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Southern Pacific locomotives remembered

By | February 28, 2022

The Southern Pacific is Classic Trains’ fallen flag railroad of the month for February 2022

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Southern Pacific locomotives: Small steam locomotive rests adjacent to larger streamlined diesel
Southern Pacific locomotives: Small steam locomotive rests adjacent to larger streamlined diesel

The historic Southern Pacific locomotive C. P. Huntington, a 4-2-4T type built for predecessor Central Pacific, poses next to a four-unit EMD F unit set. This shows the disparity between 19th century and 20th century railroad equipment. It is preserved at the California State Railroad Museum in Sacramento. Southern Pacific photo

Southern Pacific locomotives: Small steam locomotive rests adjacent to larger streamlined diesel
Steam locomotive with cab in the front

The Southern Pacific resorted to a most unique design to save its engine crews from asphyxiation in long tunnels: articulated steam locomotives with the cabs at the front. The railroad would roster 195 of the basic 4-8-8-2 design in the AC-4 through AC-8 and AC-10 through AC-12 classes. No. 4211, an AC-10 class locomotive, is shown in its builder’s photo. Sister AC-12 No. 4294 is preserved at the California State Railroad Museum in Sacramento. Southern Pacific photo

Steam locomotive with cab in the front
Southern Pacific locomotives: Profile view of semi-streamlined steam locomotive

SP specified Valve Pilots for its coal-burning, rear-cab AC-9 2-8-8-4s. No. 3800 was the first of 12. Other AC-class Southern Pacific locomotives were oil-burning, cab-forward designs. Lima Locomotive Works photo

Southern Pacific locomotives: Profile view of semi-streamlined steam locomotive
Nose of streamlined steam locomotive in yard

GS-4 No. 4451 rests at Los Angeles after a run from San Francisco in the 1940s. Painted orange, red, and black, locomotives came to symbolize the Southern Pacific on the California coast. H.D. Bonham photo

Nose of streamlined steam locomotive in yard
Southern Pacific locomotives: Steam locomotive posed outdoors for official construction photo

EMD SD9 No. 5402 shows off a special light package applied to Southern Pacific locomotives. They contained a conventional headlight, gyroscopic headlight, and red light that turned on during an emergency brake application. It was built in March 1950. Al Kamm photo

Southern Pacific locomotives: Steam locomotive posed outdoors for official construction photo
Rear view of end-cab switching locomotive

The original EMD DD35 double diesel was a cabless model intended to mate with the GP35. They were equipped with four-axle trucks and 567D3A prime movers. Southern Pacific locomotives included three, built as Nos. 8400-8402 in 1964. Union Pacific also had 27, along with 15 cab-equipped DD35A units. Classic Trains collection

Rear view of end-cab switching locomotive
Rear view of end-cab switching locomotive

SW1200 No. 2287 at Eugene, Ore., in September 1979 shows how the light package was applied to Southern Pacific switchers.

Rear view of end-cab switching locomotive
Diesel locomotives with high walkways rest in yard with passenger trains

Southern Pacific operated its 14 Fairbanks-Morse H24-66 “Train Master” diesels in “commute” service on the San Francisco Peninsula. Equipped with steam generators for passenger service, they operated into the 1970s. Earl Thiel photo, Tom Swenson collection

Diesel locomotives with high walkways rest in yard with passenger trains
Southern Pacific locomotives: Rear of diesel locomotive with large see-through grate section at walkway level
 
Southern Pacific locomotives: Rear of diesel locomotive with large see-through grate section at walkway level

Classic Trains editors are celebrating the history, heritage, and style of the Southern Pacific Lines all through February 2022. So, please enjoy this photo gallery of Southern Pacific locomotives selected from the archives of Kalmbach Media’s David P. Morgan Library.

Southern Pacific locomotives were among the most distinctive in North America. The SP was one of the only large railroads that did not acquire steam locomotives of USRA design. It also applied a trademark light package to its diesels, making them stand out on the secondhand market to this day.

SP steam locomotives are known for two standouts: the streamlined 4-8-4 in bright Daylight passenger colors and “cab forward” 4-8-8-2 articulateds; both locomotive types came in multiple classes.

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