19 Jun 2010, 8:38pm
History Passenger rail Railroads Uncategorized

Comments Off on Good things from the Union Pacific in San Antonio

Good things from the Union Pacific in San Antonio



I am delighted to be able to be able to share a positive story about the Union Pacific railroad, an organization which rarely gets much in the way of good press in these parts.  Today the UP came to the rescue at the Texas Transportation Museum here in San Antonio like knights in shining armor.

 Our 1954 Baldwin diesel electric locomotive was suffering from an intractable electrical problem.  The diesel engine was running just fine but somehow the electrical power it was generating was not reaching the electric motors on each of its four axles.  (You could say that the railroads have been using hybrid technology for over seventy years and the automobile industry is only just now catching up if you didn’t know that there actually were hybrids at the very first car show held in New York in 1900.)  Anyhoo, like many electrical system gremlins, this one needed a professional to both find and then fix it.  Our guys, all volunteers, as good as they are, just couldn’t trace the exact point of dysfunction.

 The Texas Transportation Museum is lucky to enjoy a very good relationship with the Union Pacific.  Following the arrival of Brian Gorton in 2005, the UP has been supportive of the museum’s endeavors in a number of significant ways, including the donation of almost half a mile’s worth of “gently” used railroad ties a few years ago.  When our almost sixty year old locomotive needs professional help, when the problem is beyond our amateur skills and facilities, the UP has been kind enough to send over a staff member or two who have yet to fail to get the “4035, an ex-army switcher, back in business.

 What made today a little unusual was that the folks we normally call were unavailable for one reason or another.  So museum curator Jared Davis decided to call the main UP HQ in Omaha, Nebraska.  After a little bit of explaining he was forwarded to staff here in San Antonio.  Before long Robert arrived and began doing his thing.  If you think finding a discontinuity in an automobile is tough, just try doing it on a make and model of a locomotive with which you are totally unfamiliar, one that came out in your grandfather’s time.  So it took a while, over an hour, but, by golly, the job got done.  The problem was in the electrical cabinet within the cab.  It looked just fine, but that’s the thing with electrical connections: the problem can be right before your eyes but totally invisible at the same time.

 So, even though it was midday on a hot Saturday, the Union Pacific came though for us, once again, in spades, just in time for an influx of afternoon visitors.  It was a good day, all in all.  Work to restore the exterior of our burnt out party caboose is almost complete.  Much needed yard work at the garden railroad was done.  A little bit of road maintenance too, to take out a bad bump experienced during the first fire truck ride of the day.  There were around fourteen volunteers all told, and every part of the museum was up and running.  Not bad.  Not bad at all.


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