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Union Pacific remains committed to steam program for now, CEO Lance Fritz says NEWSWIRE

By Bill Stephens | November 30, 2018

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LanceFritz
LanceFritz
Lance Fritz, Union Pacific CEO
Union Pacific
NEW YORK — With major changes under way at Union Pacific, which is cutting costs and shifting to an operating plan based on Precision Scheduled Railroading, what does it mean for the railroad’s long-running steam program?

“We’re not sure. But right now, nothing,” UP CEO Lance Fritz told Trains today in an interview on the sidelines of the RailTrends 2018 conference. “We’ve got a full steam agenda in 2019 because of Promontory. After that, there’s no sacred cow but I don’t have any plan to do anything different than what we’re doing right now.”

There’s no question that the steam program generates positive attention for UP, Fritz says.

“But a lot of it is railfan attention,” he says. “The question is: Is that a big value add versus what’s required to maintain it. It’s not that big of an asset burden. So it’s not like the math is complex. But we’re not even worried about that math right now. For 2019 we’ve got a big program.”

At the UP steam shop in Cheyenne, Wyo., the UP steam crew is busy completing an overhaul that will return Big Boy 4-8-8-4 No. 4014 to service.

The 4-8-8-4 will be joined by stablemate 4-8-4 No. 844 for a trek to Ogden, Utah, in May to mark the 150th anniversary of the driving of the golden spike at nearby Promontory Summit.

The annual RailTrends conference is sponsored by independent analyst Anthony B. Hatch of ABH Consulting and industry trade publication Progressive Railroading.

13 thoughts on “Union Pacific remains committed to steam program for now, CEO Lance Fritz says NEWSWIRE

  1. I thought he was retiring next year so who cares what he says about the steam program as he isn’t going to be in charge of it anyway.

  2. I care, Mr. Achenbach, and your nasty comment was uncalled for and displays an abysmal ignorance of corporate culture. Given the circumstances, I thought Mr. Fritz’s remarks were about as supportive as they could be. He didn’t say “Everything is on the table,” did he?

  3. I salute Trains Magazine for seeking the chairman out and getting him to comment on the steam program. I suspect a lot of us have been anxious to learn what the company’s current position is.

  4. Bottom line – take advantage of excursion/photo opportunities while you can. There’s no guarantee for future operations. No program is set in stone. So glad I took advantage of the Southern & Chessie excursions when those railroads were still steam friendly.

  5. Well Mark, could it be the only reason UP is the only railroad there is because they swallowed up the other one in 1996?

  6. I would be very surprised if they spent all that money to restore a Big Boy to operation, and then only ran it a few times. But stranger things have happened!

  7. A good indicator of their commitment to future steam would be if UP begins work on the Challenger after the Big Boy is completed.

  8. How is observing that a retired CEO is no longer in charge a nasty comment? I don’t know if Mr. Fritz is planning to retire next year or not, but if does, the next CEO could change course.

  9. Shouldn’t the 3985 be there as well? The Union Pacific is the only railroad to have taken part in the original ceremony that is still in business today. She should be represented in all her glory.

  10. Mark Gorski – Challenger #3985 is in for heavy repairs. With 844’s heavy repairs completed much to how the crew is working on 4014, the Steam crew’s main focus is 4014. So 3985 sits and waits its turn on the floor. It will be rebuilt like 4014.

  11. Can steam operations and PSR coexist? The whole point of PSR is to be lean and cut costs, but operating steam costs money and can be viewed as a liability even if they don’t carry passengers because of all the foamers chasing the train. There is a public excursion from Ogden with both locomotives doubleheaded on May 12. Apparently a one way trip with bus return since it is the return leg to Cheyenne. The annual steam excursion from Denver to Cheyenne is ending though because the Denver Post can no longer afford to sponsor it. Any mainline public excursion is a rare thing now because Amtrak is no longer hosting excursions with outside groups or even their own, like the annual fall excursion. UP doesn’t need Amtrak to run an excursion, but someone has to insure the excursion.

  12. UP better not get rid of the steam program. CSX, BNSF, CP Rail, and CN are learning the hard way what happens when you get rid of your steam program. The Steam Program shows the history of the railroad if you get rid of it the railroad ceases to exist and is at risk of being taken over by robber barons in a hostel takeover merger. We railfans like to see these engines because it shows the history of the railroad. We need to preserve the past not get rid of it and have the railroad die in a wall street merger. This is why I back Ed Dickens and the boys. UP and NS are the only railroads with a program BNSF is leasing its locomotives from the Oregon Transportation Museum while the other class 1s don’t have a program CP Rail did but pro Harrison bigots got rid of it a long time ago and CN suffered the same fate.

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