1-1-2015: new page; last addition 6-12-2024

click on the above image to view the individual orders; photo below to enlarge
(Continued from above) As far as anyone knows, this was the last time that steam powered an SP standard gauge freight train in the U.S. Steam did run into early 1959 on SP's Mexican operation, the Inter-California Railway, as well as on the Owens Valley narrow gauge until 1960, but "big" SP, had ceased running revenue freight behind steam about thirteen months prior to the 2475 run. SP originally contemplated that the engine would run as a cab hop, but a sharp dispatcher put the crew and engine to their highest and best use.

In fact, after the X2475E tied-up, SP would run only a few more steam trains, all excursions, before killing the fires for good after the famous #4460 October 18-19, 1958 Donner Pass excursion. Indeed, it was two excursions that occasioned the 2475's call out of storage to make the run to San Jose from the soon-to-be demolished West Oakland roundhouse. Fifty-seven years ago to the day that these words were written, the 2475 powered the last steam run to Monterey, and the next day, the last one over over Altamont Pass, the site for many of SP's last revenue freight steam moves. (Note: Steam continued to work occasional Bay Area yard jobs until year's end, and powered Peninsula Commute trains until January 22, 1957.)

On this page are the train orders and messages that governed the X2475E's Engineer R. Walker, and Fireman M.L. Carroll on that last evening of steam freight service. Who the train crew was is unknown, so far. The orders somehow fell into the hands of late SP Engineer Dean C. Hill, and later came to Wx4.

In the first move of January 1, 2475 backed down the eastbound main to Cahill depot, where it presumably fetched the train's consist out of the "Field" storage tracks, then doubled-over to depot tack #1. The eastbound main did not directly connect to depot #1 through crossovers, and the excursion departed off of #1 track, hence the guess where it was headed in the photo. Click on photo to enlarge

The 2475 struts her stuff during a photo run-by somewhere on the Altamont. Today, the tracks are long-gone. click on photo to enlarge

Central Coast Railroad Club brochure (click for larger image)
Western Railway Museum Collection, courtesy of Evan Werkema

NEW 6-16-2024: PDF of promotonal flyer fpr event

The San Jose-to-Monterey run is not well-remembered today (in fact was unknown to this writer when this piece was first written). No photos of this trip have as yet become available. The Tracy New Year's Day excursion is still well-remembered, on the other hand. Both were well-attended, as at the time it was starting to dawn on fans that that steam would make no comeback on the Southern Pacific. A chief topic of onboard conversation certainly must have been the "likely" return of steam in the summer, when traffic surely would be picking-up. The more-worldly in their midst knew the score, however. Those droves of new GP9s and national recession had already driven the final nail into the coffin. One can imagine that the excursionists were in some state of denial that the recently commonplace was now nearly extinct.

Frank Maffei (with the help of son Dave) has kindly provided copies of his photos documenting the Altamont excursion (thanks boys!). The train used the Milpitas line to Niles out of San Jose, and returned from Tracy via a Centerville / Newark route. The eight car train was a hard pull going over the Altamont, as 2475 was rated for 2050 "M's" (1025 tons) over the pass, and the train - with its passengers heavily-laden with Speed Graphics and all measure of other photographic equipment - certainly must have been close to that. Central Coast Railroad Club's open observation car "FERROEQUINOLOGIST" trailed the consist, which included a heavyweight tavern-lounge and the obligatory "photo-baggage" car.


The excursion arrived (left) at Tracy in the mid-afternoon. By the time the 2475 was turned on the roundhouse turntable (below left) - doubtlessly the last steam loco to do so - the sun was low, enveloped in the thick, smoky haze that shrouds California's Central Valleys in the winter months. By the time the loco ran around the train prior to coupling-up for departure, low-lying clouds were already forming, waiting to descend overnight as fog. Most likely a diesel had earlier pulled the train to Lathrop for a trip around the wye. Note the PA near the tower, possibly the power for the Sacramento Daylight. In two, or three years hence, T&NO GP9 #283 would come west to lead the Sacramento Daylight for the following decade. Today, just about everything that you see here has vanished. After returning to San Jose, the 2475's fire was killed, and it apparently was later hauled dead in a freight train back to West Oakland, where it sat until it was hauled off for scrap in 1959.

click on the photos to enlarge

dup Ektachrome slide, photographer unknown
NEW 6-16-2024:
Before Fame

At left is #2475 at Port Costa on Scaramento-Oakland train #229 in 1955. Period train orders show it also working freight trains.

photographer unknown, Wx4 collection
NEW 6-16-2024:
The Last of the Last?

While #2475 was the last live steam engine to occupy Tracy's turntable, it was not the only SP rostered steam engine inhabiting the town that day. At the time, F-4 2-10-2's #3670 and #3690 still inhabited the roundhouse area, and perhaps other steamers, as well. Of the two decks, #3670 was the last to go, being vacated there, like #3690, on 9-24-58, but it was sold for scrap on 11-13-58, six days after #3690. At left is #3670 in genteel repose, suffering the effects of more than a year of inactivity.

College Park RIP tracks summer, 1964; Wx4 photo


As noted previously, the Central Coast Railroad Club's open observation FERROEQUINOLOGIST, ex SP 2901, trailed the excursion consist. Originally constructed as a steel-frame, wooden body car in 1910, the car went on to have a long and varied career, on the Overland Limited, Northwestern Pacific, Peninsula Commutes and Suntan Specials, before going to the CCRC in 1956. In 1971, the Sierra Railway bought the car, and Wx4 staff rode the car on their triple-headed Steam Spectacular that Labor Day. It was rehabbed as part of Railtown 1897 State Historic Park early in the 21st Century.

For more on its history, see Ken Rattenne's online "History of Car 2901 The Ferroequinologist".