The Union Pacific Railroad is the largest existing Class 1 railroad in the United States, and the oldest railroad that still operates under its original charter. Famous for its iconic armor yellow and red paint scheme, it's American-colored shield, and playing host to some of the largest locomotives ever created, it currently serves most of the continental west and northwestern states as a freight-only carrier. Perhaps its largest claim to fame lies in the fact that it owes its very existence to Abraham Lincoln, who chartered the railroad in 1862 as part the Pacific Railroad Act passed that year. With the Civil War raging in the east, a need for supplies from the west was deemed a necessity, and a railroad was key to obtaining them. Thus, Lincoln signed the act into law and commissioned Union Pacific to build a line out west. They would begin construction in Council Bluffs, Iowa, the most western point in the railroad territories thus far, and build out towards the Pacific Ocean, with the intention of joining their rails with its primary competitor, the Central Pacific, who was building their portion of the line towards the east. Under the helm of Doctor Thomas Durant, UP constructed its line across relatively easier terrain than its predecessor, with the only significant obstacle in its path being the Rocky Mountains of Colorado, where as the CP spent years contending with the harsh and unforgiving Sierra Mountain ranges in Northern California, giving UP the clear advantage over a greater deal of flat land.
However, much of this construction was being done under rather shady circumstances. Durant and several other executives on the railroad secretly took control of a construction company called Crédit Mobilier, that would build the railroad at a much higher rate than normal, as the federal government was paying the railroad for each mile of track it laid. As such, the railroad was practically paying themselves to build their own line, and using a cheap source of labor in the form of Irish immigrants. Through seven years worth of blood, toil, sweat, and hefty profits from their own company (well, that and a few bribes to Congress), the railroad built over a thousand miles of track, connecting with Central Pacific at Promontory, Utah on May 10, 1869. It's famous 4-4-0, the 119, stood opposite Central Pacific's "Jupiter" for the golden spike ceremony, in a now famous photograph reflecting the completion of this massive undertaking. By then, UP had already built significant territory in Nebraska, Wyoming, and Colorado, littered with various towns and spur lines they had either built or purchased to give them a greater hold over the region.
Unfortunately for them, their little scheme in building the railroad nearly derailed their entire business. Word leaked out of the Crédit Mobilier Scandal and not only badly damaged their reputation, but almost sent them into bankruptcy when the Panic of 1873 rolled around.
These days, the railroad is best known for its public relations program, the Heritage Fleet, the most notable of the seven Class 1's to do so.note As of now, it boasts a large fleet of passenger coaches that had been reacquired or maintained on the property for years, each decked out in the railroad's colors and named after a key figure or service that was part of the line's history. Providing power for these trains are the historical engines, which include a trio of E-Units,note , the "Centennial" 6936,note and six modern diesels painted in the schemes of lines they had acquired over the years.note The most famous members of the fleet are its two steam engines: the never retired 4-8-4 FEF-3 class Northern 844, and the recently restored 4-8-8-4 4884-1 class Big Boy 4014 (the latter of which is the largest operational steam engine in the world). 844 was the last steam engine ever made for the railroad, and maintained as a PR tool since it was spared from the scrap heap and used in excursion service, earning it the nickname "The Living Legend." 4014, meanwhile, was reacquired from the Southern California Chapter of the Railway and Locomotive Historical Society, who had kept the engine in Pomona, CA as part the "Railgiants" museum, so it could be used to celebrate the Transcontinental Railroad's 150th anniversary of completion. Previously on the fleet, but now in retirement, is 4-6-6-4 4664-3 class Challenger 3985, which was restored in 1981, but retired in 2020 after spending 10 years out of service due to a failed overhaul.note