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Surviving Centennials

The Union Pacific Railroad earned a reputation for using very large and powerful steam locomotives and in 1941 began using the largest of them all, the Big Boy, to carry freight over the Rocky Mountains.

In the diesel era, the tradition continued with the use of the most powerful locomotives available. In 1969 UP purchased the very largest and most powerful diesel ever built, the DDA40X, with 6600 HP provided by two diesel engines (prime movers) mounted on one frame.

These 270 ton, 98 foot long behemoths were built by the Electro-Motive Division of General Motors Corp. (EMD) and were named "Centennial" in honor of the 100th anniversary of the "Driving of the Golden Spike Ceremony" (May 10, 1869). In all, 47 units were purchased (numbered 6900-6946) beginning in May of 1969 with deliveries continuing through 1971. They were numbered using the "6900" series to mark the '69 dates.

The "Centennials" were designed for high-speed freight and by 1980 had successfully run up an average of 2 million miles a piece. With the decline of freight movement in 1980 the fleet of DDA40Xs were taken out of service and put in desert storage at Yermo, CA. Then in March of 1984 an economic recovery brought a demand for more motive power and 25 were returned to service. However, high maintenance costs caused the retirement of most of them by the close of 1986.

Today 13 of these double diesel locomotives survive and can be visited as shown below. One unit #6936 has recently had a major overhaul and is still owned and regularly operated by the UPRR.

Site URL: http://www.steamlocomotive.com/centennials/
Date resource added: 12-Jun-2000
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