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  • Utah Railway Comes Full Circle

    The Castle Gate coal loader looms idly over the passing Utah train below it, now only a few minutes away from Utah Railway Junction where it will disappear from SP Dispatcher No.5's board and ease on up to Martin. Dave Gayer
    Pacific RailNews - April 1993 - Page 24

    TEXT AND PHOTOGRAPHY BY DAVE GAYER AND JIM BELMONT

    In October 1991, Utah Railway unveiled an old paint scheme for its rebuilt locomotives or, if you prefer, a variant of an old scheme. In any event, Morrison Knudsen's ex CSX SD40s trundled down from Boise, Idaho, all bedecked in a striking scheme reminiscent of the colors which adorned an earlier ar ray of Alco RSD-4s and an RSD-5. You might suspect that the similarity was not an accident. You'd be right.

    But what about the progression of locomotives that came between the Alcos and the MK rebuilds? For a 100-mile-plus mainline railroad that has consistently moved thousands of tons of coal over a long and tortuous profile, the Utah's succession of motive power has seemed more like that of a nine-mile shortline. Just when you were getting used to the head end and helper power, zap! New locomotives . . . new paint scheme . . . new colors.

    As they'd done for decades, four Alcos headed up by RSD-4 301 work their empties upgrade at Gilluly on June 24, 1976. James S. Belmont
    Pacific RailNews - April 1993 - Page 25

    Utah Railway's rail neighbors provide the most telling contrast. When, for example, did Union Pacific not regularly dress up its locomotives in Armour yellow and Harbor Mist gray? You'd have to go back decades to find the last time Omaha mandated a color switch. And though Denver & Rio Grande Western can't claim such longevity, most of its hood diesels have worn the same somber scheme since the early 1960s. Not so with the Utah. Short of purchasing new power outright, it has rostered the exotic and the rag-tag, the look-alikes and the rebuilds, all in just a bit more than a decade.

    Green, scarlet, yellow, gray, blue, gold: a spectrum of colors in various shades have graced Utah Railway's motive power. You can count six or seven color and locomotive phases since 1980, some with their own subtle variations. The phases often over lapped, making for some unique mixes. About the only color consistency of the decade was that of its commodity-the lifeblood of the railroad and Carbon County-coal.

    RED, WHITE . . .

    For the most part, Utah Railway had put steam to pasture by in 1956. By that time its initial order of diesels-six 1,600 h.p. RSD-4s were four years old, but they weren't particularly showing the wear produced by repeatedly handling 85-car coal trains over Soldier Summit. Alco may have described its RSD-4 paint scheme as "white" with red bands and yellow lettering, but to local Utah aficionados, these engines were always "the grays." And gray didn't mean dirty white either, as the Utah took good care of its modest diesel fleet, inside and out.

    The Grays, shown in a lash-up and an environment firmly imprinted the memories of Utah lovers everywhere: four of the Alcos charge upgrade out of Springville with empties on Oct. 23, 1977. James Belmont
    Pacific RailNews - April 1993 - Page 26 Pacific RailNews - April 1993 - Page 27

    The Alcos, including an RSD-5 purchased in 1955, were such stalwarts that they became virtually synonymous with the Utah Railway. And they did it all, from mine runs to mainline and helper service. And everyone liked them-with the possible exception of Denver & Rio Grande Western.

    . . .& BLUE

    More Alcos! That's exactly what the Utah acquired over the next couple of years: two ex Chesapeake & Ohio 1,800 h.p. RSD-12s (leased by LASCO) and four ex-AT&SF 2,400 h.p. RSD-15 "Alligators. " Disparity of heritage aside, all six locomotives were blue, the color they were destined to keep for their entire Utah stay.

    The motive power department now stabled a rather exotic 14 unit, featuring four different Alco models. Standard practice found the grays and blues running as separate sets, though mixes occasionally occurred. All-in-all, these locomotives worked the Coal Route for 25 years, belching smoke and laboring on Soldier Summit's 2 percent grades.

    BN Cascade green certainly relieved the rash of Armour yellow. Witness eastbound ex-BN 6608 and kin leading four UP Dash 2s on an eastbound train exiting the Nolan tunnels on Sept. 6, 1985. James S. Belmont;
    Pacific RailNews - April 1993 - Page 28 Pacific RailNews - April 1993 - Page 29

    SOMETHING BORROWED. SOMETHING YELLOW

    It was landlord Rio Grande that finally put its foot down. Utah Railway's proud, able Alco fleet was deemed too slow for the main line. . . and D&RGW wanted them off its railroad. So the 1980s had barely begun when the Alcos began to disappear between Utah Railway Junction and Provo, Utah. They were summarily replaced, first as head-end power, then entirely, with the omnipresent power of the Overland Route main line: Union Pacific SD40s and SD40-2s. Uncle Pete's six-axle workhorses (later supplemented by UP GEs) weren't exactly strangers to Soldier Summit line as they occasionally showed up on coal and military trains. Down in Provo, with the possible exception of a UP caboose, the Utah's leased power resembled everything else slaving away on UP's moderately busy Provo Subdivision.

    Happily, the RSDs continued to ply the rails up to the mines, an area where D&RGW couldn't dictate power policy. But the retirements had begun. . . and by 1982 the Utah was yellow everywhere.

    UNLIKELY GREEN INVADERS . . . .

    Looking out of place in Utah coal country, ex,BN F45s 6613 and 6606 and an ex-SP SD45 work the Wattis load,out high up on the Wattis Branch. James Belmont
    Pacific RailNews - April 1993 - Page 30 Pacific RailNews - April 1993 - Page 31

    In April 1985, all primed and ready to head up the grade to Hiawatha, were four strangers from a railroad 500 miles away-Burlington Northern. Doubly surprising was the model-F45, a locomotive embraced only by Great Northern (later BN) and AT&SF.

    Obtained through Helm Leasing, the F45s provided a stark contrast to both their predecessor RSDs and the generally bleak Utah surroundings. But it certainly was an arresting visual change-the set of ex GN cowl units earning their keep on mine runs and in termingling with UP SDs on the mainline hauls. The BN lettering didn't last long, and neither did the pure lash-ups; within a month, the Union Pacific locomotives were headed off the property and another Western railroad's second-hand locomotives headed in.

    SCARLET AND GRAY TAKE OVER

    Having previously obtained hand-me-down six-axle veterans from three other Class I railroads (ATSF, BN and C&O), the Utah now leased power from a fourth: Southern Pacific. Weary SD45s (and, for a while, SD39s) began showing up to supplement the F45s. It was not necessarily an aesthetic improvement. As the quick transition (from UP to SP) occurred, the grays-excuse me, the scarlet-and-grays-soon over whelmed the presence of Cascade green.

    Apart from a few number changes and stenciled "Utah Railway" on the locomotive flank, the ex-SP SDs unfortunately looked like the forlorn SP and SSW power that was beginning to show up in droves on neighboring Rio Grande. An occasional F45 (or, during a brief stint, an ex-BN SD45) in the head-end or helper consist was about all that made the Utah's coal trains different from what was about to be ubiquitous on the D&RGW. Until, that is, the Utah repainted the 9147 in to a new, if subdued, paint scheme-new gray paint with white stripes and highlighting. In the spirit of the renovation, it frequently ran on the point of Provo-bound coal runs. The 9140 also later received a spartan version of the new scheme; but the remainder of the fleet was doomed to stay with its SP paint.

    BLUE-AND-GOLD CLASS

    The ex-SP locomotives, along with dwindling F45 input, dominated the Utah Railway scene for more than five years. But by spring 1991, Utah management retired these 14 units, all of which had performed well beyond their age. Replacementcame in the form of Morris on Knudsen MPI SD40-2s, some of which had already been roaming on the nearby UP. For the first time since the original Alcos left, the Utah's motive power did not wear a residual scheme from an other railroad.

    The MPI blue-and-gold scheme was handsome, if not stately. And like brand-new Rio Grande power, it was a challenge to photograph in the contrasty Utah environment. The MPIs were, initially, a short-term fix, interim power for a couple of months before MK's permanent rebuilds arrived in late spring. Continual postponement of the delivery date kept the blue and-gold paint around until early winter. And even now, well in to 1993, at least one MPI-the 9012-continues to hang around. Martin to help Utah move coal.

    RED-AND-GRAY: THE SEQUEL

    Change at Martin: The Utah's shop forces are now directed by Morrison Knudsen-and the prominent sign over 9010 proudly says so. Dave Gayer
    Pacific RailNews - April 1993 - Page 33 Pacific RailNews - April 1993 - Page 32

    Back in 1988, Gordon Cardall, an ex-Bamberger Railroad employee, had grown tired of the uninspired, surrogate Utah Railway paint schemes. So, as an avid model railroader, he took an HO scale SD45 and painted it into a new scheme based upon the old Utah Alco scheme, modified with a "bloody nose." Cardall took the model (along 'with his model of RSD-4 300) to Martin to show the employees. The superintendent, overwhelmingly impressed with both the 300 as well as the what-if SD45 scheme, ended up keeping both to display on his roll-top desk.

    The SD45 eventually got to Salt Lake City, home of the Utah's corporate offices. When the contract was eventually let for the company's new locomotives, the vice president pointed to the model and essentially said, "Paint'em like that." In October 1991 the first Utah Railway rebuild exited the MK Boise shops, painted almost identically to Cardall's model.

    The new MK SD40s are, by any measure, outstanding and virtually impossible to ignore out on the main line. Onlookers have pointed to the glossy EMD's and called them and their consist the "Circus Train." The attraction is as historical as it is colorful. For all their increased horsepower and technological improvements, the locomotives have a ring of familiarity about them, an image as definitive as the one RSD-4s sported.

    And if they're as successful and as long-lived-as their Alco predecessors, they will be around for a long time. If they're not, the Utah rainbow pinwheel will no doubt continue to revolve. In the meantime, thanks to a modeler's imagination and a railroad's follow-through, life has imitated art on the Utah Railway . . . and in doing so, come full circle.

    PRN

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