Railroads & Locomotives History Down memory lane: Encountering the same locomotive over the years

Down memory lane: Encountering the same locomotive over the years

By David Lustig | June 17, 2024

| Last updated on July 18, 2024

For me it was Southern Pacific SW1 No. 1000

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Down memory lane

black and white photo of side view of locomotive
Starting out life as an Electro Motive Corp. demonstrator — which later was renamed as the Electro Motive Division of General Motors, the unit was famous for being Southern Pacific’s first switcher purchase in 1939. Today it is preserved. David Lustig

Down memory lane: Ever find yourself bumping into the same locomotive over the decades? I have. For me, it is former Southern Pacific’s Electro Motive Corporation SW1 No. 1000.

My first encounter was in the 1960s in Northern California, the only model on the roster not working in the greater Los Angeles area (yes, SP subsidiary Texas & New Orleans had a single SW1).

I tried to photograph it but I either saw it from a nearby road or was otherwise unable to stop and watch it. Returning to my Southern California home, the comfort of seeing the rest of SP’s SW1 roster, units 1004-1016, was more than enough to keep me happy. Most were leased to SP subsidiary Pacific Electric — some even were lettered for it — working the former interurban’s freight trackage in the city.

But I wouldn’t admit it, I wanted to see No. 1000 again. Whenever I saw an SP SW1 in Southern California, I would hope it was the 1000.

It was precisely the thought I had in 1976 when I was standing in a field adjacent to the Holly Sugar beet mill in Santa Ana, Calif., watching a weathered orange EMD SW1 shuttle cars in and out of the facility. It was, I knew, the former 1000, declared obsolete by SP and now shuffling cars around for its latest owner. What made seeing it even sweeter was that it still seemed in decent shape, no unattended dents, crooked ladders, or misaligned horns.

I didn’t think much about it, but looking at the locomotive I was witnessing history. Originally an Electro Motive Corporation demonstrator, it was picked up by Southern Pacific as its first wholly owned diesel locomotive. SP had an early interest in diesel technology, and besides the SW1, it picked up a trio of Alco HH660s, and a pair of Baldwin VO660s. The Alcos eventually spawned a larger order of 1,000 horsepower S2s and S4s, and 900 horsepower S6 switchers, and the Baldwins an almost as large number of various model 1,000 and 1,200 horsepower models. SW1 1000 as I mentioned, sired a number of like units numbered 1004-1016.

Over the years the early Alcos and Baldwins disappeared into the blast furnaces, but the 1000 and its siblings shouldered on. Seemingly almost indestructible, a few of SP’s units survive today. SP SW1 No. 1006 was plucked from a recycler and today is back in operating condition at Southern California Railway Museum in Perris, Calif.

No. 1000 was cut from SP’s roster in the early 1970s, and eventually wound up at Santa Ana. After Holly Sugar shut down that facility, the unit was sent to a similar operation in Tracy in the northern part of the state. There it unassumingly continued shuffling sugar beet cars.

Today it is part of the California State Railroad Museum in Sacramento, Calif. Maybe it is time for me to take a road trip north to visit it once again. We have a lot to talk about.

black and white photo of train on track
Down memory lane: A half century ago, Holly Sugar SW1 No. 1 was busy switching its owners’ beet plant in Santa Ana, Calif., just south of Los Angeles. After the plant shut down the switcher was sent to Northern California to work at another Holly Sugar facility. David Lustig

5 thoughts on “Down memory lane: Encountering the same locomotive over the years

  1. David,

    You said “but the 1000 and its siblings shouldered on”. It’s not shouldered but instead should be soldiered on.

    Just thought you’d like to know.

  2. John, if it was up to me, it would be tiger stripes.
    But have you seen the immaculate job the people at the Southern Calif. Railway Museum in Perris, Calif. did with the 1006? Absolutely gorgeous.
    Well worth traveling to see it.

    1. Agree tiger stripes would be nice. Will have to content to viewing the Perris engine by photos as it is a bit of a drive from SC.

  3. David, once again a fine article but here’s a question, to what paint scheme ill #1000 is placed in, so many choices!!

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