Monday, May 5, 2014

SP Steam - Just Dirty black locomotives... right?

My earliest recollection of steam locomotives was probably the Hooterville Cannon Ball on Petticoat Junction which aired on CBS from 1963 (no I don't recall that year) to 1970 and Artemus Gordon and James West gallivanting about the west, fighting off Sherlock Holmes like master nemesis on the "The Wild, Wild, West" which aired on CBS from 1965 to 1969. The Hooterville Cannon Ball was the Sierra Railroad 4-6-0 (ten-wheeler) No. 3 decked out to look like a wood burner and based in Jamestown, California. The Gordon/West loco was the Virginia & Truckee No. 22 "Inyo" was also decked out as a wood burner although converted to burn oil by the time of the series.  Both locos are still with us, if not operational.

From here I could actually touch and "taste" steam locos at Disneyland and Knott's Berry Farm, with the Knott's engines having been former narrow gauge Denver & Rio Grande Western and Rio Grande Southern locos. So my first impression of steam, both on TV and live was not Southern Pacific.  Nay that would come later, 1984 to be exact, Big Brother and all...

I modeled some SP diesels since I wanted to model what I had been around and SP was it with that nifty gray and bloody nose scheme.  Small shelf layout attempts here and there and more or less collecting freight cars of the 70's and early 80's.  Hanging out at the train store talking about SD45's and Tunnel Motors.  We had heard that some old steam train was going to come through Soledad Canyon and to Saugus/Newhall, Calif in 1984.  The Worlds Fair was to be held in New Orleans and SP was sponsoring some steam locomotive and passenger cars.  There was no internet in those days. So we wondered what kind of steam engine were railfaning for.  My buddy had changed the crystals in his hand-held scanner so we could hear when the steam engine would be coming our way.  That was big technology for us then and it was May 12, 1984.

What came around the bend of the canyon was not a black steam locomotive at all. This thing was orange.  Lots of orange.  Some red.  Some black for sure.  But orange.  Who would paint a steam locomotive orange?'s... beautiful!

The cacophony of steel on steel; the whir of massive siderods churning away; steam seeking escape under super-heated pressure; air pumps beating.  This was an orchestrated sound I never experienced until this orange and red rocket blasted underneath us on our perched highway location.

The next day the plastic diesels were set aside.  The 60' boxcars with roller bearings and build date of 1974 would certainly not due.  I was converted.  I was on a quest to model steam.  Not just any steam.  Nope. Nothing short of the most beautiful train in the world...

So what is it about steam locomotives that catches our fascination and makes us a bit giddy?   Share your thoughts below.

Speaking of steam, have a look at HO modeling of 1895 on the Stockton and Copperopolis Railroad!

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