Union Pacific Coal-Turbine #80

NW Mailing List nw-mailing-list at nwhs.org
Thu Jan 5 10:46:43 EST 2017

I think this was a last gasp in terms of trying to retain the use of coal as a primary fuel input on board a loco. I recall the loco was made up of several sections including a diesel (PA?)to move the turbine unit and its tender around when the main engine was not required. I also recall the whole thing failed because of problems associated with turbine blade failures and pitting caused by the pulverised coal. 


I think GE looked again at using coal in diesel engines  in the late 1980s and I have a vague memory of a research report on this which again pointed up problems of coal abrasion (not unexpected) however finely the coal was milled ahead of injection into the cylinders. It was probably a case of STBO – stating the b****y obvious. Internal combustion engines are not designed to swallow coal.


The UP had a couple of GE supplied oil fired steam turbine locos delivered in the late 1930s but these also did not come up to scratch and were returned to their maker after some diversion to the Great Northern and NYC. In some respects this was a shame as the technology could have been developed using low grade bunker fuel or possibly coal (similar to the Jawn Henry). The JH was, in my view a close run thing. It was seemingly let down not by the main boiler and turbine/generator modules but rather by more mundane kit such as feed water pumps. As a prototype it was always likely to struggle. What a shame no more time and effort was spent on this particular technology set.


Happy New Year from across the pond.


Phil Mortimer 


From: NW-Mailing-List [mailto:nw-mailing-list-bounces at nwhs.org] On Behalf Of NW Mailing List
Sent: Thursday, January 5, 2017 1:58 AM
To: nw-mailing-list at nwhs.org
Subject: Union Pacific Coal-Turbine #80


I obtained a back-issue of the Union Pacific Historical Society's magazine “The Streamliner” because it had an article about UP’s experimental Coal-Turbine Locomotive, #80.


Buried in the article is a brief mention that in November 1962, a representative of the Norfolk and Western, W.S. Garrett, accompanied the UP crew on two test trips.


I would like to know N&W’s interest in the UP Coal-Turbine experiment, especially since they sent an employee to get a first-hand look.  Even better would be any written reports Mr. Garrett made of his observations of the Coal-Turbine.




Bill King

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