random thoughts on railroad photography, railfanning, technology, and such

Entries from April 4, 2010 - April 10, 2010


Two Must See Videos of the Valley Eagle Heritage Tour and UP No. 844

You have to see these videos!  Here are two very good videos posted to YouTube by a friend and fan of ChasingSteel.com, Zach Pumphrey (a.k.a. UPTRAIN).  The videos offer rare views of the UP No. 844 as she moves through Kansas and Missouri because it includes cab ride footage and exclusive right-of-way shots that the public rarely gets a chance to see. Thanks to Zach for producing this footage and making it available for all of us to enjoy!  More of his videos can be found on his YouTube channel.


More Cool Videos of UP's Valley Eagle Heritage Tour Train

Here are a couple of good videos of UP No. 844 pulling the Union Pacific’s Valley Eagle Heritage Tour train captured by a railfan as she went through Kansas.  This first one is another pacing video where the car and cameraman are driving alongside the train and filming the locomotive.  This one has some good tight shots of No. 844’s driving wheels in action and was filmed on a dirt road even:

This video is a stationary shot of the train going by a grade crossing near Hayden, Kansas.  In it you can get a complete view of the entire train as she rolls by:


You can see more videos of the UP’s No. 844 and the Valley Eagle Heritage train or subscribe to thelope.com on their YouTube channel.  I thank them for making the videos available.


Union Pacific's No. 844 Suffers a Seized Bearing

One of the main reasons that the railroads switched from steam-powered locomotives to diesel-electric locomotives was the high level of maintenance that the steam giants require.  With thousands of moving parts, most under tremendous strain and pressure, parts are due to wear rather rapidly.  In fact, steam locomotives typically require a good oiling and greasing of all critical components every several hundred miles or so.

An example of the issues associated with moving such a mass of steel using a mechanical drive train occurred to Union Pacific’s famed steam locomotive No. 844, while en route to Kansas City, Missouri with the UP’s special run, the Valley Eagle Heritage Tour.  The No. 844 apparently had a connecting rod bearing seize on one of her massive 80” drive wheels.

While browsing the web for posts regarding the progress of the Eagle’s 28-day tour, I happened upon a great post by a serious Olathe, Kansas railfan on one of the railroad discussion boards. Here is his post that describes the issue in detail:

I stopped by Union Station in Kansas City, Mo., late this afternoon to see U.P. 844 which was on public display from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. today. What I found, however, was that 844 evidently was ailing when it reached KC yesterday. Repairs were taking place right before my eyes. 

The mechanical crew that accompanies 844 on its far-ranging tours was furiously attempting to replace a bushing-style bearing on the right side of the third drive-wheel axle. Word at the scene was that the bearing had caused lots of concern most of the trip from Cheyenne to KC. It kept overheating and finally “seized”, according to one reliable source. 

I stuck around for awhile to watch the initial try at installing a new bearing. It was found that the new part needed some more attention in the tool car. The bearing reportedly had been custom manufactured at a machine shop in KC today to specifications supplied by U.P. Can you imagine the pressure on all of the mechanical people involved? 

I imagine this type of emergency has occurred on previous U.P.-sponsored steam trips and there is great relief once the problem is solved. In this case, there may be a few U.P. employees who will lose some sleep in getting the repair work finalized. 

Guess we’ll just have to wait until 8 a.m. tomorrow to see if the train leaves KC Union Station on time. Its next destination is an overnight stop in Parsons, KS, tomorrow (Tuesday) night. 

Attached are some “up close and personal” photos of the repairs being made to 844 this evening, between 6 and 7 p.m. I felt a bit privileged to get such close-up photos of the mechanical workers. Having an audience of several persons “from the general public” probably didn’t make them comfortable but no one ordered anyone to leave. Everyone was behaving themselves and talking in hushed tones. With no one being run off from the scene, the U.P. steam program gained another measure of goodwill. It is my opinon that the U.P. steam program is a class act, even when in emergency mode. 


Skilled craftsmen and machinists assess the situation and form a plan.

Judging by the presence of the sledge hammer and the size of the replacement bearing (on the towel) this is going to be no easy task.

The connecting rods, which link the driving wheels together, are braced to remove the tension on the bearing.

The replacement bearing, made of brass, is inspected and prepared for insertion.

The replacement bearing is carefully inserted.

An appropriate amount of grease is pneumatically forced around the new bearing by the crews using an “alemite” gun.

Fortunately, but unlike the steam engines of days gone by, UP’s No. 844 travels with a complete entourage of dedicated and talented men and women, all of whom are extremely skilled craftsmen and are complemented by the requisite tools, materials, and knowledge to keep No. 844 running. Also playing a critical role in the maintenance and repair of No. 844 are the myriad of Union Pacific’s employees in the facilities along the way.  For this particular trip, here are the crew members:

  • Penny Braunschweig - Concessions
  • Rick Braunschweig – Fireman
  • Jim Coker - Conductor
  • Ed Dickens - Manager Heritage Equipment & Facilities – Steam/Fireman
  • Jack Holland - Machinist
  • Henry Krening - Mechanical Foreman
  • Steve Lee - Superintendent Heritage Operations/Engineer
  • Lynn Nystrom - Engineer
  • Mary Nystrom - Concessions Coordinator
  • Ed Smith - Boilermaker/Welder
  • Scott Turley - Boilermaker/Welder

Believe it or not, this is a rather common occurrence for steam excursion trains these days.  To wit, here is the “roster” of support cars that travel with a train like this:

  • Howard Fogg – Boiler Car  The Howard Fogg still has a steam generator on board to provide steam if maintenance is required while locomotives No. 844 and No. 3985 are on the road.
  • Art Lockman – Maintenance Tool Car  The Art Lockman is a rolling “machine shop”. It carries tools, parts, machines, lubricants and numerous other items to maintain and repair the steam locomotives while on trips.
  • UPP 9336 – Boxcar  The boxcar carries steam locomotive spare parts, oversize supplies and steps used to allow visitors to see inside the cabs of No. 844 and No. 3985.
  • UPP 814 and UPP 809 – Water Tenders  Water tenders enable excursions using steam locomotives to travel farther between water stops.
  • Golden State Limited – Baggage Car  The Golden State Limited is used to transport supplies during excursions.
  • Reed Jackson – Concession Car

I echo the railfan’s sentiments regarding the talent and skill of the mechanical workers to effect such a repair and do it with without ushering fans away.  This gave us all a glimpse into the effort and talent required to keep a steam program alive.  Thanks to the men and women of the Union Pacific Railroad and particularly the folks of UP’s Steam Program.  Job well done.