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August 2002 - Page 27

Soon after the WP-UP merger, the UP reassigned GP40s to Omaha/Council Bluffs and to Los Angeles for yard and local service. What had been the WPs top-line road power was now found on secondary assignments in UP territory. GP40-2s 3551 and 3547 are doing such duty at Los Angeles on August 13, 1983, although their appearance is still totally WP. These units had the newer style fans and exhaust silencers. Note the air line to the horns running along the cab roof. Decals: Herald King L-202, Microscale 87-274. Pete Coulombe photo, George Melvin collection numbers on the cab side. The front featured V-stripes up the pilot to the low nose and an extra warning light unit in the low nose. There was no form of herald. This was a major change from the classy scheme that had endured since 1947! A year later, the largest order for secondgeneration units came: 18 GP40s built in August and September 1971. These were also the last straight GP40s acquired by the WP. They were numbered 3527-3544, above the previous 26 units of that model. Five years later, units 3540 and 3541 were chosen to carry the bicentennial red-white-blue colors in 1976. Three years later, they were repainted into a new variation of the green livery with a solid orange nose and green WP initials. The road number was changed to green on an orange panel on the cab side. The rear was changed from stripes to solid orange. Replacing the variation with a staggered WP on the nose, this scheme followed a block WP applied to the nose of the two when in the bicentennial garb and was the first hint of a herald since the green paint took over in 1970. General Electric had one last fling on the WP before the road disappeared into the Union Pacific. In May and June of 1972, the road received 15 U23Bs. This was the period when most roads were discovering they still needed some medium-horsepower units and acknowledging that the remaining cab units and early Geeps could not be expected to run indefinitely. Neighboring Southern Pacific and Union Pacific opted for GP38-2s, but Santa Fe purchased the U23B. These units wore the green livery and were numbered 2251-2265, even hitting a number series that matched the horsepower of 2250 for the U23B. As on the U30B fleet, Blomberg trucks were requested. They were the last GE units built for the WP. The next year, the road bought their first new conventional switchers since 1952. This was an order for three SW1500s, numbered 1501-1503. They rode on Flexicoil trucks, perhaps influenced by the SW1500s on the SP and were the last switchers bought by the WP. Six years passed without any locomotive purchases, bringing us up to 1979, which might be considered the home stretch for the existence of the Western Pacific, merged with the Missouri Pacific into the UP on December 22, 1982. In July 1979, five GP40-2s were acquired. They were numbered above the last straight GP40, carrying numbers 3545-3549. Aside from their Dash 2 features, they bore few changes from their older brethren. A rooftop air conditioner was added, and the final variation of the green paint was used with this order. Nine months later, in April 1980, another ten GP40-2s were added. They were numbered 3550-3559 and had the current style radiator fans and exhaust silencers. As these engines were getting broken in, a rebuilding of the remaining 17 GP35s and older GP40s was beginning at Morrison-Knudsen in Boise, ID. This updating, as applied to the GP40s, made them comparable to the new GP40-2s with modernizing under the hood. New signal lights, air conditioning and the orange nose paint scheme made their appearance very similar also. The rebuilding was accomplished between May and September 1980 on the oldest 15 GP40s, units 3501-3504 and 3506-3516 built in 1966 and 1967. Unit 3505 had been wrecked in 1970 and returned rebuilt as unit 3523 in the midst of the 1970 delivery of GP40s. Between 1980 and the demise of the Western Pacific into the Union Pacific fold in late 1982, newer GP40s received the latest paint scheme despite not going through the rebuild program. Although my research sources cannot confirm, it appears that units 3527 and 3540 were off the roster at the time of renumbering into a UP series, with the remaining 41 GP40 units becoming UP 651-691 and the GP40-2s becoming UP 900-914. One GP40, unit 3532 was repainted about April 1, 1983, into Armor yellow but bearing the WP name and number. This attire turned out to be unique, and the unit was only decorated in this manner for a short period of time. For more information regarding the Western Pacific GP40 fleet in the UP era, see the UP installment of our series. Next month, a study of the experimental variant, the GP40X will be featured.



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