UP Steam At Last!

The Union Pacific’s purchase of the Chicago and North Western in 1995 saddened me deeply, but I knew that cloud had a silver lining: the UP’s steam program!   Surely they would send either their 4-8-4 Northern number 844 or their 4-6-6-4 Challenger 3985 up to Minneapolis/St. Paul?   For years I waited with nothing happening on that front.   Then in 2002 the 3985 arrived in South Saint Paul … but I couldn’t make it.   Fast forward to 2008:  on the memorable date of September 26th, a remarkably sunny, warm (and breezy) Friday in the early fall, I caught Union Pacific’s 4-6-6-4 Challenger-class steam engine number 3985 as it passed through Rosemount, MN on its way to Saint Paul, MN.

UP 3985 passes railfans and railroaders gathered by the Progressive Rail depot in Rosemount, MN.  Photo by the author.


UP 3985 chugs north through Rosemount beckoned on by a green signal on the UP’s “Spine Line.” Photo by the author.


UP open platform obs Saint Louis brings up the markers on the UP steam train to Saint Paul passing through Rosemount, MN, on September 26th, 2008. Photo by the author.


At last I had caught a UP steam train running on track not only once run by the CNW, but the Rock Island/Milwaukee Road before that (this stretch of “Spine Line” was joint track for the RI/MILW from Rosemount to the junction at Comus, MN).

I’ve always wondered why the 3985 was emitting such a clean exhaust that day.   Had somebody mixed in a little diesel fuel oil with the steam fuel oil?  (Hey, a guy who worked for the Chicago, Burlington, and Quincy once told me they did just that for some of their steam fan trips …)