Phase 3, Second Generation
As older types of motive power became obsolete and more difficult
to maintain, it became necessary to replace many of WP’s “elders.”
By now the locomotive manufacturers were offering what is now
considered their “second generation” of diesel models. WP considered
replacement of its now nearly worn out fleet of FT’s at the precise
moment EMD was developing its high horsepower (2000 h.p.) Model
GP20. This brought cancellation of the GP9 order in 1959 when WP
opted for the new GP20. This lead to WP having the distinction of
being the first railroad to receive EMD’s first turbocharged
locomotive when GP20 2001 arrived in December 1959. Eventually there
would be ten such units in number series 2001-2010. These would also
be the last short high hood road switchers purchased. WP’s ten
GP20’s are also the only high nose models of that design except for
thirty six units that went to the former Great Northern Railroad.
Billed as a “three for four” replacement for early F units, the WP
actually replaced early F’s on a four for five unit basis. Ordering
of the GP20’s marked the end for the first set of WP’s pioneer
locomotives as the 901-ABCD served as trade-in material.
After the relative prosperity enjoyed by the road during the 1950’s, the WP faced much leaner times in the 1960’s and 1970’s. Subsequent locomotive purchases were driven by a desire to increase train speeds and efficiency and to minimize unit downtime. WP considered acquiring 10 high nose GP30’s but these were never delivered. Instead, in 1963 and 1964 the railroad continued the practice of trading in the older FT units as new GP35’s arrived from EMD’s LaGrange plant numbered 3001-3022. Equipped with EMD’s 16 cylinder Model 567D3A prime movers, the GP35’s were the source of numerous maintenance problems, most of which were related to their electrical systems and particularly their Model D67 traction motors (WP considered installing General Electric Model 752 motors but instead settled upon EMD GP40 specification D77 type motors). Other than two units, all GP35’s had FT’s as trade-ins. These twenty two new locomotives were also delivered in silver and orange colors and had the steam era headlights. Delivery of the GP35 order was completed in 1965.
By the time EMD introduced its improved Model 645 equipped models in the fall of 1965, most GP35 customers were thoroughly disenchanted with their units. Consequently, such good customers as Santa Fe, Great Northern and Northern Pacific henceforth never bought any GP40’s, preferring instead to switch to six axle models. On the other hand, roads such as the Rio Grande and Western Pacific continued to purchase four axle EMD’s. WP continued updating the locomotive fleet in 1966 with the addition of ten 3000 horsepower GP40’s in numerical series 3501-3510 which closely followed the GP35 order. Interestingly, the GP40’s were delivered without dual cab controls as had been standard on previous locomotives. Six more, 3511-3516, followed in 1967 which also marked the end of the FT’s presence on the WP with units 905C-D, 908A-B, and 909C-D working a train east to Salt Lake City and continuing on directly to EMD as trade-in material. During their last few years, the remaining FT’s had been demoted to work train and local duty, basically the same type of retirement process they had forced on Western Pacific's steam power. No additional EMD locomotives would be purchased until 1970, as WP temporarily shifted its “allegiance” to General Electric, as will be seen. All sixteen GP40’s wore silver and orange paint and were equipped with the steam headlights.
During the late sixties, the railroad also experimented with a revised solid orange paint scheme on many locomotives, mainly F units and EMD, ALCo and Baldwin switch engines. GP35 3003 was the only road unit (excluding the F's) that received the solid orange paint.
General Electric (GE) would finally break EMD’s hold on WP locomotive purchases by the extended visit to WP of its new model U30B demonstrators during 1966 and 1967 when WP participated in test programs using demonstrator locomotives from both EMD and General Electric. The latter provided four 3000 horsepower U30B’s (numbers 301 304), that together test ran for over 10,000 miles on WP. GE was trying to convince the WP to buy non six axle locomotives because it did not yet have anything comparable to EMD’s SD45, which the WP also tested in 1967. The U30B’s had proven themselves superior to GP40’s in tonnage tests on the High Line between Keddie and Bieber. GE was also arguing that four U30B’s with a total of 12,000 horsepower were better than a trio of SD45 units with a total of 10,800 horsepower at high speeds. During early 1967, a three unit set of EMD SD45’s went through the same test chores on the High Line that the GE demonstrators had completed. With the results compiled, WP decided that a four axle locomotive was better overall for average use, even though the SD45’s proved better with the High Line’s tonnage. The black and yellow units offered several significant advantages over other models because of their improved design: 1.) They possessed fuel saving four cycle Model FDL-16 prime movers as opposed to EMD’s less efficient two cycle design, 2.) The U30B’s delivered considerably more continuous tractive effort than WP’s GP40’s, 3.) Five GE’s could be had for the price of four comparable EMD’s. Thereafter, the railroad ordered and received five U30B’s in September 1967. These units, numbered 751 through 755, were built with GE’s early U30B carbody version, featuring a radiator section similar to that of a U28B. The new locomotives, delivered in silver and orange paint, had signal lights on the short low nose and twin sealed beam headlights on the cab instead of the “ash can” lights of previous locomotive orders. The five units were also equipped with large pilot snowplows, the first WP locomotives to be factory equipped with plows. They also rode on remanufactured EMD trucks. Besides WP, the only western roads to roster any U30B’s were the Burlington, Frisco and Milwaukee Road. WP continued to accumulate both GP40’s and U30B’s simultaneously, with the exception of the years 1968 and 1969, in which GE’s were purchased exclusively, at the expense of EMD. WP’s U30B’s originally wore Zephyr inspired silver/orange/black, but they were later repainted into green/orange colors.
In September 1967, WP again tested GE’s four unit demonstrator set that had just been rebuilt as 3300 horsepower U33B’s. Although the railroad was not impressed with this newer concept, it did show satisfaction with their first five U30B’s, by purchasing four more, numbers 756-759, in September 1968. These units were identical to the WP’s first U30B’s except that they had GE’s newer design full width radiator section that would become the standard for U30B’s. Traded for these units were two ALCo S2’s and two EMD F7B’s. A satisfied customer usually returns for more, and in April and May 1969 WP received ten more U30B’s, numbers 760 through 769, all of which were virtually identical to the railroad’s last order. This group was received in exchange for a motley collection of assorted cab units. Finally, WP purchased from GE two ex U36B demonstrators 303 and 304 (rebuilt back to U30B specifications). Riding on re-conditioned EMD trucks, as had the previous orders from GE they carried numbers 770 and 771. Four orders of U30B’s were delivered between 1967 and 1971. All WP’s GE’s were note worthy in that they were among the heaviest B-B locomotives in use on any U.S. railroad, having axle loadings of 72,250 lbs./axle.
At about this time, major repairs were due on the railroad’s F3 passenger fleet and this was reflected in the operation of the California Zephyr as the train was not making its eighteen hour schedule between Salt Lake City and Oakland with the aging equipment. A study of the problem recommended an increase to a longer twenty hour schedule and also saw an experiment take place using a U30B and a leased Rio Grande steam generator car to power the Zephyr for a few trips. Although the results were favorable, the covered wagons continued to provide California Zephyr service until the popular train’s demise in March 1970.
It was during the period between 1969 and 1971 that WP started a program to replace its still large F unit fleet, based on manufacturer’s operating specifications and maintenance projections, in addition to financial considerations. Unfortunately actual experience did not bear out this optimistic forecast as the “new” generation of motive power turned out to be little or no more reliable than that which it had replaced.
A good example of this was WP’s last four operating covered wagons, numbers 913, 917, 918 and 921. The F’s continued to operate between Stockton and San Jose, averaging two round-trips and 300 revenue miles per day. Except for the necessary monthly inspections and minor failures, the “Fabulous Four” were usually on the move and were four of the railroad’s most reliable locomotives.
Beginning in 1970 many changes were in store for the Western Pacific. In addition to the discontinuance of the California Zephyr, the railroad also developed a newer solid green paint scheme with orange stripes and lettering, in an effort to reduce painting costs. GP40 3506, a 1966 built locomotive, was wrecked in November 1969, and was sent to EMD for rebuilding. It returned to service in August 1970 with the new colors and also signal lights on the short hood and a pilot snowplow. Every new or shopped locomotive would now receive green paint. Contrary to many rumors, Alfred E. Perlman, who took over as president of the WP in August of 1970, did not initiate the new colors. He did, however, change the shade of green in later years to what became known as “Perlman Green.”
Returning to EMD for additional GP40’s in August 1970 units 3517-3526 were delivered equipped with the now standard snowplow pilot and twin sealed beam signal lights between the number boards and on the low nose.
Eighteen more GP40’s, nearly identical to the previous order, came to WP in 1971 numbered 3527-3544. Trade ins for these units were F3’s, F7’s and FP7’s; also included were four hood units, Nos. 726, 3505, 3516 and 3011. Notable among this order were the WP’s two Bicentennial units, GP40’s Nos. 3540 and 3541. They received red, white and blue paint and were renumbered 1776 and 1976 for various Bicentennial and official functions. Both were repainted back to standard green/orange in 1979. Many of WP’s early GP40’s and the remaining GP35’s were heavily rebuilt and upgraded by Morrison Knudsen’s Boise, Idaho, shops in 1980. Some of the many improvements made to the units included the installation of rebuilt and upgraded prime movers, rebuilt electrical gear, the addition of cab air conditioning units and the addition of nose mounted signal/classification lights. The rebuilds were the operational equivalent of EMD GP40-2’s.
Western Pacific had only one other occasion in which it sampled GE road units (or those of any other manufacturer, for that matter). During 1971, management considered the purchase of 15 EMD GP38-2’s. Somewhere during the decision making process, the order was diverted to General Electric in the form of 15 2250 h.p. Model U23B locomotives. Fifteen more covered wagons sent east in trade, leaving only six covered wagons on the roster. The units, Nos. 2251-65, worked their way west from Erie, Pa., during May and June 1972. Equipped with Model FDL-12 turbocharged diesel engines, the order came with EMD Blomberg trucks from trade-ins. These units were equipped with dual controls but lacked nose signal lights and pilot plows. The U23B’s were real all purpose units, finding uses on the main lines (especially the “High Line” for which they were purchased). They were also found to be effective in local and switching service. During the time of delivery of the U23’s WP renumbered the U30B’s into the 3051-3071 number series, a project that was designed to put the locomotives in a number range related to horsepower capabilities.
During the mid to late 1970’s, WP’s locomotive roster underwent several changes regarding paint schemes. Around 1974, an orange staggered WP replaced the striping on the nose of the units and the railroad started using a lighter and more appealing shade of green. In 1979 the overall scheme was changed entirely with the now standard “New Image” design consisting of an orange short hood, front and rear pilots and back end. The section of the cab between the window and the battery box on the sides of the locomotive is also orange, with green numbers. A green WP is positioned on both the front and rear of the unit. All locomotives that receive extensive shopping will receive the new scheme.
After the arrival of the U23B’s, no more road locomotive purchases were made until 1979. Diminishing amounts of capital available for new locomotive purchases and the urgent need to re-equip its freight car fleet dictated that existing pools of units would have to be utilized for all assignments. By 1979, though, the need had been demonstrated for additional power purchases as soon as possible. By then, General Electric had dropped its U30B from the catalog in favor of its new B30-7, a more reliable and economic design (neighboring SP had begun buying them in large numbers). EMD had also dropped its GP40 in favor of its improved GP40-2 model. WP examined both models carefully but decided upon EMD’s GP40-2. The arrival of GP40-2’s 3545-3549 in 1979 were the first group of new locomotives to be factory equipped with air conditioning and the “New Image” paint scheme featuring a solid orange front hood and front pilot area. Low nose signal lights were omitted on the order. WP’s last new locomotives as an independent corporation would arrive in the form of EMD GP40-2’s 3550-3559 with the last entering service on May 6, 1980. In comparison to the previous order subtle differences included a new roof profile and low nose signal lights.
One interesting feature existed on the WP that provided the opportunity to see motive power from other railroads in many different paint schemes. That was the pooled power agreement that the WP had with both Burlington Northern and the Union Pacific. 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; and although the 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 operate BN and UP power system wide, a practice not common until then.