Challenger steam locomotive to be restored

Union Pacific Railroad donated the only historic Challenger locomotive in existence, besides the one on display at North Platte, to a non-profit group, Railroading Heritage of Midwest America, for restoration.

Not only did UP donate Challenger 3985, but they also donated other locomotives and wagons to the RRHMA, which plans to restore the units and make them available to the public.

Besides Challenger 3985, the other remaining Challenger, #3977, is on display on the east side of Cody Park in North Platte, where it attracts hundreds of visitors each summer.

Challengers were designed for fast freight service, but occasionally pulled passenger trains. Challenger No. 3985 was built in 1943, one of 105 Challengers that saw service between 1936 and 1943, UP said.

The Challengers top speed was around 70 mph.

No. 3985 was, for many years, the only operational engine of its class in the world. It last operated in regular service in 1957. It was used for special service for many years thereafter, Union Pacific said.

Among the donations to RRHMA, UP also donated Centennial locomotive 6936 and its only remaining locomotive 5511 along with an assortment of railcars, all of which were stored in Cheyenne, Wyo.

The RRHMA is located in Silvis, Illinois.

Union Pacific said the donations will allow the company to focus on the world’s largest steam locomotive – the Big Boy UP 4014 – and the fastest steam locomotive – the Living Legend UP 844.

The Big Boy was completely rebuilt and returned to service in May 2019 to help celebrate the 150and anniversary of the completion of the transcontinental railroad.

“Union Pacific is proud to be the only Class I railroad with steam locomotives on its roster, part of the finest heritage fleet in the world,” said Scott Moore, Senior Vice President – Customer Relations. companies and administrative director.

Centenary 6936

No. 6936 in action. Photo * Union Pacific

Union Pacific also donated the only one of its remaining Centennial diesel-electric locomotives, No. 6936, to the RRHMA.

The Centennials, of which 47 were built, were the largest diesel-electric locomotives ever built. Composed in fact of two engines on the same chassis, they developed 6,600 horsepower.

Designed and built exclusively for Union Pacific Railroad, the units were named in honor of the railroad’s centennial celebration in 1969, Union Pacific says.

No. 5511

No. 5511

UP also donated locomotive #5511, a Class 2-10-2 (TTT.) It was built in 1923 and is the only surviving Union Pacific 2-10-2 steam locomotive. He was retired in July 1962, after nearly 40 years of service.

The numbers 2-10-2 describe the wheel arrangement – 2 front wheels, followed by 10 drive wheels and 2 rear wheels.

UP also donated these units to the RRHMA:

• E9B passenger locomotive shell.

• Four coach cars from the 1950s.

• Diner-Lounge car.

• Baggage car.

• Caboose.

• Two company cars: the Selma, formerly Western Pacific’s Feather River, and the Stanford, originally the 1928 Southern Pacific Sunset.

RRHMA plans to return the steam locomotives to service as part of a multi-million dollar, multi-year restoration project at Silvis, which has the space for the work and the large overhead cranes needed to lift the locomotives’ boilers from their executives for the restoration, the group says.

#3985 will be the first restored, similar to how UP has rebuilt Big Boy steam locomotive #4014 in recent years.

No. 5511, which last operated in the mid-1950s, will be restored once 3985 is completed, RRHMA said.

© 2022 The North Platte Bulletin. All rights reserved.

Jose P. Rogers