New for 2010, M.T.H. returns the UP Veranda Turbine with more features than any other model of this massive locomotive: variable intensity smoke; a broad range of sounds, from the turbine itself to crew conversations; remotely controlled couplers on the locomotive; operating Mars light; built-in decoder to ensure full compatibility with all NMRA-standard DCC systems; all atop a quality constructed drive train featuring four flywheel-equipped motors that provide pulling power that rivals the prototype.
Add the brute strength of the Veranda Turbine to your roster and assign it to your heaviest freight consists as the UP did. Operate the locomotive alone as it was originally delivered in 1954, or with the fuel tender added a year later. The prototype turbines were the 1950s manifestation of the Union Pacific's ongoing love affair with massive, larger-than-life locomotives - a family line of giant UP power that began with the 9000-class 4-12-2 steamers, continued with the Challengers, Big Boys, and gas turbines, and ended with the DDA40X Centennial diesels. More than many other roads, the UP also loved to experiment - witness its early-1900s sponsorship of the McKeen car, a cross between a torpedo boat and a passenger car. In that context, the UP's ownership of the world's only significant fleet of gas turbines, basically turbojet engines on wheels, seems only natural.
In the late 1940s, even as it was building diesels in partnership with Alco, General Electric was experimenting with ways to apply its aircraft jet engine technology to railroading. Its gas turbine electric (GTEL) was basically a diesel engine with a large turbine replacing the diesel as the prime mover. In a turbine, intake air is compressed by spinning turbine blades and fed into combustion chambers, where fuel is added and ignited, as in a jet engine. The hot exhaust gases spin the blades of another turbine that powers one or more generators, which produce electricity to power diesel-type traction motors. Compared with diesels of the period, GE's GTEL put three times as much power (4500hp) in one locomotive, had significantly fewer moving parts, and did not vibrate like a diesel. The major drawback was a voracious appetite for fuel.
After two years of testing GE's prototype, the Union Pacific ordered its first ten GTELs in 1951. The engines were designed to burn Bunker C oil, a byproduct of petroleum distillation that was almost considered waste material. The low cost of Bunker C more than compensated for the turbines' high consumption, although the oil was so thick it had to be heated to 240 degrees Fahrenheit to flow though the fuel system.
The new turbines, nicknamed "Big Blows" for their jet-like sound, were assigned mainly to the UP's 992-mile division from Council Bluffs, Iowa to Ogden, Utah. Almost immediately, they were hauling nearly 10% of the road's total freight shipments. The turbines were so successful that an order for 15 second-generation engines was placed even before the entire first order had been received.
Delivered in 1954 and numbered 61-75, the new engines were nicknamed "Verandas" for their outside walkways, which allowed the crew to avoid walking through a noisy engine room. Other differences from the first-generation turbines included dynamic brakes and air intakes on the roof, rather than the carbody sides. Nearly the entire floor of the engines was a massive 7500-gallon fuel tank, which gave a range of about 400 miles. In 1955, the addition of fuel tenders rebuilt from scrapped 9000-class steamers enabled the turbines to cover the entire division without refueling. Most of the GTELs were later equipped to run in multiple units with diesels; GP9s, some of which had also been retrofitted to run on Bunker C, were most commonly allied with turbines.
By the early 1960s, however, the turbines' use of Bunker C fuel had changed from an advantage to a problem. The plastics industry had found new uses for the former waste product and its price skyrocketed. At the same time, the corrosive nature of the fuel led many of the turbines to develop engine problems. The Verandas were retired in 1963-64 in favor of newer 8500hp Big Blows, and the UP's entire turbine program was finished by 1970.