Monday, May 5, 2014

When steam ruled the steel rails of the SP

Although now a fallen flag railroad (having been merged into the Union Pacific (Uncle Pete), the Southern Pacific Railroad had a rich and vibrant history as far as railroads go. Indulge with me as we discuss the Southern Pacific Pacific Railroad.

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Why do we like (Love) steam locomotives?

Like this jovial character in front of Southern Pacific 2248, a 4-6-0 Class T-1, we are (especially if you are reading this blog) universally drawn to steam locomotives. This photo is of a Lions Club special excursion event in southern California in the 1950s and our friend here donning his nifty convention hat is admiring the silly "Hollywooding" of a locomotive that has had a long career.

2248 was built in 1896 by Cooke Locomotive and Machine Work for premiere passenger duty until larger locomotives relegated her to branch duties. While many of 2248's T-1 outdated sister locos were destined for the scrapper during the Great Depression, 2248 was chosen to perform fire protection of numerous wooden snow sheds and adjacent forests over Donner Pass. As the miles of wooden snow sheds were deemed no longer necessary and the critical ones converted to concrete, 2248 was pulled out of fire train duty and given the mundane task of being used for western movies with the non-functional diamond stack and shiny domes.  Purchased from the SP by Charles Brown, a construction contractor in San Fernando, California, 2248 was destined for an amusement park until those plans fell through. There she sat, forlorn on a siding off the SP mainline just north of Maclay Avenue and 1st Street in the 1960s, when I recollected her as we passed by on weekly trips to visit my paternal grandparents in San Fernando. Moved to another siding a bit north in Sylmar near Hubbard Street in late 1970, 2248 rolled onto her fireman's side in the deadly February 1971 Sylmar earthquake.  Righted and worse for wear, 2248 was purchased by the state of Texas and now restored to excursion service in Texas on the Fort Worth and Western Tarantula train.

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

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