Western Pacific Motive Power

Motive power on any railroad is necessary for the movement of goods carried in freight cars and people in passenger cars. Usually requiring a large initial investment, they are an operating expense. From the first day of arrival on the property, locomotives require maintenance. In order to perform that maintenance a trained workforce is necessary as is a physical location(s) from which to perform said duties, all involving expenditures of capital. Motive power pulls the revenue producing equipment while at the same time costing valuable dollars to maintain. Although Western Pacific did not posses the shop space nor the shop forces to continually carry on a heavy rebuilding program they concentrated on maintaining a fleet of locomotives that usually had the most current and up to date components that could be installed. With a consistent maintenance schedule and running repairs, unit availability remained at a high percentage level.

With a ruling grade of 1% on most of the right of way, short fast trains were the norm. With the exception of the 2-8-8-2, 4-6-6-4, and 2-6-6-2 articulated’s all of WP’s steam locomotives were of the 4-8-4, 4-8-2, 2-8-2, 2-8-0, 4-6-0, and 0-6-0 wheel arraignment save for a lone 2-6-0. The prominent wheel arraignment being the 2-8-0 with 65 examples. Passenger trains were usually handled by the 4-6-0’s with the exception of the Exposition Flyer and Royal Gorge which usually drew a 4-8-2 or 4-8-4. Both coal and oil were used as fuel with coal predominately on the eastern end of the line.

From the first three SW-1 switchers delivered in 1939 to the last ten GP40-2’s delivered in 1980 Western Pacific maintained one of the finest locomotive fleets in the nation. EMC/EMD products were the preferred motive power with a total 214 units, which represented 76% of the all-time diesel roster. Baldwin came in last with only 5 examples or 2% of the total roster. ALCo built twenty-four units for WP, which equated to 9% of the all-time roster and GE contributed thirty-six locomotives for a 13% share. 1950 brought the most new units to the roster with forty-six delivered, the bulk of which were EMD products save for four ALCo S-2’s. No other year comes close for delivery of new units. 1500 and 3000 horsepower units were predominate on the roster with eighty units each. (F units were computed as single units). Next were the 2700 horsepower FT AB sets with twenty-four units.

One interesting feature existed on the WP, that was the opportunity to see motive power from other railroads in many different paint schemes. From the pooled power agreement with the Burlington Northern to the locomotive lease agreements with the Union Pacific a variety of foreign power could be seen. Virtually every major model of locomotive on the BN roster made appearances on the WP at one time or another and in the colorful paint of it’s predecessor roads. Although UP usually sent WP only SD40 and SD40-2 units, it did provide models of many designs, including various GE locomotives, EMD GP30 A&B units, SD24 A&B units and SD45’s. Large scale increases in business had WP leasing power from the Rio Grande and also operating BN and UP power system wide, a practice not common until the 1970's.

Copyright © 1996 - 2017 by Frank Brehm. All Rights Reserved.