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November 1948

Tests Begin on 1st Gas Turbine-Electric

As the need for more powerful — and more energy-efficient — locomotives grew, Union Pacific looked to alternative forms of energy. It found a way to use waste oil to power gas turbines that generated electricity, which in turn powered traction motors. UP worked with General Electric and the American Locomotive Company to test a prototype: UP 50. It had more than twice the power of the diesel-electric locomotives of the time. The railroad operated dozens more GTELs before retiring the last of the fleet in 1970.

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Gas turbines are essentially jet engines that create electricity when the blades turn. In locomotives, steam and super-heated gas were used to power turbines. The electricity generated by the turbine was used to power traction motors on locomotive trucks, much like diesel locomotives.

In 2012, Union Pacific celebrates the shared stories that have shaped our country since 1862. To mark our 150th anniversary, we invite you to explore how the nation’s largest railroad came to be and how UP continues to build America with innovation and tenacity, touching the lives of nearly every citizen.