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& Eastern Illinois (MP) SD40-2 Unit #3155
How much can be said about just one SD40-2, one typical example of the best power the Missouri Pacific Railroad had to offer? Let's try to unfold one life story, the story of C&EI #3155. Let's begin with the beginning.
The EMD assembly plant in LaGrange, Illinois was the company's only manufacturing facility for many years. All EMD diesels were built here until the early 1980s. The London, Ontario plant is the primary plant nowadays. LaGrange still plays a role, though somewhat dimished, with sub-assembly, painting, and the like.
In early 1974, one-dozen skeletal Dash 2 forms took shape: starting from the rails up were two sets of three axled HT-C trucks, the curved fuel tank (capacity?), the largest bulk of the body was made up of a powerful prime mover based on the proven 16-cylinder 645E3 power plant. Builders swarmed over the unit to install wiring, plumbing, fans and vents. After the hood was lowered over the powerplant, access doors, windows, controls. The biggest milestone of final assembly is when the 40-2 unit is finally "trucked" - when the body is lowered onto the wheel assemblies. All came together into individual diesel-powered locomotives.
Finally a worker riveted to the side sill a metal tag designating her as number 73748-17, built in March 1974, 3000 horsepower; high traction C-C trucks; 391,000 pounds operating weight. The newest and brightest in a steller line of rail power - she was an EMD SD40-2 class locomotive.
Her initial assignment wouldn't be far from her birth place, she'd be delivered to Mopac subsidiary Chicago & Eastern Illinois, as their #3155, part of the C&EI #3150-63 order which completed her roster (some sources list C&EI's complete SD40-2 order included units #3139-3163, others list only the 14 unit order as going to the company). These were the first new units purchased for the company since MoPac control, the first C-C power the road would own.
* * *
She wouldn't be alone, as #3155 and her fourteen sister units would join a powerful SD fleet. The EMD-built SD40-2's put into service by the Missouri Pacific where the prefered road power of the railroad. They weren't flashy (save for a very imposing bird of prey on each flank) or even outfitted with dynamic brakes (the MoPac was a flatlander railroad with low profiles, and the engineering department chose against the expense of installating DB's). However these units were easy to maintain, smooth to operate, achieving high speeds, had lots of traction and plenty of muscle when it was needed. The Dash 2 became the standard throughout the 1970s and '80s.
Unit #3155 arrived in time to receive the MoPac's new four-digit numbering that had just been adopted to accomodate a re-newed roster swelled with the additions of new SD locomotives and other merged motive power in 1974-75. The 3100-series was reserved for the SD40-2, representing it's 3000 horse power rating. She was delivered in standard "Jenks Blue" with 3-inch wide scotchlite strips and 8-inch numbering. Incidentally, the final unit of the order, #3163 was delivered in the new large number scheme, unlike her sisters with the "turbo eagle" on the long hood.
Who was her first road crew?... What was her initial assigment on the old C&EI? We will never know, unless those parties involved should confess. We can safely assume that without ceremony she was inducted into her maiden assignment. An inconspicious crew van would pull up and dislodge a train crew fresh for the road... the legendary Engineer and Brakeman... and in the good old days this would also include the revered Conductor and Flagman who would man the vermillion red caboose at the end of the long train. The road crew would have been your average Joes, just doing their job. The loco's crewmen would grab #3155's railing, climb up the steep steps and squeeze into the cramped quarters of the gray crew cab (why did the railroads coat the inside of everything gray?), stow their carry-ons, or "grips" as they were called and begin checking out the sheets of orders as they waited and waited upon a favorable signal that their train was clear to proceed.
One way to bide time was to discuss the topics that you'd expect railroaders to discuss during the wait, pouring coffee from a thermous and sipping the still-warm brew. Another way was to go through your routines. The Brakeman had his own ritual. He would duck through the doorway behind the Engineer's seat and step out on the 2-foot wide decking of the long hood to check things over - confirm the MU connections weren't loose and open the panel doors to ready the massive prime mover inside. Meanwhile the engineer took his place at the Dash 2's control stand, sat on the somewhat stiff vinyl seat (unfortunately for this road crew, MoPac opted for strict functionality - not comfort). It can be joked that the crew cab is sort of a haven for the seasoned railroad man. Here amongst the noise, vibrations and fumes in the confines of his spartan haven, settled happily on a soon-to-be worn seat, under the soles of his shoes he feels the rejuvenating vibration of power at his call, hearing the living-breathing sounds of valves popping, pumps pumping, and the pulsing rise and fall of a diesel whine, shrill but throaty at the same time... on this day it is one of the last refuges where one can flee for the inner self.
* * *
Like the others in her group of 14 C&EI units, #3155 was originally delivered with the C&EI buzzsaw emblem. This emblem was basically a hybrid of both MP and C&EI's heralds. As things involving railroads tend to do, things would change. The C&EI had fallen under the flag of the MoPac, and on October 16, 1976 word got out that the C&EI would disappear into the parent road and cease to exist as a seperate identity. At the same time Mopac modified it's own classic buzzsaw emblem, and the road power gradually reflected this. The fourteen C&EI 40-2's were under new ownership. One day, and with no ceremony. #3155 would transform her identity with the application of the newer flying eagle buzzsaw applied over the C&EI buzzsaw on the cab, a small version of the billboard-sized white turbo eagle on her flanks. She and seven others of the 14 became double eagles - engines with two eagles, one on the cab and one on the long hood.
As I understand it, this alteration was more or less done on the spot by train crews. A crewman would lean out the cab window, peel off the adhesive backing and place the eagle decal right over the old buzzsaw. Thus this unit became emblazoned with double eagles, one of only a handful on the entire system.
Every locomotive had it's personality, and train crews had definite preferences. The 40-2 model was well liked. In fact she was a favorite of the EMD power that the railroads employeed. She rode good (as good as rail power goes - all give a bumpy ride more or less and we all know what long bumpy rides can do to a person's innards), pulled her load well and was easy to maintain.
Over the course of the following ten years she was fully owned and operated by the Missouri Pacific system, resplendant in her "double eagles".
The #3155's sister, MP #3154, made a brief appearance on moving film. Not the big screen mind you, but in railfan movies assembled for video and issued under the title "Vignettes of the Missouri Pacific." The grainy footage, shot sometime between the late '70s to early '80s, shows her on the point waiting with a northbound, and crossing the diamonds into Neff Yard in Kansas City. A running joke through the tape the narrator jokes that the MoPac can't get any respect.
That, in a big way, would change.
* * *
We move ahead now. There would be more changes... and more drastic. With little ceremony as always, #3155 disappeared into a UP paint shop. She would never emerge again. Not as the same unit anyway. Her blue livery and large screaming eagle were gone. She was now another drop in a sea of armour yellow and harbor mist gray. Of the original 14 units, three (MP 4152, 4159, 4163) were repainted to UP yellow and gray, with Missouri Pacific "block-style" lettering, between November 1984 and October 1985. These three were then relettered for the UP between April 1988 and August 1993. Four years after the UP-MP merger, #3155 underwent her most dramatic transformation yet, taking on the personae as Union Pacific #4155, being renumbered into the 4100 series on 2nd September 1986. This renumbering program involved UP 4115-4163 in April 1986 through August 1993 (UP 4158, ex MP 3158, was the first, completed on 7 April 1986; UP 4132, ex MP 3132, was the last, completed on 25 August 1993).
As #4155 she would still see her same crews, assignments and operate in the same general area for a time, but more and more these engines would be dispersed all across the nation far from "home" iron.
With UP's locomotive number series woes with severely crowded being compounded the 1990's by aquistions of the Southern Pacific and the Rio Grande, it was necessary for yet another renumbering. This time it occured in November, 2nd, 2000, and it required only the changing out of number boards: UP #4155 was swapped for UP #9904, loosing the last numeric vestiges of it's original identity.
Recent records of course are more complete than tracing back what occured a quarter of a century ago. We can be sure though, that countless train crews have ridden inside her cab, through numerous assignments ranging from coast to coast and border to border. You name it, its a safe bet that the former #3155 hauled it. Refurbishments, repairs, and routine maintanence have kept her workings running for a long long time, long enough to have travered on just about every inch of the old Missouri Pacific system and much of the newer one short of the mountainous regions.
As is happening on
roads everywhere with the early second generation power, as I write this
the SD40-2's are being phased out to be replaced by more modern third
generation offerings such as new EMD-built SD70M. As the years rolled
by, she doubtless would get more moody at times, perhaps coughing a little
bit more greasy black smoke each time her prime mover was turned-over
from cold. More componets needed to be replaced, and a little more rust
etched her thick metallic skin. Still, she had a job to do.
Somewhere today, the former C&EI #3155 is spending her days parked on, rather than plying, the high iron. At least that's what her current status is, according to one UP source. Her sisters were renumbered into Union Pacific's 9900-series, except for one in the Y800 series after being rebuilt as an SD38-2R (4/98), five became un-manned "B-units" renumbered with "B" number prefix; the conversion and renumbering took place in June through November 1992 (conversion to trailing-unit-only status includes removal of refrigerators, toilets, and cab seats). Many of the original 1974 C&EI order are now listed as retired, with the first coming in 1999.
The days of deadline units are spent waiting on a siding to be sold to another railroad or traded-in for new power. As you walk close to these outcasts, the smell of diesel fuel is over-powering from leaky fuel tanks and cannibalized plumbing. These units all around show the scars of the years, their own stories to tell and no one but you to whisper it to. You trace a hand across the side sill of one grimey locomotive, though its dulled metal you feel you've touched something that's perhaps still alive underneath. After a very brief period as UP# 9904, our old C&EI SD40-2 was officially retired by the Union Pacific on the 30th of January, 2002, only 2 months shy of her 28th birthday.
So much for "Official" status.
Union Pacific SD40-2 #9904, the same unit listed as retired, was seen as recently as January 2003 in San Antonio being serviced at the ex-MoPac diesel shop. Later that same month she was the lead unit on an eastbound to Houston freight (photo above). To quote a famous phrase, reports of her demise are somewhat exaggerated, to say the at least. Not too shabby for a dead-line unit!
If you see some inconspicous SD40-2 flash by a lonely country road crossing, or relegated to a lonely track for outcasts awaiting their ultimate fate, perhaps you'll think of the long journey one Dash 2 has traced under her 12 wheels, her prime mover throbbing with a bass growl the whole way, helping build our country throughout a change-filled life on the railroad.
And now a final update... is it the end of the line?
What a difference 12 months can make. The UP 9904 was sold at an auction in North Platte, Nebraska on December 9, 2003 to an unknown buyer. Her condition is unknown, but she was seen to be in very bad shape, after apparently being cannibalized. Several parts were missing and the traction motors were shot. We don't have an official retirement for her in 2003, but the 9904 (3155) joined 11 other former Mo-Pac SD40-2s that were also sold on the same day.
It is hoped that these engines that were once the power of the Missouri Pacific have still been saved from the scrapper and found new rails to call home, but it seems doubtful.
|All images & text © 2000-2008 T. Greuter / Screaming Eagles, unless otherwise noted. All Rights Reserved.|