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Southern Pacific Locomotive Alpha & Omega

March 20, 2014

In browsing through some older Southern Pacific images, I came across two that caught my eye. These two represent the alpha & omega of SP diesel locomotive road numbers.

Alpha would be SP 1, a one-of-a-kind narrow-gauge General Electric locomotive. It was acquired by the SP in 1954 in order to dieselize its 3′ gauge Keeler branch. This branch, between Owenyo and Keeler, CA was the site of SP’s final steam revenue service in 1959, but that’s a different post.

SP 1

SP “51-tonner” 1 idles at Owenyo, CA in the 1957-1958 time frame.

SP 1 bears a resemblance to the  GE 70-tonners that the SP operated elsewhere, but everything is on a smaller scale. Narrow gauge, smaller diesel engine, smaller fuel tank, etc. bring the weight of this unit in at 102,000 lbs. SP 1 was retired by the SP in 1960 when the Keeler branch was abandoned. It was sold, via a dealer, to a mining concern in Mexico.

Omega, the highest numbered diesel locomotive on the SP, was U50 9952.

Southern Pacific U50 9952

SP U50 9952 lays over at Taylor Yard in L.A. in June of 1975

It too is a GE product. At 575,500 lbs, it’s nearly 6 times heavier than SP 1.

The range of operation of these 2 locomotives is also at extreme opposites. SP 1 was limited to the 16 mile length of the Keeler Branch, whereas SP 9952 operated between East St. Louis/New Orleans and Los Angeles during its prime.

My alpha and omega metaphor doesn’t quite hold true regarding size and weight though. They are the second smallest, and second biggest, units that the SP ever rostered. The smallest SP units ever were the GE 44-tonners. The largest were the DD35’s. They were 88’5″ long vs. the 83’7″ length of the U50.

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