March 21, 2012

Union Pacific's Midcentury Mini-Train

UP's 1956-built mini-train passes dome lounge Harriman in Roseville, Calif., in August 2006. (click to enlarge)
The latest Trains Trackside photo contest features the theme "yellow" . . . so last week I found myself hunting through dozens of Union Pacific pictures in search of something that wasn't the same old action view. Then I remembered a fun set of photos from an event in summer 2006 at UP's Roseville, Cal., yard. We'd traveled there to see the unveiling of the railroad's sixth and final heritage diesel, UP 1996, painted in Southern Pacific Daylight colors. While 1996 was the star of the show that day, a much-smaller engine caught my eye as it pulled trainloads of happy families: UP 956, a rubber-tired F-unit replica built in 1956. The "mini-train" makes 50 appearances a year in parades, employee family days and community events. The engine and five-car train were refurbished and repainted in 2006, and the Armour yellow paint looked splendid in the morning light.

At one point the mini-train rolled beside a passenger special on display, and I snapped away at the mismatched scene of yellow trains big and small. When 956 passed 1955-built dome lounge Harriman, the explosion of yellow was almost blinding!

Fun with perspectives: a study of 956 and steel-wheeled cousin SD70ACe 8406.
To vote in Trains' online contest, visit To learn more about the mini-train and "engine" 956, visit

Love that caboose!