Phase 1, Switcher Replacement Program

During the 1930’s and early 1940’s, WP employed moderate quantities of archaic 0-6-0 and various 2-8-0 Consolidation type engines to switch its yards and terminals. Most of its 0 6 0’s were purchased during WP’s construction by one time parent Rio Grande. Most were in average to poor condition and were due or overdue for heavy repairs. Finding the maintenance costs of steam prohibitive, the WP sampled various models from several different locomotive builders. Diesel switchers were bought only during certain years. ALCo orders dominated early purchase patterns; the fact that EMD couldn’t deliver switchers during WWII had much to do with this. Fully 48 percent of all of WP’s switchers would eventually be ALCo S1, S2 or S4’s.EMC began producing standardized switching locomotives in 1939. As soon as possible, EMC produced several demonstrator units and dispersed them to various American railroads. One of these diesels was EMC’s 600 h.p. Model SW1. The WP liked what it saw and ordered three of them, one of which was the EMD demonstrator itself. Demonstrator No. 906 (its EMC Builder’s number) was delivered in September 1939 and the other two, Nos. 502-03, were shipped on Dec. 6, 1939. Spending most of their careers in major terminals such as San Francisco, Oakland and Sacramento, Calif., two were later transferred to subsidiary Sacramento Northern, who renumbered them 401-02.

Pleased with the performance and economy of its new SW1’s, WP returned to EMD for eight more in summer 1941. Swamped with orders for new units and unable to complete delivery until at least spring 1942, WP turned to Baldwin, who was booked up as well. The American Locomotive Company (ALCo) wasn’t in such dire straits, however, and won the order from both EMD and BLW. WP ordered eight 660 h.p. Model S1’s from Schenectady for delivery during February and March 1941. Much to WP’s dismay, the order was delayed and the last examples were finally delivered in June of that year. All eight, Nos. 504-11, were set up at Elko, Nev., and went west to Portola, Oroville, Sacramento, Stockton and Oakland, allowing the retirement from yard service of a dozen tired 2 8 0’s. The diminutive ALCo's spent most of their lives in those terminal areas, with the exception of brief stints on the SN and TS.

Although the ALCo S1’s replaced most of the Consolidations then in yard service, several remained in that employ. Western Pacific returned to ALCo in November 1942 for eight Model S2 1000 h.p. switch engines. These eight were delivered in accordance with wartime restrictions imposed by the WPB, who decreed they wouldn’t be delivered until late 1943; the last were delivered in late December of that year. Four additional S2’s were acquired, Nos. 559-62, which were equipped with multiple unit connections and which were delivered in black, at a price of nearly $103,000, versus $80,000 each for the 1943 order. Like the S1’s, the S2’s spent most of their careers in Stockton and other major terminals and also on the SN and TS (some also eventually went to nearby Stockton Terminal & Eastern Railway).

Prior to 1945 the last Baldwin power delivered to the WP were the 2-8-8-2’s, but in the latter part of that year WP would return to Baldwin with its last wartime switcher purchase. This time not for steam, but diesel powered yard switchers. Originally the company intended the order to go to EMD in the form of five 1000 h.p. NW2’s. Unfortunately, as with the case of the SW1’s, EMD was unable to deliver the units when WP management wanted them so the order was canceled in June 1945. This time Baldwin could deliver and five 1000 h.p. Model VO1000’s were ordered, to be numbered 581-85. These were also painted in the standard black and white switcher scheme. Only wartime restrictions slowed the pace of the WP’s conversion to diesel. Interestingly, two ex WP VO1000’s later went to work for Auto Train Corp., Nos. 581 and 583, which were painted AT white, purple and red and which were to work at their Sanford, Fla., terminal. Yard switching would now be handled primarily with diesel power. NW2’s would eventually reside on the roster but they would arrive second hand via trade and not purchase.

The next WP switcher acquisition was to be during the Korean conflict, which erupted in 1950. Frightened about the possibility of WPB imposed restrictions being reinstated, WP quickly made plans to acquire new diesel locomotives as soon as possible. Additional yard switchers also came in the form of two ALCo S4 switchers numbered 563 and 564. These would be the only example of this model on the WP and the last delivered in the black paint scheme. WP returned to EMD during 1952 for six 1200 h.p. Model SW9’s, numbered 601-06. These units were interesting in that they were erected at EMD’s Cleveland, Ohio, locomotive works, not at its La Grange, Ill., facility. The SW9’s were the first WP switchers to be delivered in the aluminum and orange paint scheme. They later received “Perlman Green” during the 1960’s.

WP had two other 1200 h.p. EMD’s, but they weren’t SW9’s. During the late 1960’s, important connection Stockton Terminal & Eastern was experiencing problems with its two EMD NW2u’s bought used from Union Pacific. Having to borrow WP ALCos quite frequently, the ST&E offered to trade their two NW2u’s for two WP’s ALCos, S1’s Nos. 505 06. In February 1969 the NW2u’s became WP Nos. 607 08 after a thorough rebuilding that included an increase in horsepower to 1200. The 607, which was later sold to subsidiary Sacramento Northern, owns the distinction of having been the UP's first diesel switch engine.

As stated, the WP was only an occasional buyer of diesel switchers. It was never terribly concerned about buying replacements for its diesel switcher fleet after the acquisition of its EMD SW9’s. The exceptions were their three EMD SW1500’s, purchased from La Grange in 1973. Numbers 1501-03 were representative of WP’s second attempt to purchase this model, the earlier attempt being the proposed acquisition of SW1500’s Nos. 611-18, which were later changed to EMD GP40’s Nos. 3517-26. The SW1500’s are equipped with 1100 gallon fuel tanks and m.u. connections, as well as Flexicoil B-B trucks. Originally assigned to the Stockton terminal, they later migrated to assignments on isolated San Francisco trackage. This was the first model of that type on the WP and was followed within a few years by the sale of the road’s remaining ALCo fleet to the Stockton Terminal and Eastern. The WP’s engine roster now consisted of all Electro-Motive or General Electric products.

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