UP's route map covers most of the central and western United States west of Chicago and New Orleans. As of 2005, UP operates on of track, of which it owns outright , both numbers representing the highest amount of any railroad currently operating in the United States. It has achieved this size thanks to purchasing a large number of other railroads, notably the Missouri Pacific, Chicago and North Western, Western Pacific, Missouri-Kansas-Texas, and the Rio Grande (including the Southern Pacific). Currently, Union Pacific owns 26% of Ferromex while Grupo Mexico owns the remaining 74%.
UP's chief railroad competitor is the BNSF Railway, which covers much of the same territory.
UP was entangled in the Crédit Mobilier scandal of 1872. Its early troubles led to bankruptcy during the 1870s, the result of which was reorganization of the Union Pacific Railroad as the Union Pacific Railway on January 24, 1880, with its dominant stockholder being Jay Gould. The new company also declared bankruptcy, in 1893, but emerged on July 1, 1897, reverting to the original name, Union Pacific Railroad. Such minor changes in corporate titles were a common result of reorganization after bankruptcy among American railroads. This period saw the UP sell off some of its holdings; the Union Pacific Railway, Central Branch became the Central Branch of the Missouri Pacific Railroad and the Southern Branch was acquired by the newly-incorporated Missouri Kansas Texas Railroad in 1870. However, the UP soon recovered, and was strong enough to take control of Southern Pacific Railroad (SP) in 1901 and then was ordered in 1913 by the U.S. Supreme Court to surrender control of the same. UP also founded the Sun Valley resort in Idaho in 1936, the UP engineering department in Omaha designed the first ski chairlift that summer. The Missouri Pacific and Missouri Kansas Texas both came back into the UP fold in the 1980s. In 1996, UP finally acquired SP in a transaction envisioned nearly a century earlier.
The headquarters of UP has been in Omaha, Nebraska, since its inception. Currently they are housed in the Union Pacific Center, completed in 2003. Other important UP facilities in Omaha have included the Union Pacific Railroad Omaha Shops Facility and the Harriman Dispatch Center.
In the late 1980s and early 1990s, UP purchased several non-railroad companies, such as Skyway Freight Systems of Watsonville, California, and United States Pollution Control, Inc., but by 2000, following the appointment of Richard K. Davidson as CEO, it had divested itself of all non-railroad properties except for Overnite Trucking, and its holding company for logistical technology, Fenix Enterprises.
The Union Pacific Corporation (not the railroad itself) was located in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, until 1997, when Richard K. Davidson announced that it was moving to Dallas in September of that year. Two years later, on the sale of Skyway and the impending divestiture of Overnite, the UP corporate headquarters moved to Omaha to join the headquarters of the railroad.
Not including second, third, and fourth main line trackage, yard trackage, and siding trackage, UP directly operated some 36,206 miles (58,364 kilometers) of track, as of March 24, 2000. When the additional tracks are counted, however, the amount of track that it has direct control over rises to 54,116 miles (87,091 kilometers).
UP has also been able to reach agreements with competing railroads, mostly BNSF, that allow the railroad to operate its own trains with its own crews on hundreds of miles of competing railroads’ main tracks.
Furthermore, due to the practice of locomotive leasing and sharing undertaken by the Class I railroads, UP locomotives occasionally show up on competitors' tracks throughout the United States, Canada and most recently, Mexico.
Union Pacific Railroad is the largest landholder west of the Mississippi River and is second only to the United States government in overall landholdings within the United States.
Because of the large size of UP, hundreds of yards throughout its rail network are needed to effectively handle the daily transport of goods from one place to another. To reduce overall emissions, Union Pacific is acquiring a new generation of environmentally friendly locomotives for use in Los Angeles basin rail yards.
Some of the more prominent rail facilities in UP’s system include:
Like most other major railroads, Union Pacific maintains a functioning police department staffed with Special Agents with jurisdiction over crimes against the railroad. Special Agents have federal and state arrest powers and can enforce laws even off railroad property in most states where the railroad operates. Special Agents typically investigate major incidents such as derailments, sabotage, grade crossing accidents, and hazardous material accidents and minor issues such as trespassing on the railroad right of way, vandalism/graffiti, and theft of company property or customer product.
Special Agents often coordinate with local, state, and federal law enforcement on issues concerning the railroad and are dispatched nationally through UP Headquarters in Omaha. The UP Police Department and the term "Special Agent" were models for the FBI when it was created in 1907.
UP's basic paint scheme for its diesel-electric locomotives is the oldest still in use by a major railroad. The bottom two-thirds of the locomotive body is painted Armour Yellow, so-named because it was the color used by the Armour meat company. A thin band of red divides this from the Harbor Mist Gray (a fairly light gray) used for the body and roof above that point. A red line is also painted at the bottom of the locomotive body, but this color has gradually become yellow as new Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) regulations for reflectorized tape came into effect in 2005; the trucks, underframe, fuel tanks and everything else beneath that line are also Harbor Mist Gray. Lettering and numbering are in red, with black outlines. Some locomotives (historically passenger locomotives, and some recent units from 2000 on) have white-outlined blue "wings" on the nose. More recently, some units have been repainted with a large, billowing Stars and Stripes with the corporate motto "Building America" on the side, where the 'UNION PACIFIC' lettering is normally positioned.
The first version of this scheme was used on the UP's streamlined trains in the 1930s, although a brown was used instead of grey. Passenger cars, cabooses and other non-freight equipment have also been painted in a similar fashion.
The steam locomotive paint schemes are unique in their own way. Up until the mid-1940s, all steam locomotives on UP were painted in a standard scheme: the smokebox and firebox were painted graphite and the rest was painted jet black; the lettering was usually aluminum. In the late 1940s, many passenger steam locomotives were repainted in a two-tone grey scheme to match the scheme applied to some coaching stock. These locomotives were painted light grey, with one dark gray strip running from front to rear alongside the running board and in the middle of the tender. This dark grey strip was outlined in yellow (originally aluminum), and all lettering inside the strip was yellow also. After 1952, these locomotives were repainted in the same basic black color scheme as the earlier freight locomotives. The grey passenger cars were repainted in the yellow scheme.
In the second half of 2005, UP unveiled a new set of EMD SD70ACe locomotives in "Heritage Colors," painted in schemes reminiscent of railroads acquired by UP since the 1980s. The engine numbers match the year that the predecessor railroad was absorbed into Union Pacific. The three locomotives already repainted commemorate the Missouri Pacific (UP 1982), Western Pacific (UP 1983), and Missouri-Kansas-Texas (UP 1988) railroads. Three engines were also painted in the colors of other UP predecessors: Chicago and North Western (bought by UP in 1995) and Southern Pacific (UP 1996), Denver and Rio Grande Western (which had purchased the SP in 1988 but kept the larger system's name). The D&RG Unit was unveiled in Denver in June, the C&NW was unveiled in Chicago in July and the SP unit was unveiled in Roseville, California, in August 2006.
Model railroad enthusiasts were upset by UP's insistence on collecting royalties for the use of all railroad logos owned by the UP for use on model railroading equipment. In July 2006 UP announced that it would use the income from the licensing program to enhance the Heritage Programs of the company. In November 2006, however, the railroad reached an agreement with model railroad manufacturer M.T.H. Electric Trains whom it sued in 2005, which resulted in the railroad discontinuing the collection of royalties from all model railroad manufacturers.
As of August 27, 2006, UP operates: 50 Southern Pacific, 36 St. Louis Southwestern (Cotton Belt), 2 Chicago and North Western, and 1 Denver and Rio Grande Western locomotive. These locomotives are still in the former railroads' paint. In addition, many locomotives have been "patch" renumbered by UP, varying in the degree of the previous railroads' logos being eradicated, but always with a yellow patch applied over the locomotive's former number and a new UP number applied on the cab. This allows UP to number locomotives into its roster, yet it takes less time and money than it does to perform a complete repaint into UP colors. As of July 31, 2005, UP rostered 492 "patches", consisting of: 37 Chicago and North Western (whose CNW logos have been hidden by the "patches"), 445 Southern Pacific, 47 St. Louis Southwestern, 23 Denver and Rio Grande Western.
In addition there are a number of other locomotives kept in storage for possible future restoration. Rio Grande (DRGW) F9B 5763 is one of the units in storage, part of the Trio (A-B-B) of F9s that served on the Rio Grande in various Passenger Duty services (From the Denver Ski Train to the Zephyr Trains) until their retirement in 1996. Sister Units 5771 (F9A) and 5762 (F9B) were donated to the Colorado Railroad Museum. Chicago & Northwestern F7 #401, used in Chicago Commuter Service, also was retained by UP.
Additionally, UP 838, a twin to 844, is stored in the Cheyenne roundhouse as a parts source, though as most of its usable parts have already been applied to 844, it is more likely to see use as a source of pattern parts for reproduction replacements. Reputedly, 838's boiler is in better condition than that of 844, due to 838 having not been in steam since retirement, compared to 844's relatively heavy use since 1960.
In addition to the historic fleet outlined above kept by UP itself, a large number of UP locomotives survive elsewhere. Many locomotives were donated to towns along the Union Pacific tracks, for instance, as well as locomotives donated to museums.
Currently, UP operates passenger service for Metra:
Today Amtrak operates no Long Distance trains that were originally operated by Union Pacific, they do operate trains once run by companies now owned by Union Pacific including the Sunset Limited, Texas Eagle, and California Zephyr. Union Pacific's trains had a big rear window for better outlook from the rear of the train, this was to make people prefer Union Pacific over leading companies.
Broken down by specific type of car, owned and leased:
In addition, it owns 6,950 different pieces of maintenance of way work equipment.
At the end of 2007 the average age of UP’s locomotive fleet was 14.8 years, the freight car fleet 28 years.
Chief Executive Officers, Presidents, and Chairmen of the Union Pacific Corporation (parent corporation of the railroad)
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