In 2005, Union Pacific started its Heritage Unit Program. The program sould consist of six SD70ACe's each painted in a scheme representing one of six railroads that made Union Pacific what it is today. The paint schemes would not necessarily be actual schemes worn by the railroad it represents, but the scheme would definitely clearly define the railroad. In addition to a unique scheme, each unit would be numbered according to the year the railroad in question ceased, becoming part of UP.
The units that would be represented in the program are as follows:
Union Pacific unveiled UP 1982 and UP 1983 at a special event in Omaha, NE on July 30, 2005. Prior to the unveiling, Union Pacific was keeping the program under a tight lid. There was speculation that the units would actually represent two of the branches of the United States Armed Forces. After the units were unveiled, UP made a formal announcement regarding the Heritage Program. UP 1988, the Katy unit, was unveiled in Horicon, WI (at the shop where it was painted) on August 17, 2005. As it turned out, that was it for the Heritage units in 2005. No more SD70ACe's were delivered in "primer" gray (save for one used for the George H W Bush unit, UP 4141).
In 2006, railfans everywhere waited to spot a primer gray SD70ACe on UP. It was finally announced that the Rio Grande unit would be unveiled at a special event near North Yard in Denver sometime in June. Soon after, the official date (June 17, 2006) was announced. On May 26, 2006, the GP60 that had been numbered 1989 was renumbered, opening a spot for the Rio Grande Heritage Unit. The next day, on May 27, UP 8521 (SD70ACe in Primer Gray) was delivered to the Wisconsin Southern to be delivered to the paint shop in Horicon, WI.
On June 8, 2006, UP 8521 was changed to UP 1989 in the Union Pacific computer and the unit was returned to Union Pacific, with a very large blue tarp covering everything above (and including) the running boards. The parts that were visible were the trucks and the fuel tank (both silver) and the front and rear of the unit beneath the anticlimbers (both Aspen Gold)!
Between June 10 and June 12, the unit travelled on a special train (SBUCB-10 and SCBDV-11) from Butler, WI to Denver, CO. By mid-morning on June 12, the unit had been spotted at the location where it would be unveiled the following Saturday, June 17, 2006 around 11:30am. This would be the first new Rio Grande unit (if you choose to look at it that way) in roughly 16 years, since the GP60's (DRGW 3154-DRGW 3156) were delivered in 1990.
That brings us to this point in time. Everyone is anxiously awaiting the unveiling of the Rio Grande unit this upcoming Saturday! After the unveiling, it is not known exactly where the unit will wind up. It may run on a passenger special for its "induction". It is believed, however, that after any special ceremonies or passenger runs, UP 1989 will become one of the standard units running on the MNYRO/MRONY between North Yard and Roper, across the former Rio Grande.