Western Pacific 708 has been
described by members and visitors both in many ways, but "beautiful"
is not usually one of them. You would be hard pressed to find
very many people that even like the green and orange paint job 708
wears, even when freshly painted. 708's "Perlman Green" and
orange paint job is faded, peeling, and well worn. The black
trucks and undercarriage show spots of surface rust here and there,
and overall, she looks tired. Visitors to the WPRM have asked
on numerous occasions when we are going to paint the engine.
The answer usually surprises
them at first, until we explain why: We're not going to, at
least not for the foreseeable future, and for good reason. The
708 represents the Western Pacific's venerable locomotive fleet in
its final years of operation prior to its merger with the Union
Pacific. Locomotives like the 708 could be found throughout
the 1970's and early 80's quietly working out their days spotting
industries, working various branch lines, and switching in train
yards all over the WP system. The engines were kept in decent
running shape, however, due to their age and duties, rarely did they
receive any attention in the paint shop. To put it simply,
paint doesn't pull trains and engines like the 708 were no longer
front line locomotive power, highly visible to the public.
Despite this, the 708 toiled on
in relative obscurity and performed duties that were every bit as
important as her newer, stronger, turbocharged, sisters plying the
main line, picking up and delivering freight to its final
destinations and classifying freight in yards all over the WP.
Since we have three other
examples of WP and Sacramento Northern GP7's, we felt it important
to preserve and present the 708 in its "as working" appearance.
It is important to note that locomotives are rarely kept polished or
have their paint touched up when in service on the railroads.
Despite the WP's system locomotive shop in Stockton having a fully
functioning wash rack to keep the roads locomotives clean, most of
the older locomotives like 708 only came home to Stockton for
repairs or maintenance, and immediately sent back to work.
WP 708 takes a break at
Oroville, California during the later years of the Western Pacific.
WP 708 on display at the Western Pacific
Railroad Museum in Portola, California.