Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Once Upon a Time in Placerville No. 10: Old Engine 1771

Good morning, Tina here.

Once upon a time in Placerville, as the Gold Country Girls were growing up, an old steam locomotive sat at the intersection of Highways 49 and 50.   It was Southern Pacific Railroad Line No. 1771, Class M-8, 2-6-0, built by Baldwin (Burnham) in 1902.  We just called it "Old 1771".  It looked very cool sitting there, and it was fun to climb on.  It seemed like it would be there forever. 

Below is an old postcard from about 1960, not long after it arrived in Placerville.

Below, a young boy gets a close up look with some help from his dad.

The locomotive was deeded from Southern Pacific Sacramento Scrapline to Placerville and the D.A.R. Hangtown Chapter in the late 1950s.

Below, most of my El Dorado High School class of 1969 crowd onto the locomotive to show our love of our town and just to have some fun.  This was a prominent photo in our yearbook.

Below is a wonderful drawing of "Old 1771" by a good friend of mine, Jonni Hill. She is one of the many kids on top of the locomotive in the photo above.  Jonni has drawn many wonderful images of the Placerville area, and other interesting places such as Virginia City, Nevada. You can find her prints at Jonni Hill's High Country Sketches on Facebook.
In the mid 1980s the City of Placerville gifted the locomotive to the California State Railroad Museum (CSRM) in the hopes that it would be restored.  Unfortunately, restoration has hit a few bumps along the way.  Below is an excerpt from a comment about the engine which I found on a web site concerning the Railroad Museum:

"When the CSRM acquired the worn-out SP 2-6-0 1771 from The City of Placerville –  trains had not ventured into the city yard limits area in quite awhile, so caused a big sensation when the diesel(s) coupled onto the Mogul after the Cats dragged it down to trackage below the downtown street crossings on its return journey to Sacramento.
BTW: it has been documented that this 2-6-0 never worked the Placerville Branch in anything close to recent years ... and maybe not at all. It had come from the Sacramento scrap line in the late 1950s where it had been mostly cannibalized for all working appliances to keep things like the SP rotary snowplows alive until they were finally electrified. The 1771 was a basket case with a lot of shiny paint when SP deeded it to P'ville and the D.A.R. Hangtown Chapter; the piston rods had already been torched to make the engine non-operable and to make it easier to move as a scrap-yard-bound hulk; the pistons and piston valves had been removed and scrapped; the flues (and the fluesheets?) were gone, too. The tender still did have bunker oil in  the fuel tank. The boiler shell was a disaster even in the '50s since the loco's "flue time" had been pushed to the max without major shopping during the late 1950s service in and around Indio, CA, the last known haunts of the 1771 and its heavy 2-6-0 sisters."

Below, more history of 1771 from a blog entitled "Back to California" by Bob Yarger:

"Down the row is the disassembled carcass of SP 1771, a 2-6-0 I've known since age 6, when I first saw a picture of it in Railroad magazine. It was a Richard Steinheimer article on SP operations in California's scorching Imperial Valley. No. 1771 was fired up and hot in the evocative night shot, ready to go out and switch sugar beets. I still have the tattered magazine, bought in a Kansas drugstore, and I think about how long it's taken for the engine and me to meet in person. Escaping scrap, the Mogul was donated to Placerville, California for display in 1958 and was brought down to the Museum in 1985. Dismantling for repairs unfortunately showed it to have a pitted boiler and it now awaits either a new one or reassembly for static display."

Not as much fun to climb on in the shape it is in now. The two above photos show the locomotive awaiting restoration at the CSRM.

"Old 1771" was replaced at the intersection by a Southern Pacific bay window caboose #1283 which is historic and interesting, but we still miss our locomotive, and hope someday it will finally be restored, and perhaps returned to its retirement home in Placerville.


Heidi Ann said...

Too bad it's just sitting there, and the state has no money. I really enjoyed the pictures and this post, and I had forgotten about that yearbook picture - cool!

Coach Carpet Care said...

I think I remember Old 1771! Just another cool thing about Placerville, like the Christmas trees along the highway. It is the things like this that make it special.
I really enjoyed this post thank you.

yosemite faith said...

you know i loved the old photos and the story

Jim J;O) said...

Thanks Tina. Enjoyed. Is anyone else having trouble leaving comments? i.e., the cursor not working right--not going where you want it to go & you have to select & cut to place it to change/add/subtract something? It took a while just for this comment.

Thanks Again, Jim J;0)

Jim J;O) said...

In 1955 (none you be borneded yet), Granny & Gramps brought my sis & I to the gold country. We toured P’ville to Downieville for 3 or 4 days. There was no Hwy 50 yet and P’ville was still much as it was in earlier years. No gigantic “Pony Express” parking garage, Ivy House still here, choo-choo tracks still here, NO traffic, etc. We had cameras, but as I look at B&W pics, I see only we 4 tourists. We didn’t know things were about to change drastically. Heck, I was growing up in Santa Clara (Silicon) Valley at the time, amongst orchards & vineyards. (Two small clumps of tract houses had just been built. We thought the ticky-tacky was hilarious and would never last. Never! People had too much class, so “Never!”)

My gosh, I so wish we had taken rolls & rolls & rolls of pics of 1955 Placerville. Others had foresight to do just that through the years. I wholeheartedly thank these folks.

The train engine wouldn’t have been there yet, Tina, but I would have seen it later. Dad always bypassed Hwy 50 to drive down Main & Broadway. My dad loved P’ville. I guess I inherited my love for this town from him.

Tina, I’m at the fairgrounds often because it’s about as close to a park as we have. I walk, enjoy the sun, enjoy horse-men/-women/-youngsters, doggie training, whatever might be going on. Tina, why have they torn down the old wooden caboose next to the museum? I’ve watched it slowly be disassembled. It hurts.

I typed this via an application & copy/pasted it onto your blog. I really can’t control the cursor there.

Thank you for not minding my sharing such wordy things that come to mind. Love, Jim J;0)