Santa Clarita Valley History In Pictures

SPRR Locomotive No. 1629 on the Line


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NO. 1629 UNDER STEAM, Pre-1957


On the Line 1940s


FILM: "Pardners" 1956


On the Line 1950s

Southern Pacific Railroad Engine No. 1629 appears to be taking on water in this color transparency (slide film) by Tom Gildersleeve, an eventual Santa Clarita resident and a nationally renowned rail photographer for many decades. Little could Gildersleeve have known, when he made this photograph, that he would one day share responsibility for this locomotive as a member of the Santa Clarita Valley Historical Society Board of Directors.

The date and location aren't provided — and that's OK. The image tells us when and where it was. It's Southern Arizona, sometime between 1953 and 1957.

Wearing the Southern Pacific Daylight coloring in the background at left is a Pacific Motor Transport trailer riding piggyback on a flatcar. This gives us the "earliest" date. PMT, the Southern Pacific's trucking subsidiary, started in 1929, but not until June 1953 did piggybacking start on the SP.

As for the "latest" date: Following a brief stint in Mexico, No. 1629 spent its final years in SP service in the Tucson division, retiring from its career as a freight hauler in May 1957. It would go on to have two more careers, first as an extra in motion pictures and television and then as a museum display at Heritage Junction/Hart Park in Newhall, California.

Note that the locomotive is pulling its "final" tender, the cylindrical type that the SP preferred; No. 1629 was assigned a different tender in the 1940s as seen here. Both locomotive and tender bear the 1946 Common Standard lettering, but the 1946 Common Standard paint scheme doesn't appear to have been adopted for the engine — graphite (gray) on the front of the boiler and the smokebox. Or maybe the boiler is just really grimy.

Also note: The frame around this color transparency bears a date of 1985, but that's when Gildersleeve duplicated the image, not when he shot it.

About Engine No. 1629.

Southern Pacific Mogul Engine No. 1629 is a class M4 steam locomotive (initially class ED) weighing 75 tons — "mogul" being the name for locomotives with a 2-6-0 wheel configuration (two leading wheels on one axle, six powered and coupled driving wheels on three axles, no trailing wheels). The engine was built in November 1900 by Schenectady Locomotive Works of New York and placed into service by the Southern Pacific Railroad on December 6, 1900, for light freight service on the line that ran from Yuma, Ariz., to Portland, Ore., passing through the Santa Clarita Valley.

No. 1629 was one of 75 moguls that the Southern Pacific received from Schenectady and from Cooke of New Jersey during 1900 and 1901. In the latter year the two manufacturers merged with seven others to form American Locomotive Company (ALCO). The SP wasn't ordering locomotives from the big dog, Baldwin, at the time, because of a dispute between SP President Collis P. Huntington and Baldwin that dated back to the construction of the Central Pacific Railroad in the 1860s. The SP changed its policy and started ordering most of its locomotives from Baldwin following Huntington's death in August 1900. Apparently the order was already placed or the policy hadn't yet changed by the time our locomotive was ordered from Schenectady, where it was given a sequential manufacturing number of 5680.

It's uncertain whether Schnectady rigged No. 1629 to burn coal or oil for fuel. Between 1905 and 1910, the Southern Pacific would convert its entire fleet to oil burners (Hungerford 1959:9); it's possible No. 1629 was oil-fired from birth.

Initially, the engine number ("1629") would have appeared on the tender and the railroad's name in Roman lettering on the cab. Beginning in 1916, the scheme was changed to the number on the cab and "SOUTHERN PACIFIC LINES" on the tender. After 1946, the lettering was abbreviated to "SOUTHERN PACIFIC," and the front of the boiler (or "nose") and the smokebox were changed from all-black to (metallic gray) graphite linseed oil paint. In all cases, it took a couple of years for the changes to be implemented fleet-wide.

Records indicate No. 1629 was either retrofitted or overhauled August 25, 1928, at the SPs' Sacramento shops. After World War II, when the Southern Pacific and other lines were scrambling to renew their fleets after a wartime halt to regular locomotive production, No. 1629 was leased for two short months to the Southern Pacific of Mexico (Sud-Pacífico de México) — March 16, 1946, to May 10, 1946. Although a subsidiary of the Southern Pacific, SPdeM had a separate corporate structure because Mexico required railroad companies to be domiciled in Mexico. (The same was true of another SP subsidiary, Texas & New Orleans, because Texas had the same requirement.)

No. 1629 officially retired from service at Tucson on May 1, 1957 — the year the steam era ended on the Southern Pacific, fully replaced by diesel. Western actor Gene Autry purchased the old workhorse and added it to his new and growing collection of locomotives at his Melody Ranch studio in Placerita Canyon. Engine No. 1629 was his fifth such acquisition; it was delivered June 17, 1957 (The Signal, June 20, 1957). It reportedly appeared in Melody Ranch-based television series such as "Gunsmoke" and "The Life and Legend of Wyatt Earp."

No. 1629 was no stranger to the camera. According to the Arizona Daily Star, its film career actually started while still in active service in the SP's Tucson division, having appeared in some 20 movies made in Southern Arizona before 1957.

According to The Signal, in the late 1950s Autry was planning to open Melody Ranch to the public and was preparing to lay track for a narrow-gauge train that would take tourists on rides around the ranch. It was part of his plan to open a Western museum on the property. The 1962 fire snuffed out that idea — but luckily, it didn't completely kill it. Autry would see his dream come true at Griffith Park in 1988.

By that time, Autry had donated Engine No. 1629 to the Santa Clarita Valley Historical Society. Offered in 1981, it was moved with donated funds April 22, 1982, to its present location next to the Saugus Depot where it has been restored as a static display.

Principal source for manufacturing information: Diebert & Strapac 1987.

LW3783: 9600 dpi jpeg from original (1985 duplicate) color transparency purchased 2021 by Leon Worden.
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