Few locomotives are as legendary as the UP 844. The UP 844 or “UP’s Living Legend”, as its sometimes called, is the only steam locomotive on the Union Pacific that was never once removed from the roster, and has remained active since its introduction into service in December 1944.
UP 844 is a FEF-3″ 4-8-4 “Northern” Type locomotive, which entered service in December 1944. It was the very last steam locomotive to be delivered to Union Pacific. This locomotive operated in revenue service until 1959, when it was finally retired.
When the locomotive was retired in 1959, it was placed into storage with the rest of the UP steam fleet, which was slated for scrapping. Luckily, Union Pacific management recognized the significance of the steam locomotive, and decided to save the UP 844 from the scraper’s torch. This was the start of the UP Steam Program.
The FEF-3: A Brief History
In 1944, the Union Pacific and the American Locomotive Company, known as ALCO for short, teamed up and designed the FEF-3, which was a group of 10 4-8-4 “Northern” type locomotives designed to haul some of the railroad’s most prestigious passenger trains at speeds of up to 90 mph.
The Northern was considered to be one of the most powerful passenger locomotives on the rails during this time, as they often reached the staggering speed of 120 mph. Many reports even detail that one of the locomotives hauled a 1,000-ton passenger train at speeds of up to 100 mph, which was quite the feat!
UP 844 and its classmates were the pinnacle of steam technology during this time and were one of the last steam locomotives delivered to UP, as many railroads had begun the transition to diesel-electric power.
When originally designed, the FEF-3 class was meant to be coal-burning locomotives. However, due to improved efficiency, they were all converted to fuel oil in 1946. Later on in their career, as the new streamlined diesel electrics began to burst onto the scene, the UP 844 and its sisters were reassigned to freight service.
During its career in passenger service, UP 844 spent most of its time on some of the railroad’s most prestigious trains, such as the Overland Limited, Los Angeles Limited, Portland Rose, and Challenger. It wasn’t until the last two years of its service life that it was reassigned to freight service between 1957-59.
A New Beginning In Excursion Service
UP 844 was the very first locomotive to be introduced in the UP Steam Program, which was seen as a great public relations opportunity for the railroad. It hauled numerous excursions, such as the Cheyenne Frontier Days train, until it was discontinued in 2019. It’s worth noting that due to the delivery of EMD GP30 locomotive 844, the locomotive was temporarily renumbered to 8444 from 1962-1989. UP 844 made a number of different appearances throughout this time, including:
- Expo ’74 in Spokane, Washington
- 1978 dedication of the Utah State Railroad Museum in Ogden, Utah.
- 1984 World’s Fair in New Orleans
- 50th anniversary of the Los Angeles Union Passenger Terminal (LAUPT)
UP 844 even made a guest appearance on Amtrak’s San Francisco Zephyr, hauling the train from Denver to Cheyenne. UP 844 made an appearance on a number of other events as well, almost too many to count! However, we will go over some of them below:
- June 21, 1997: UP 844 lead a special train en route to the NRHS’s annual convention in Salt Lake City, Utah. This special train, consisted of the UP 844, Executive E-units, and 18 streamlined passenger cars. This was most notable, as it was hauled over the Tennessee Pass Line, which was slated to be closed and removed from the system shortly after.
- June 24, 1999: While on display at Railfair ’99, one of the boiler tubes failed on the 844, causing the locomotive to be towed back to Cheyenne by Challenger 3985. This resulted in the 844 being out of service for repairs for a few years and was ultimately put back into service in 2004.
- May 18-19, 2007: On this date, many railfans lined the tracks to watch the 844 run in tandem with the Southern Pacific 4449 “Daylight” locomotive. This was a round trip between Tacoma and Everett, WA.
- September 2012: In September 2012, the locomotive was used to help UP celebrate it’s 150th anniversary at the California State Railroad Museum. Unfortunately, due to a slight mishap, the No. 844 tender derailed on a tight curve; however, it was rerailed shortly after, and the events carried on as planned.
In 2013, it was decided that the locomotive be taken out of service, as the boiler needed some much-needed attention. It then received its 15-year inspection, albeit a little early, in 2014. In preparation for the annual Cheyenne Frontiers Day excursion, the locomotive was taken on a shake down run, which it passed with flying colors. After the boiler work, the locomotive took part in the following events:
- October 13,2016: The locomotive made it’s “Trek to Tennessee” journey, which was the first long trip after the overhaul, allowing the steam team to really put the locomotive through its paces.
- April 2017: UP 844 paid a visit to the Oregon Short Line Railroad to take part in the Boise Union Pacific Depot’s 92nd anniversary celebration.
- May 4, 2019: 844 took part in the very first run of the UP 4014 “Big Boy” locomotive on a trip to the Ogden Union Station.
Unfortunately, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, no further excursions are planned for 844 at this time.
UP 844 Specs
The UP 844 was built by the American Locomotive Company (ALCO) in 1944 and boasted an impressive 4-8-4 wheel arrangement, denoting it as a Northern-type locomotive. The “4-8-4” configuration signifies four leading, eight driving, and four trailing wheels, allowing for impressive stability and overall tractive effort. The locomotive was built with its easily identifiable smoke deflectors, designed to improve visibility for the crew. UP 844 is believed to be able to generate between 4,000-5000 horsepower at the drawbar and can reach a top speed of 120 mph. With its streamlined appearance, the locomotive has an overall length of approximately 114 feet and a weight of about 454 tons, making it one of the heaviest and most powerful steam locomotives ever built.
What Does The Future Hold for UP 844?
Right now, it seems that the future of UP 844 is unknown. The pandemic halted all UP steam program operations until 2021, when the 4014 was brought out for its excursions. However, the future looks bright for the 844, as the organization has the funding to keep these steamers in service. Right now, the locomotive is in storage in Cheyenne, Wyoming, under the care of the highly-capable UP steam program team.