In the decade they were operated, Union Pacific’s 8500-series Gas Turbine Electric Locomotives earned two nicknames: UP dubbed them the “Super Fleet” for obvious reasons as they were the largest, most powerful locomotives ever employed by the railroad. More often the Turbines were referred to as “Big Blows” due to the deafening roar of their engines. Thirty of these GE-built giants were delivered to the UP between 1958 and 1961. The entire fleet was traded, sold, or scrapped by 1970. Not one operating unit remains.
Used primarily between Ogden, Utah and Green River, Wyoming, where the tough grades of the Wasatch Mountains required UP’s sturdiest power, these monsters could log up to 10,000 miles a month hauling heavy mixed freight and coal trains. The 8500 series were permanently coupled six-axle units running on C-C trucks, and their prime mover was the most powerful ever used in a locomotive. The operating weight for the A and B units combined was close to 850,000 pounds, yet they could attain speeds of up to 70 mph!
Video Rails take you back to the 1960s with dramatic footage of UP’s Turbines at work. First and second generation Turbines are briefly introduced and then the real action begins at the Ogden and Riverdale Yards where you’ll see them being serviced, watered, sanded, and fueled. You’ll follow an assortment of trains past Weber Canyon, Uintah, Peterson, Morgan (where you’ll see fantastic pacing sequences), Devil’s Slide, Henefer, Echo Canyon, Castle Rock, and Wasatch and be treated to thrilling scenes along this scenic route before they reach their eastern boundary at Green River. The highly corrosive Bunker C fuel that powered the Turbines led to higher than anticipated maintenance costs and with the rising price of fuel oil at the end of the 1960s, the Turbines became too expensive to operate. The entire fleet was traded, sold, or scrapped by 1970.