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Union Pacific's Mighty Turbines_peliplat

Union Pacific's Mighty Turbines (1998)

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45 min  |  Documentary

The Union Pacific Railroad has always been a champion of "super power". It is the only railroad to use gas turbine-electric locomotives in regular service. This video describes the history of the turbine-electric program at UP and includes much scenic track-side footage. The first two turbines commissioned by UP were experimental steam turbine-electric 2,500 horsepower units, built by General Electric in 1938. The experiment was considered a failure. In 1948, Alco/GE built a demonstrator gas turbine-electric locomotive of 4,500 horsepower, road number 50. This unit was deemed a success and 10 more units were ordered. The 10 "standard" units, road numbers 51-60, were built between 1952 and 1953 and were retired from service between 1962 and 1964. The next set of 15 gas turbine-electric locomotives, also of 4,500 horsepower, were built beginning in 1954. Given road numbers 61-75, they were known as "veranda" units due to the covered walkways on either side. They were retired in 1963 and 1964. The final group of 30 gas turbine-electric locomotives, known as the "Big Blows" from the roar of the turbine exhaust, were built between 1958 and 1961 and retired between 1968 and 1970. Their horsepower rating of 8,500 was the highest ever for a North American locomotive, a record which still stands. Each locomotive consisted of two units, with the B unit carrying the turbine prime mover and generators. The road numbers were 1-30 for the A-units and 1B-30B for the B-units. In 1962 UP built an experimental coal-fired gas turbine-electric locomotive. Constructed in its own Omaha shops and given road numbers 80/80B, it was also of two-unit design: the A unit retained a 2,000 horsepower diesel engine and the B unit contained a 5,000 horsepower gas turbine, for a total of 7,000 horsepower. It ran for 20 months in service but was deemed a failure. The era of Union Pacific gas turbine-electric locomotive service ended by 1970, as the rising cost of fuel and the higher maintenance costs of the turbine machinery meant the locomotives could not compete economically with their diesel-electric counterparts.

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