In October 1958, 40 years ago this fall, Union Pacific 428 became the last steam locomotive to pull a regularly scheduled passenger accommodation on the UP. It stood in for diesels on the Grand Island-Ord mixed train during the fall grain rush that saw the last runs of the 800-class Northerns, the Challengers, and the legendary Big Boys. Two years earlier, after three months in work train service, it powered the last steam-operated train on the Kearney-Stapleton branch on March 1, 1956.
The Museum purchased the 428 in 1969. Selected as a candidate for operational restoration, the 428 was moved into the Steam Shop, but for many years it was overshadowed by our operational steam locomotives. In the last year, however, a burst of activity has moved this historic Consolidation-type (2-8-0) locomotive much closer to a return to service.
Consolidations were the uncontested mainstay of steam power longer than any other wheel arrangement, with continuous production from shortly after the Civil War until World War II. Over 23,000 were built for domestic service, more than any other type of freight or passenger locomotive; the Pennsylvania Railroad alone purchased or built more than 3,000 Consolidations. During the first decade of the century, the 2-8-0's were the primary "freight hogs" for mainline service.
Even though larger locomotives became available around 1910 to handle heavier and longer mainline trains, Consolidations remained in production for another three decades. Some roads continued to purchase heavy versions with superheated boilers, wide fireboxes, boosters, and every modern appliance, such as our own Lake Superior & Ishpeming 35 (1916 Baldwin). Lighter, simpler versions were favored by many short lines, where weight restrictions on trackage or the lack of traffic prohibited use of larger equipment; an excellent example is our Louisiana & Arkansas 99 (1919 Baldwin). On the Class I railroads, Consolidations which once handled mainline freight often continued in service on branch lines and in switching until the diesel era.
As delivered in 1900, UP 428 had a non-superheated (saturated steam) boiler and the older-style Stephenson inside-frame valve gear. The valve gear controlled the admission and exhaust of steam in both a high-pressure and a low-pressure cylinder on each side; the cylinders were compounded, with the exhaust from the high-pressure cylinder feeding the low-pressure cylinder. Such "Vauclain Compound" locomotives (named after Baldwin's General Superintendent-- and later President--Samual M. Vauclain) were popular during the 1889-1905 period, because they were theoretically more efficient. However, the supposed benefits were usually eliminated by increased wear and maintenance costs. As the efficiency of boiler superheating became apparent, many Vauclain Compounds were converted to use two conventional cylinders and piston valves. UP 428 was converted during a major overhaul in 1915, when it also received Walschaerts valve gear, a steel cab, a superheated boiler, and its present number.
During its first two decades, UP 428 worked freights on UP's lines from Omaha and Kansas City to Denver, Salt Lake City, Portland, and Los Angeles. After World War I, as larger power became available, it was relegated to branch lines for another quarter-century of service. Following the end of World War II, UP determined that the locomotive was still basically sound, and completed an extensive rebuilding. UP 428 continued to operate on a branch line out of Grand Island, Nebraska until late 1958, long after virtually the entire railroad industry had been dieselized. During its branch line service, UP 428 handled freight, maintenance-of-way duties, and even mixed trains (with a passenger coach or combine tacked onto a string of freight cars). The locomotive was donated the next year to a Missouri museum, where it remained until sold to IRM in 1969.
A full inspection of the locomotive after arrival at Union revealed many problems. Most of the components were, to put it politely, "tired." The boiler needed major work in several areas, the cylinders were worn out-of-round, the boiler did not have proper supports at the rear end of the frame, and the front half of the smokebox was nearly rotted away. Rust had also attacked the cab and the tender, resulting in holes and weak spots throughout the steel sheets.
A visit to the Steam Shop reveals shiny steel--not rust--in many places. A new front half of the smokebox has been riveted in place. The tender's coal bunker has been rebuilt, and the new side sheets will be riveted soon. Most significantly, the rear tube sheet--which holds the back end of the flues and tubes and forms the front "wall" of the firebox--is also ready for installation.
The Steam Team now hopes to have new tubes and flues installed by the end of 1998, after a final full inspection of the boiler's newly-sandblasted interior. The tubes and flues were prepared at the same time as Frisco 1630's new set several years ago. Once they have been installed, it will be time to do something that hasn't been done in 40 years: Build a fire in UP 428's old-style narrow firebox, and heat the boiler for a hydrostatic pressure test. If it passes without leaks, then next winter's project will be a full press to overhaul and reinstall dozens of ancillary components, such as the air compressor, injectors, cab, brake cylinders and valves, etcetera.
There is one remaining problem, however. At least one set of drivers may need to be turned to a proper profile before UP 428 can reenter service. Towards that end, the IRM Steam Department has continued work on overhauling our massive wheel lathe (which can handle a pair of drivers up to 84 inches in diameter). Donations are needed to provide electrical service and switching for its 50 HP electric motor. In addition, we need to install a drop pit (at a cost of roughly $50,000.00). A drop pit provides a short "elevator" section of track, which can be raised, lowered, and moved to one side with a set of drivers; without it, the only way to remove wheelsets is to jack up the entire locomotive and place it on cribbing, which is an extremely daunting task. This is essential to continued steam operations; our stalwart Frisco 1630 also needs wheel work soon.
The Steam Team needs your help so that UP 428 can serve well into another century. Please volunteer some time or make a donation to the drop pit or Steam Shop funds to help us reach our goal of transforming a rusted artifact into a working steam locomotive. With your assistance, we can insure that UP 428's centennial will involve an operating steam locomotive!
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