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Fifties Flashback – Southern Pacific Steam

December 23, 2012

In previous episodes of Fifties Flashback, I posted images of Southern Pacific F-units (here and here) in the classic  “black widow”  colors. But there was more to the 1950’s than brand-new diesels. After a century of service , it was the last hurrah for external combustion locomotives in the U.S. Let’s take a look at a few scenes from that era on the Southern Pacific.

Southern Pacific S-12 class 0-6-0 1259 is in its 34th year of service as it’s being serviced on May 30, 1955 at Fresno, CA. It’s one of 38 0-6-0’s built by SP’s Sacramento and Los Angeles shop forces between 1919-1923. The 1259 was one of 7 built in LA in 1921. The last stand for the S-12 switchers was the winter of 1956 working in San Francisco-area yard service. The 1259 was scrapped in 1959.

SP Southern Pacific 1259 0-6-0 steam locomotive at Fresno CA

The building in the background in the above image is the Pacific Southwest (now Fresno Pacific)  Tower. When built in 1925, it was the tallest building between Los Angeles and San Francisco.

Just over a year prior, we see Southern Pacific GS-3 4422 leading Train #72, the daily southbound mail and express train between San Francisco and Los Angeles, at San Luis Obispo, CA on April 2, 1954.  It’s typical consist was 10 to 13 express / refrigerated express / mail cars with 2 coaches at the end of the train. Before the Interstate Highway System rendered them obsolete, trains like this were the 1950’s analog to FedEx and UPS today.

Southern Pacific GS-3 steam locomotive 4422 at San Luis Obispo, CA

By far the oldest locomotive in this post, SP T-31 class 4-6-0 2353 was built by Baldwin in 1912. It worked the majority of its 45-year career in Northern California. Its last assignments were local and switching service in and around Bayshore yard in Brisbane, CA. This image shows the 2353 working on a short local on August 1, 1955 passing through Burlingame, CA, some 8 miles south of Bayshore Yard.

Southern Pacific 4-6-0 steam locomotive 2353 at Burlingame CA in 1955

The 2353 was retired in on January 18, 1957, but it was able to avoid the scrapper’s torch. It was donated to the Imperial County Fair in Imperial, CA where it was on static display until 1984, when it was donated to the San Diego Railroad Museum in Campo, CA.

Over the following 12 years, SDRM volunteers restored the 2353 to operating condition. Here’s a shot of the 2353 pulling a short freight across the Lower Campo Creek trestle on April 15, 2000.

Unfortunately, a Fall 2000 FRA boiler inspection of the 2353 revealed serious problems that have sidelined the locomotive since then. At present the 2353 is on static display at the SDRM’s Campo, CA museum.

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