UP Formally Retires its Challenger Steam Locomotive

One of the nation’s best known excursion steam locomotives has been retired.

An email posted on a railfan chat list from the Union Pacific Steam Club said Challenger No. 3985 broke the news.

The message indicated the move was tied to the railroad’s Unified Plan 2020, which is UP’s plan to implement the precision scheduled railroading operating model.

UP plans to retain its steam program, but said that it has “streamlined its operations in all areas, including the Union Pacific Steam and Heritage Fleet programs.”

Noting that many have asked about the future of 4-6-6-4 locomotive, UP said there are no plans to restore No. 3985.

“Many years of hard operation have resulted in the locomotive requiring a complete frame-up restoration similar to what was needed to make (Big Boy) No. 4014 operational,” UP said. “Historically, Union Pacific’s steam program has had two steam locomotives on its roster, and that count will remain the same moving forward.

The Challenger will now have been retired by UP twice. It’s original retirement occurred in 1957, but it was stored in Cheyenne, Wyoming, until 1975 when it was placed on public display near the Cheyenne passenger depot.

UP employees volunteered to restore the locomotive to running condition in 1981.

The railroad said it has not been decided where No. 3985 will be placed.

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