Dieselpunk + Steampunk Culture

The Union Pacific history is surely the best showcase for diesel trains development.

Its high-speed trains have been already featured in our Flying Americans articles (v.1.0 and 2.0) but they certainly deserve a closer look - as a remarkable technological achievement, an adequate response to the railroad's business needs and also as a fine piece of the Interbellum aesthetics. Luckily, there is an excellent article on the subject written by Don Strack and today, I'd like to present a lengthy but very interesting excerpt from this article along with some pictures (as usual).

Union Pacific's first Streamliner is its most famous early motorized passenger train. The celebrated train of 1934 was numbered M-10000 and was a three-car yellow-and-brown lightweight passenger train, an articulated and streamlined four-car trainset powered by a 600-horsepower oil-distillate internal combustion engine. Although it was intended for demonstration purposes and never meant for revenue service, that train and Chicago, Burlington & Quincy's diesel-powered Pioneer Zephyr—developed within a few months of each other—are generally regarded as the first internal-combustion-powered mainline intercity passenger trains in America.

Diesel-electric switchers had been working in the switching yards of American railroads since 1925, quietly racking up records for efficiency, economy, and availability. Even earlier, Union Pacific and other roads had used gas-electric cars for light branchline passenger service, and one of UP's own officers developed the streamlined gas-electric vehicle design known as the McKeen car, which both UP and other railroads bought and used.

Internal combustion diesel engines first came to UP in the mid-1930s with the successor to M-10000, in the form of the road's second Streamliner, a lightweight articulated passenger train numbered M-10001. Separate diesel passenger locomotives began to appear with the arrival of the road's third Streamliner, M-10002, in 1936. The road tested diesel switchers in 1939, buying its first diesel switchers during the following year.

But mainline passenger and freight traffic remained in the steady hands of dependable, though costly-to-maintain steam locomotives. In the 1920s and early 1930s on Union Pacific, this meant 2-8-2s, 2-10-2s, 4-12-2s, and articulated engines for freight service, and 4-6-2s and 4-8-2s for passenger trains. Until the arrival of M-10000 and the Zephyr, almost no one, inside or outside the railroad industry, knew for sure whether diesels could withstand the rigors of mainline service, not in passenger service and certainly not in freight service. M-10000, as it turned out, became the first in UP's fleet of passenger trains to which it gave the signature name "Streamliner."

During the late 1930s and early 1940s, Union Pacific management, in both the corporate and mechanical departments, became convinced that diesels could handle the more visible, yet lighter-duty, passenger trains, and they found that colorful, comfortable, fast new passenger trains were popular with the public. But they were equally convinced that only more and larger steam locomotives could meet the road's need for high-speed freight service. This was a reflection of the corporate culture these men had grown up in, from a time before World War I, when a better locomotive simply meant a more modern steam locomotive. The major (steam) locomotive builders embraced this thinking. Diesels were fine, they reasoned, but they would never attain the combined power and speed needed for freight service.

By 1945, UP was happy with the performance of its 175 modern steam locomotives, built in three designs—105 4-6-6-4 Challengers, 25 4-8-8-4 Big Boys, and 45 800-class 4-8-4s, all built since 1936 and among the finest examples of steam power ever built. The Big Boys developed 133,375 pounds starting tractive effort, which translated to approximately 6,300 maximum drawbar horsepower. Except for its high-public-profile Streamliners, Union Pacific came out of World War II as essentially a steam freight railroad. Its last steam engine was built in 1944, and by the end of 1946, the road owned 154 diesels—112 switchers and 42 passenger engines—and not a single freight unit.

(via paul.malon @ Flickr)

To obtain the same high performance from a diesel locomotive as it had from the Big Boy, Union Pacific, along with others in the railroad industry, figured it needed a double-unit locomotive (but preferably a single-unit locomotive), of the same 6,000-horsepower rating. (Many railroads embraced the philosophy of trying to replace steam engines one-for-one with equivalently powered diesels, resulting in many customized, non-standard, diesel-locomotive designs in those days.) Although UP had accumulated plenty of experience with its Streamliners and with much smaller gasoline- and distillate-powered self-propelled motor cars (owning a total of 58 cars), the latter all fell into the 200- to 300-horsepower range, much too small to be considered for freight service.

As the railroad looked proudly to its Big Boys, Challengers, and 800-class Northerns and pondered the future, one thing was quite clear. Every one of its competitors—the other major Western railroads—had already embraced the multiple-unit diesel concept for freight service, while UP had rejected it in favor of trying to find the self-contained diesel equivalent of the Big Boy. The multiple-unit "building-block" system, promoted by the Electro-Motive Corp., later the Electro-Motive Division of General Motors Corp.—employed varying numbers of units, all controlled from a single point, assembled for each run according to need, taking into account train weight, train speed, and a route's operating profile.

Between 1920 and 1932, the number of passenger-miles for America's railroads had dropped by two-thirds, inversely matching the tripling of automobile registrations during the same period. The public wanted faster schedules and more comfort. To furnish faster schedules, Union Pacific needed either lighter trains or more powerful locomotives. UP chose to pursue a lighter train, based on its experience with self-propelled motor cars, with their electric transmissions and increasingly powerful distillate engines during the late 1920s. Lighter trains would also spring from developments in lightweight metals during the post-World War I years, and from aerodynamic designs for rail equipment (specifically, Pullman's Railplane of March 1933). More comfort, especially for business and upscale pleasure travelers, would come with new, more modern designs. These developments led Union Pacific in 1933 to ask for the development of the lightweight, articulated passenger train, which became known as The Streamliner. Union Pacific saw The Streamliner as the answer to what the traveling public wanted, and the first Streamliner was M-10000.


Union Pacific's first internal-combustion locomotive was actually the power car of an articulated passenger train. M-10000 was built as the first streamlined passenger train in North America, and was equipped with a 600-horsepower Winton distillate engine, very similar to the engine used two years before in Santa Fe's M-190 articulated motor car. Union Pacific's M-10000 train featured an all-aluminum, wind-tunnel-tested tubular carbody design that marked the beginning of the streamlined era on America's railroads. Concurrent streamlining efforts included Chicago, Burlington & Quincy Railroad's number 9900, the Pioneer Zephyr, completed just two months after M-10000, as the first diesel-powered streamlined passenger train in North America. Pennsylvania Railroad's experimental streamlined pair of electric locomotives, GG1-class 2-C+C-2 unit 4899 and R1-class 2-D-2 unit 4800 (they later traded road numbers as the GG1 design entered mass production) was completed in August 1934, six months after UP M-10000.

UP formally placed its order with Pullman in May 1933, using the proven Winton Engine Co. distillate engine. Three weeks later, in mid-June, Burlington placed the order for its streamlined train, with Winton's new 201-A diesel engine, of which only two small prototypes, and no production versions, had been completed. Both streamlined trains were originally intended to be diesel-powered, but Pullman finished the all-aluminum UP train first, and the new Winton diesel was not yet ready, so UP settled instead on the earlier Winton 191-A distillate engine. Union Pacific's 600-horsepower, three-car, articulated train was ordered from the Pullman Car Co. on May 24, 1933, and was under development and construction between that date and its completion date more than eight months later, in February 1934. (In 1934, the Pullman Car & Manufacturing Co. combined with the Standard Car Co., becoming the Pullman-Standard Car Manufacturing Co., commonly known as Pullman-Standard.)

M-10000 was constructed as an engineering development vehicle to demonstrate the practicality of long-distance, lightweight passenger trains. Early in 1933, Union Pacific set aside $200,000 for the construction and operation of such a train to gather engineering and operating data that could be used in the design and construction of larger trains for revenue service. Unlike CB&Q, which built its Pioneer Zephyr with a particular service and route already planned, Union Pacific had Pullman build the M-10000 as an experimental demonstrator with no market in mind. With seating for only 116 people—about 1-1/2 times that of a single heavyweight coach of the day—its capacity was extremely limited. To recover some of the costs of its development, UP eventually assigned the train to the 187-mile Kansas City, Mo.-to-Salina, Kan., portion of its Kansas City-Denver route after it proved the success of the lightweight train concept.

The Streamliner at the 'Century of Progress' World's Fair. Chicago, 1934

The train was delivered to Union Pacific on February 12, 1934, and set out on a nationwide tour until late 1934, including a two-month display at the Century of Progress International Exposition in Chicago. The train returned from its national tour and entered revenue service on January 31, 1935 operating as The Streamliner.

The name was changed to City of Salina on March 13, 1935. During 1937 and 1938, it left Salina, in central Kansas, at 7 a.m., heading east, and reached Kansas City at 10:30 a.m. Half an hour later, it was ready to head west again, running as far as Topeka, 68 miles, in just 68 minutes. Turning again, it left Topeka at 12:30, getting back to Kansas City at 1:38—another mile-a-minute average speed. Then it left Kansas City at 4 p.m. (5 p.m. in 1938) and tied up at Salina at 7:30 p.m. (8:30 p.m. in 1938). On the 187-mile Salina-Kansas City run, its elapsed travel time was 3-1/2 hours, with 10 intermediate stops. This was 70 to 75 minutes faster than the best steam-powered express on the route, the heavyweight Pacific Limited, which made fewer stops.

M-10000 was removed from service on December 16, 1941, after six years and 900,000 miles of revenue service, and was sold for scrap to Aaron Ferer Co. in Omaha, Neb., on February 13, 1942.

EMD later assigned model numbers to M-10000 and to Burlington's Pioneer Zephyr, using the model AA to denote, "Passenger A unit with baggage compartment. Noted diesel locomotive historian John Kirkland has referred to these power units as "baggage-car locomotives."


Following M-10000 came the M-10001. Actually, two trains were numbered as M-10001. The first M-10001 was a 900-horsepower, six-car fully articulated train, and the first Pullman-sleeper-equipped streamlined passenger train in North America, and Union Pacific's first diesel-powered train. The power car was built by Pullman-Standard (as part of the entire train) and powered using a Winton diesel engine, a General Electric generator, and four General Electric traction motors. The larger M-10001 was ordered from the Pullman Car & Manufacturing Co. on June 30, 1933, one month after M-10000, and just two weeks after Burlington's 9900 was ordered from Budd. M-10001 was under development and construction (including improvements discovered from the operation of M-10000) between its order date and its completion date 15 months later, in September 1934. It was delivered to Union Pacific on October 2, 1934 and toured the United States for display and testing purposes over the next two months. Without its having rolled a single mile in revenue service, UP in December 1934 returned the entire train to Pullman for remodeling and improvement to increase its power and capacity.

The original M-10001 was a 376-foot-long, fully articulated six-car train. It included the 48-foot turret-cab power unit, a Railway Post Office/baggage car, three Pullman sleeping cars, and a round-end coach/buffet car. The remodeled M-10001 was a 455-foot-long, seven-car train. The remodeled train included the 60-foot, three-inch turret-cab power unit (increased by 12 feet to accommodate the larger 1,200-horsepower, 16-cylinder engine), a Railway Post Office/baggage car (increased by eight feet to accommodate a steam generator compartment), a diner/lounge car, three Pullman cars, and a round-end coach/buffet car.

This remodeled M-10001 was equipped with the first production 16-cylinder 1,200-horsepower Winton diesel engine. The new engine replaced a prime mover that itself had represented a previous first—the first installation of Winton's 12-cylinder 900-horsepower diesel engine, both being installed within a seven-month time span.

Pullman delivered the remodeled M-10001 to Union Pacific on May 23, 1935, in a ceremony at the Chicago & North Western Railway's station in Chicago. (C&NW handled the eastern 491-mile leg of UP's transcontinental passenger service between Omaha, Neb., and Chicago.) The train made three test runs between Omaha, Neb., and Portland, Ore., during late May, and was dedicated at the Portland Rose Festival as the first City of Portland on June 5, 1935, entering revenue service the next day when it left Portland on its maiden trip to Chicago.

The second M-10001 remained in service until June 1939, when the train was replaced in City of Portland service by the M-10002 trainset, which had been reassigned from City of Los Angeles service. The 900-horsepower Winton diesel engine and other power equipment from the power car, and the steam generator from the RPO/baggage car, were salvaged by UP in December 1939 and installed in a new carbody (built by Pullman-Standard) that entered City of Denver service as CD-07-C, as additional motive power to support increased schedules and train consists on that train's Chicago-to-Denver route. M-10001 remained stored for two years (without its diesel engine after December 1939), until it was retired and sold for scrap on August 13, 1941.

Electro-Motive company records show an earlier M-10002 and M-10003, to be built after the M-10001. Both were ordered during November 1933 (M-10000 was ordered in May 1933 and M-10001 was ordered in June 1933). The first M-10002 and M-10003 were originally intended to enter service as the initial City of Los Angeles and City of San Francisco, and were also to be designed and built as articulated trainsets similar to M-10000 and M-10001. The two trains were given Pullman-Standard lot number 6433. EMC assigned a common order number, E121, to M-10001, M-10002, and M-10003.

M-10001 was built; M-10002 and M-10003 were not. Using lessons learned during the operation of both M-10000 and M-10001, Union Pacific and Pullman-Standard returned to the design table for additional horsepower to pull the increased number of cars of the proposed new trains. In an effort that would confuse later historians, EMC canceled the remaining units in order number E121 in December 1934 and assigned a new order number (E131) to the newly redesigned M-10002, delivered in April 1936, but Pullman-Standard retained its lot number 6433 for the new M-10002 train. The redesigned M-10003 was later delivered in July 1936 as a spare locomotive set of an entirely different carbody design, being part of the City of Denver order, using Pullman-Standard lot number 6484, and EMC order number E132.

The Alton Railroad’s streamlined passenger train Abraham Lincoln, pulled by the diesel-powered No. 50 locomotive, speeds across the Illinois countryside somewhere between Chicago and St. Louis. (McLean County Museum of History). Hardly a streamliner even with a "shovel nose", #50 was reverted to its original boxlike configuration in 1939.

Following the delivery of Union Pacific's remodeled M-10001 in May 1935, EMC produced five boxcab passenger locomotives, of which General Electric completed two units in June 1935 for demonstration purposes. St. Louis Car Co. completed a third in August 1935 as Baltimore & Ohio number 50. Also in August 1935, EMC completed two other very similar units (also under contract by St. Louis Car Co.). These two units were Santa Fe's semi-streamlined 1A and 1B, used on an entirely new train, the heavyweight Super Chief between Chicago and Los Angeles, which made its inaugural run in May 1936. These five locomotives were EMC's first separate passenger locomotives that were capable of directly replacing steam locomotives. They were of heavyweight sheet steel and cast-steel construction, and rode on two two-axle trucks. Each was equipped with twin 900-horsepower 12-cylinder Winton diesel engines, giving them each an 1,800-horsepower rating. Design improvements from these units were incorporated UP's next Streamliner, M-10002.


UP's third Streamliner was M-10002, completed in late April 1936, and was the last of the turret-cab Streamliners. It was also the first stand-alone diesel locomotive on UP. The train entered service as the City of Los Angeles on May 15, 1936, the day after Santa Fe's new heavyweight Super Chief had made its initial run between the same two cities. As with the previous M-10000 and M-10001, Pullman assembled the M-10002, but it was more powerful than they had been, being equipped with a 1,200-horsepower lead unit and a 900-horsepower booster unit, with nine cars. The three-car M-10000 had been powered by a 600-horsepower prime mover and the six-car M-10001 had been powered by a 1,200-horsepower prime mover.

The 900-horsepower, 12-cylinder diesel engine used in the M-10002 booster was the same one that UP had removed from the earlier M-10001 when it was rebuilt to a 1,200-horsepower rating. M-10002 was changed from City of Los Angeles service to City of Portland service in December 1937. It was stored from July 1941 to April 1942, when it was assigned to a Portland-Seattle connection. It was stored again in March 1943, and its cars were removed. The power cars were finally retired in December 1946 and sold to Northrup-Hendy in Sunnyvale, Calif., for use in that company's gas-turbine tests.

M-10002 as the City of Portland, April 1940 (Source)

Headline picture: SMU Central University Library digital collection

Source: Utahrails.net

(To be continued in a couple of weeks)

Views: 3087


You need to be a member of Dieselpunks to add comments!

Join Dieselpunks

Comment by Cap'n Tony on March 26, 2012 at 12:23pm

That first image of the Streamliner coming through a bearing is pure Dieselpunk.  Stefan could make a killer poster from that image!

Stay in touch


Allied Powers

Diesel powered dieselpunk podcast
Dieselpunk Industries
Seance Media by Tome Wilson
Vnv Nation

© 2020   Created by Tome Wilson.   Powered by

Badges  |  Report an Issue  |  Terms of Service