Ever wonder what happened to the Southern Pacific's Engine No. 5042 after Tom Vernon wrecked it behind the Baker Ranch Rodeo in Saugus on the night of Nov. 10, 1929?
Well, it lay on its side for a while — SP crews from Los Angeles and Mojave worked through the night to build a shoe-fly (temporary track) around it, and they had trains running early the next morning — but it was eventually lifted by cranes and taken to L.A. for repair. Then it went right back in service on the West Coast Limited, which ran from L.A. to Portland via the San Joaquin Valley, with connecting service to Seattle.
Here we see the 5042 in Bakersfield in 1939. Photo by C.C. Grayson of Longview, Texas, a railfan who shot photos of trains all over the country when he wasn't collecting taxes for Gregg County.
No. 5042 was a big, Class SP-3 locomotive with a 4-10-2 wheel configuration, built by American Locomotive Co. (ALCO) in Schenectady, N.Y. Just two years old at the time of the wreck, its weight apparently contributed to its downfall when it hit Tom Vernon's handiwork.
Evidence suggests Vernon actually intended to derail the Owl, which came through Saugus minutes earlier. But the Owl used a slightly lighter-weight engine, and it didn't jump the track. Author James E. Boynton writes in "4-10-2: Three Barrels of Steam" (1973:39):
[I]nvestigation showed that the track had been tampered with prior to the passage of the Owl, a Los Angeles-San Francisco overnight all Pullman train which preceded the West Coast Limited by about 15 minutes. This fact was borne out by sectionmen who testified that removal of the spikes would take considerably more time than existed between the schedule time of the two passenger trains. It is rather hard to realize, but No. 25 [the Owl] had evidently negotiated the loosened rail with its 15-car train of Pullmans, without anyone knowing how close to disaster they had actually been. The Owl was powered by a 4300 series 4-8-2 Mountain Class locomotive, which was not quite so rigid or heavy as the big 5000[-series] engine. This fact alone saved No. 25 from being wrecked, and from suffering a fate which could quite possibly have been worse than that besetting the West Coast Limited.
Nobody died in the derailment, but it was touch-and-go with the engineer.
Engine No. 5042 remained in service until April 29, 1953, when it was scrapped in Sacramento (Boynton:115). The West Coast Limited made her final run Dec. 7, 1960 (Serpico 2000:25).
LW2926: 9600 dpi jpeg from original photograph purchased 2017 by Leon Worden.