical Standards”- the same folk who brought you the 4-8-8-4
“Big Boy” and the DDX40A “Centennial” to put a blank piece of paper on the drafting table, and come up with the oil-fired GTEL - gas turbine electric locomotive in several distinctive flavors!

UP 61-75 were nicknamed "Veranda Turbines" because they were equipped with outside walkways along the sides of the car bodies. The other permutation of the oil-fired gas turbine was referred to as the
“green house” car body.

The GTEL’s generated more horsepower per foot of locomotive than any diesel. The 4,500 horsepower Veranda produced 137,930 pounds of starting tractive effort!

Here is a most detailed account of Union Pacific’s exciting experiments with “out of the box” locomotive design!

My oldest living friend, Mike Hebden, took these photos of UP 66 whilst on a rail tour in the late 50’s. I met Mike in Prince Rupert in 1958, and in a later article, will chronicle our friendship which continues to this day.

Railroad Stuff: Union Pacific 66, Gas Turbine-Electric Locomotive, built by General Electric 1954, sn 32033, 15 units in this order. UP 61-75 single-cab 4,500 horsepower Gas Turbine locomotives were delivered without tenders. The tenders were added later by UP, rebuilt from FEF-1 class 4-8-4 (800-819) steam locomotive tenders.

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