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Ninety-Eight Years and Counting
Union Pacific 428

From Rail & Wire Issue 170, March 1998

by C. Kevin McCabe

Farmer Francis G. Gschwind caught Union Pacific 428 on the pile driver train crossing trestle 68.09 over the South Loup River just west of Callaway, Nebraska, on February 28, 1956. Photo by Francis G. Gschwind

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.

The pile driver train prepares to work on trestle 73.88 east of Finchville, Nebraska, on January 12, 1956. This was located on the Union Pacific's Kearney-Stapleton Branch. Photo by Francis G. Gschwind
After uncoupling the supply cars and caboose beyond the trestle, the pile driver is raised into position and work begins on trestle 73.88. Photo by Francis G. Gschwind
Built as UP 1648 by Burnham, Williams & Company (a predecessor of Baldwin Locomotive Works), this locomotive represented the state of the builder's art in 1900. With only minor changes, this class formed the basis for the famed "Harriman Standard" Consolidations, built by the hundreds over the next decade for the UP, Southern Pacific, Chicago & Alton, Chicago Great Western, Illinois Central, Erie, and other railroads controlled or influenced by E.H. Harriman.

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.

Union Pacific 1641 was a sister to 1648, the locomotive that would eventually become 428. As built, the locomotive had a conventional tender, a wooden cab, and a long "cow catcher" type pilot. It was a Vauclain Compound with both high-pressure and low-pressure cylinders. In 1915, it was rebuilt with a "simple" cylinder arrangement, and superheater tubes and header were added to the boiler. Baldwin Locomotive Works Builders Photo; H.L. Broadbelt Collection; Railroad Museum of Pennsylvania (PHMC)

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.

UP 428ís last trip on the Kearney Branch, a work train on March 1, 1956, climbs the five mile 0.5% grade Callaway Hill. Photo by Francis G. Gschwind
Over the years, members of the IRM Steam Team have picked away at the locomotive, working on the cylinders, lead truck, and other components. Because of the requirements to maintain and overhaul our operating steamers, however, progress was extremely slow. But within the past few months, the pace has increased tremendously. Suddenly, UP 428's return to steam doesn't seem quite so distant.

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.

Steam service on the Kearney Branch ended on March 1, 1956, as Extra 428 East leaves Callaway, Nebraska, for Grand Island. Photos by Francis G. Gschwind

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.

In IRM's Steam Shop, Union Pacific 428 is undergoing a complete restoration. It is hoped that the locomotive will be ready for service before her 100th birthday in October of 2000. C. Kevin McCabe Photo
Over the past year, the Federal Railroad Administration has proposed a new set of rules governing steam locomotives. These rules represent the first major change to the steam rules since 1936. Thanks to the efforts of both IRM personnel and our counterparts at other museums and tourist railways, the new rules will be far more suited to today's typical weekend and special event operations. The new rules do not relax safety-- in fact, they mandate even more rigid inspections and further safety equipment--but they do permit maintenance and inspection periods based on actual service days rather than calendar months or years. It is likely that UP 428 will be one of the first locomotives to be approved for service under the new rules, shortly before its 100th birthday in October, 2000.

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!



From the Rail & Wire Issue 170, March 1998


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