Santa Clarita Valley History In Pictures

SPRR Locomotive No. 1629 on the Line


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NO. 1629 UNDER STEAM, Pre–1957


On the Line 1940s

Southern Pacific Railroad Engine No. 1629 on the line during its working life. Photographic negative, 2½x4¼ inches, with paper sleeve. Date and location unknown.

Probably no later than 1947 after the railroad changed the lettering on tenders to "SOUTHERN PACIFIC" from "SOUTHERN PACIFIC LINES," which had been the standard since 1916 (Cauthen & Signor 2019:11-13). (The official change was made in December 1946, but not everything was repainted immediately.) One might think it's prior to November 1924, when weight designation lettering became standard on both sides of the forward portion of SP tenders (ibid.) — the weight designation appears to be missing here —; however, the light has a hood, so it's during or after World War II. Hoods were added "as the need for blackouts spread from the Pacific Coast to points 150 miles inland" (Yenne 1985:101). No. 1629 passed within 150 miles of the coast — and through the Santa Clarita Valley — when it was used on the route between Yuma and Portland. Note that smokebox fronts also switched from black to aluminum paint after 1946 (Cauthen & Signor 2019:11); this one appears to be crusty aluminum, but it's hard to tell.

In June 1957, actor Gene Autry purchased the retired locomotive and moved it to his Melody Ranch movie studio in Placerita Canyon. In 1981, Autry donated the 2-6-0 mogul locomotive to the Santa Clarita Valley Historical Society, which moved it in 1982 to the Heritage Junction section of William S. Hart Park in Newhall.

Note that the locomotive has a different tender in the photograph from the one that came with it when Autry acquired it (i.e., the one it has today). According to SPRR historian Mike Jarel, tenders were assigned on the basis of the particular duty the locomotive was performing.

The Arizona Daily Star provided some history in its August 1957 report on Autry's purchase:

The old engine was built in 1900 by the Schenectady Locomotive Works, N.Y., and was put in service by the Southern Pacific in December of that year. It was retired from active duty about a year ago. Its last years were spent on the Tucson division. In 1946 it did a stretch on the Southern Pacific of Mexico.

Loaded for a trip and under full head of steam, the old engine weighs 175,000 pounds. It has been used in both freight and passenger service but was too light for the heavier hauls. Its movie career began on the Tucson division, where it was loaned to several film companies for pictures of the old West.

According to the report, No. 1629 appeared in approximately 20 movies made in Southern Arizona before 1957. Then, at Melody Ranch, it reportedly appeared in television series such as "Gunsmoke" and "The Life and Legend of Wyatt Earp."

LW3770: 9600 dpi jpeg from original photographic negative purchased 2021 by Leon Worden.
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