Southern Pacific Train # 308 w/ Engine #1714 at Willows, California, 1910-11
Last revision: 1/2/19: see mid-page for "Additional Intelligence"
SP Index

That I am able to give a precise location and a reasonably accurate date for this photo took a considerable amount of help from other folks. About ten years ago, I was gifted the photo of 1714, below, by my brother-in-law, Carl, who had come-across it in a Redding, CA antique store. I figured that the photo might have been taken in Red Bluff, due to the multiple tracks showing in the shot, along with the (very old) print's provenance. I posted the photo on Wx4 requesting information, and Ed Workman kindly placed the date at 1910-11, based upon equipment characteristics. I learned nothing more, and did nothing more until the summer of 2014, when I placed a "whazzit" question on A host of people put forth helpful hints, but it was Tony Johnson who came up with the identity of the train. Some subsequent comparisons of the photo with some Sanborn Insurance maps, Google Maps, and the photos shown further below revealed the train's exact location with a high degree of probability.
SP 1718 and crew at Willows, prior to departing for Hamilton City, circa 1910-11. Train #308 was listed in the SP's timetable as the "Hamilton Passenger and Freight", meaning that it was a mixed train. A blowup of the photo reveals no passenger car, so anyone wishing to ride would have been accommodated in the caboose. Most passenger no doubt chose to ride the daily motor car (likely McKean's) service between the two points, train #'s. 522-523. For much of the year, Willows' climate is quite temperate, or downright hot: summer temperatures average in the 90F range, and only during December and January do daily lows drop below 60F. Judging by the heavy clothes, and the sun angle (the locomotive is pointed due north) the photo was taken in the winter, not long before the train's 8:00AM departure time.

The following timetable information for #'s 308-309 came from an SP Sacramento Employee Timetable dated June 8, 1913, courtesy of Tony Johnson.
Loco #1714 stats come from Diebert and Strapac's Steam Locomotive Compendium, Shade Tree books, 1981, pgs. 114, 151.

Daily ex. Sun
#308 Hamilton Passenger and Freight
Willows depart 8:00am
Lyman 8:15am (flag stop)
Germantown 8:35am
Grapit 8:55am (flag stop)
Greenwood 9:00am (flag stop)
Orland 9:15am
Wyo 9;25am
Hamilton arrive 9:55am

Daily ex. Sun
#309 Hamilton Passenger and Freight
Hamilton depart 11:00am
Wyo arrive 11:30 am
Wyo depart 11:45am
Orland 11:50am
Greenwood 12:05pm (flag stop)
Grapit 12:10pm (flag stop)
Germantown 12:25pm
Lyman 12:35pm (flag stop)
Willows 12:45pm
Daily ex. Sun
SP #1714's Career

1901, Jan. 1: built by Cooke (s.n.2624) as a coal burner; original No. 2140, Class ED
1901: Re-numbered to No. 1714
1904: Re-clssified to M-4
1929, Nov. 29: Lleased to Northwestern Pacific as NWP #300
1929, Nov. 4; re-lettered as NWP #300
1934, Dec. 31: returned to SP ownership
1936, Nov. 25: Scrapped at Tiburon (NWP)

Driver: 63"
Cylinders: 20"x28"
Total engine weight: 146,000 lbs.
Total weight on drivers: 126,000 lbs.
Boiler pressure: 190 p.s.i.
Tractive effort: 28,170

Location of the photo using 1912 map from the Sanborn Map Company:

A 1897 shows a turntable where the number 165 is shown to the right of the large oil tank in the "S.P.R.R. Yard", but a 1912 version does not, indicating that the engines and motors cars were being turned on the wye that formed the junction with the Fruto Branch, just north of town. The 1897 map does not show an oil tank, as S.P. locos were fueled here by coal at that time. The coal dock was located on the turntable lead track. The through track to which the turntable lead was connected was the Fruto Branch main track. The SP depot was located just barely outside of the map at right, on the southwest corner of Sycamore Street.

January, 2019

This circa 1920 photo of #1714 recently surfaced on eBay. Notice the electric headlight. Conjecturally,
Robert H. McFarland recorded it about 1920, possibly at Mission Bay or Oakland

January, 2017

A discovery: As it turns out, Loco 1714 appeared in an October, 1978 (pg. 7) issue of the Western Railroader. SP instituted the 90-series schedules for Ocean View Lines trains sometime between early 1910 and mid-1911, and remained conventional steam-powered trains through September, 1916, when McKeen Motor Cars began handling the runs (see:. The Elusive San Francisco - San Bruno "Loop" Motors ). Number 94 was the mid-day San Bruno Passenger out of San Francisco. In this photo, some sort of extra appliances (flag holders?) show on either side of the headlight that were not there in the Willows photo. Perhaps this may be an indicator of which photo was recorded first. Note also that the second car appears to be a steel coach.

Willows and Hamilton Motor Trains

above: In 1910 Hamilton was served by a pair of "Passenger and Freight" (mixed) locals that ran to
Willows Monday and Saturday. The Sunday trains were strictly passenger and only went as far as
Orland, 35 minutes away. By 1911 the Sunday trains were also carrying freight cars.
(Timetable images copied from originals at CSRM Library)

above & below: By 1913, McKeen motors running out of Sacramento arrived at Hamilton in the evening,
laid over there, and returned to Sacramento the next morning. The mixed trains made a morning
round trip out of Willows. A mid-1918 timetable shows only the mixed trains operating on the same
schedule as 1913. Addendum, 1-2-19: A June 9, 1912 employee timetable shows motors 522 / 523
running two hours earlier than 1913, while mixed 308 / 309 operated at the same times.

A Short Hamilton / Hamilton City / Colusa Early Branch History

At the time of the 1714 photo, Hamilton City sat isolated at the end of a branch, and was known merely as Hamilton. In 1913,the Northern Electric (later: Sacramento Northern) interurban trains began rolling into town on a new branch from Marysville through Chico. About the same time, a construction began on a line from Harrington through Colusa to a connection at Hamilton City, seen as dashed lines in the pre-construction 1913 map at right. The Wyo to Hamilton City then officially became part of the Colusa Branch. Thus, a few years after the photo, Hamilton City was connected to the outside world in three directions!

The following comes from Tony Johnson's excellent Southern Pacific's Colusa Branch Webpage, which also covers other area railroads:

Around 1906, from its mainline station at Wyo, Southern Pacific constructed a 10.4 mile branch line east to the new Speckels Sugar beet refinery at Hamilton (later called Hamilton City).  Although it was constructed to serve mainly freight, SP did offer modest passenger service daily between Hamilton City and Davis (and the connecting trains to San Francisco and Sacramento) on Trains #522 and #523.  These “Second Class” passenger trains were nothing more than distillate-powered self-propelled motor cars, which the railroad used to keep costs down on lightly patronized passenger runs. With 27 flag stops and schedule stops between Davis and Hamilton City, it took a while to get over the road. Train #522 departed Davis at 4:10PM and arrived at Hamilton City at 8:15PM. Interestingly, at Arbuckle there was a 10 minute station stop. Additionally, at Willows you could transfer to Mixed Trains #267-268 to reach Fruto.
If you were not pressed for time, you could ride aboard the two “Daily except Sunday” Mixed Trains #308 and #309. These mixed freights operated between Hamilton City and Orland, taking 1 hour 55 minutes between the two terminals.
As the agricultural output of the area continued to grow in Colusa County, Southern Pacific looked at expanding its empire.
Beginning in 1912, under the name, Colusa & Hamilton Railroad (C&H), Southern Pacific constructed sixty-one miles northerly from Harrington to Hamilton. In 1912, the C&H petitioned the State PUC and was granted permission to construct its mainline at grade across 47 public highways. The following year the PUC granted the C&H permission to cross at grade, the tracks of the Colusa & Lake Railroad.
By 1917, the Colusa Branch was complete. The Colusa & Hamilton Railroad had no locomotives of its own, and was leased to the Southern Pacific on December 1, 1913, and deeded to that company of October 9, 1917. Now known as the Colusa Branch, this 72-mile branch left the West Valley (the former Northern Railway) mainline at Harrington (mp103.3) and went northeast to Grimes, then north through Colusa, Princeton, and Hamilton City, before heading back west to rejoin the West Valley mainline at Wyo (mp180.4).

For a look at the Hamilton City Branch in 1991, see the Dome's associated The "Beets" Beat the Fog at Hamilton City.

Also of local interest:
- The Fruto Project's Webpage, which well-covers SP's Fruto Branch out of Williams
- Wx4's colorful USDA Bureau of Soils 1907 map of the narrow gauge Colusa & Lake RR

The following vintage photos come courtesy of the Willows Museum:
(the museum has several more Willows RR photos)

The above photo was taken about the same time as the #1714 photo. The engine is standing on the main track, one track to the left of the 1714, and appears to be located about where the 1714's 7th or 8th cars were standing. On the left you can make out the SP fuel oil tank that shows in the Sanborn map in the previous thread. Sadly, no McKeen car is visible. In center foreground is the Fruto main track.

Winter snow is a rarity in Willows. Here we are looking southwest, where the tracks crossed East Willow street. The turntable lead switch is at the extreme right.

The passenger portion of the Willows depot, possibly photographed a little earlier than the #1714 photo. The photographer was facing due west, standing in the middle of Sycamore Street.

This photo facing northward was taken from an open observation car platform by John Barriger III in the late 1930's, when he inspected railroads as chief examiner of the Railroad Division of the New Deal's Reconstruction Finance Corporation. After World War II, Barriger took on a succession of several railroad presidencies until shortly before his death in 1976. He literally took thousands of pictures for the RFC, which can be viewed at the University of Missouri-St. Louis's flickr site.

The Present Day (2014), Courtesy of Google Earth:

Willows in 2014, of the area shown in the 1912 Sanborn map, above. 1) is the approximate site of the former turntable; 2) is the depot site (note the remaining concrete); The approximate site of the #1714 in the top photo. The track that #308 sat upon is no longer there - It was located between the present main line and the short spur track.


Addendum 1-2-2019: June, 1919 area
map from Sacramento Division time -
table 114 of 9-18-1921. - Tim Zukas