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Full Steam Ahead

[ 0 ] May. 29, 2012 | SBO Editor

Union Pacific celebrates its 150th anniversary by taking historic No. 844 on a cross-country journey.


Crowds of families gathered to see the historic Union Pacific’s legendary steam engine, No. 844, pull into communities and cities across the U.S. during events like Oklahoma’s Fried Onion Burger Festival this past May 4 and 5 and the Flower Festival in San Antonio held on April 20 and 21.

Engine No. 844  is making the rounds this year to celebrate Union Pacific’s 150th anniversary, tweeting its’ whereabouts to fans who are so enthusiastic, they are called “foamers.”

Union Pacific’s history is intertwined with the history of this country. Founded by Abraham Lincoln, the railroad established hundreds, if not thousands of communities across the country (It currently serves 7,300 communities). It was chased by robbers like Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid in the 1800s. Today, special sensors can detect the movement of unauthorized persons.

Going back 150 years, Union Pacific had 10,000 employees who were paid $1 a day. This year, UP will be hiring 4,500 new electricians, mechanics, crew, signal maintenance and track laborers to join the already 46,000 men, women and former military people are ‘workin on the railroad’ at UP. (Yes, there are women engineers.) And you only need to look at the shipments of grain, cars, gas, lumber, wind turbines, etc. to get a good idea of how the U.S. economy is doing.

Abraham Lincoln’s plan to build a transcontinental railroad was the moon shot of its’ day. If only he could see what his creation, the Union Pacific railroad, is doing 150 years later with its’ energy scavenging technology (energy from wheel vibrations), fuel cell technology, gamma ray inspection, ultrasonic detection, virtual fences, simulation avatar training, locomotives that get 500 miles per gallon leaving a low carbon footprint, and GPS that can check the temperature in a refrigerated car carrying produce from hundreds of miles away.

Consider these highlights:

U.S. Exports Up – Union Pacific, always a window to the overall economy what with 25,000 customers in six business sectors. It is hauling more U.S. goods for export overseas – chemicals to China, India and Brazil, coal for Europe and Asia, grain to Russia, Eastern Europe and China, beer, steel mineral sands, auto parts, vehicles, grain and wind products to Mexico and grain, vehicles, auto parts, fertilizers and lumber to Canada. Currently 40 percent of UNP business is international.

Economic Index – Most of the freight Union Pacific moves would be a leading indicator – lumber, energy, chemicals, steel, etc. Cars and intermodal (tends to be consumer products) would be lagging indicators. The official UP business units are agricultural products, automotive, chemicals, energy (coal, gas, fracking sand, wind turbines), industrial products and intermodal.

Market Maker. UP has helped many U.S. products such as grain and pot ash grow from regional to national to international. Union Pacific moves 8 million rail cars of freight a day.

In its’ 150 years, Union Pacific experienced things that many businesses see – scandal, bankruptcy, regulation, de-regulation and war time (More than 20 percent of UP’s workforce consists of military vets, with about 25 percent of new hires in the past four years being vets.)

Rail Lost to Trucks/Now Trucks Lose to Rail. In the 1960s, freight rail looked like a fading old fashioned form of transportation as interstate highways and trucks took significant market share from the railroads. It wasn’t until the 1980s and 1990s when a series of mergers, centralized operations, technology and a customer service focus began to turn things around. Today, rail is four times more fuel efficient than trucks.

Union Pacific Corporation

Union Pacific Corporation (NYSE: UNP) is one of America’s leading transportation companies. Its principal operating company, Union Pacific Railroad, is North America’s premier railroad franchise, covering 23 states across the western two-thirds of the United States.

Union Pacific Railroad Fast Facts

(For the year ending 12/31/10)

Route Miles 31,900

Employees 44,800

Annual Payroll $4.0 billion

Community Giving $13.9 million

Purchases Made $8.3 billion

Capital Spending 2010 $3.2 billion

Capital Spending 2006-09 $10.7 billion

Locomotives 8,200

Category: Magazine, Small Business Opportunities, Small Business Opportunities Sept 2012