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.
"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."
"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.