Author: Rhynes, J.D.

Southern Pacific 4449
 

Southern Pacific locomotive number 4449, the last of the GS-4 class
of locomotive's that pulled the coast daylight train between San
Francisco and Los Angeles. It was built in May of 1941 by the Lima
locomotive Works, and it was a 4-8-4 configuration, which designates
the wheel's. The front truck had four wheels, eight drivers, and
four wheels on the rear truck. The diameter of the drivers was 80
inches [6'8" tall] and it was balanced to do 110 miles an hour top
speed. Locomotive weight was 475,000 pounds, the weight on the
drivers was 275,700 pounds, and the locomotive and tender combined
weight was 870,000 pounds.

Southern Pacific 4449 is the only surviving example of Southern
Pacific railroads GS 4 class of steam locomotives. The locomotive
is a streamlined 4-8-4 type steam locomotive. GS is abbreviated from
"Golden State", a nickname for California where the locomotive was
operated in regular service, or"general service". The Locomotive was
built by Lima locomotive Works in Lima,Ohio, for Southern Pacific inMay 1941; it received the red and orange"Daylight"paint scheme for
the passenger trains of the same name which it hauled for most of
its service career. Number 4449 was retired from revenue service in
1956 and put into storage. In 1958 it was donated, by the railroad,
to the city of Portland Oregon who then put it on static display in
Oaks Amusement Park, where it remained until 1974. It was restored
to operation for use in the American Freedom Train, which toured the
48 contiguous United States for the American Bicentennial
celebration. Since then 4449 has been operated in excursion service
throughout the continental US; its operations are based at the
Oregon rail heritage Center in Portland Oregon, where it is
maintained by a group of dedicated volunteers called Friends of
Southern Pacific 4449. In 1983 a poll of Trains Magazine readers
chose the 4449 is a most popular locomotive in the nation. 4449 was
the last engine manufactured in Southern Pacific first order of GS
4 locomotives. 4449 was placed into service on May 30, 1941 and
spent its early career assigned to the "Coast Daylight", Southern
Pacific premier passenger train between San Francisco and Los
Angeles California, but also pulled many other of the SP's named
passenger trains. After the arrival of the newer GS 4's and GS
5's, 4449 was assigned to Golden State Route and Sunset Route
passenger trains. 4449 was reassigned to the Coast division in the
early 1950s. One of 4449s career highlights happen on October 17,
1954, one 4449 and sister 4447 pulled a special 10 car train for a
Railway historical Society from Los Angeles to Owenyo, California
and return. In 1955, after being one of the last few Daylight steam
engines and "Daylight" livery, 4449 was painted black and silver in
it streamlined side skirting was removed due to diesel's replacing
steam engines on the coast daylight in January of that year. 4449
was then assigned to the Southern Pacific's San Joaquin Valley line,
occasionally pulling passenger trains such as a San Joaquin Daylight
between Oakland and Bakersfield as well as fast freight and helper
service. 4449 was semi retired from service on September 24, 1956,
and was kept as an emergency backup locomotive until it was
officially retired on October 2, 1957 and was placed in storage
along with several other GS class engines near Southern Pacific's
Bakersfield roundhouse.

In 1958, when most of the GS class engines had already been
scrapped, a then black and silver painted 4449 was removed from
storage and donated to the city of Portland, Oregon, on April 24,
1958, were was placed on outdoor public display in Oaks Park. Since
the equipment was considered obsolete, 4449 was not actively chosen
for static display. It was picked simply because it was the first in
the deadline and could removed with the least number of switching
moves. During its time on display, 4449 was repeatedly vandalized
and had many of its parts stolen, including its builders plates and
whistle. The locomotive quickly deteriorated due to neglect. It was
evaluated for restoration in 1974 after becoming a candidate to pull
the American Freedom Train. Its size, power, and lines made it an
efficient fit for the train. After finding that 4449's bearings and
rods in good shape, it was chosen.

When the engine was on display at Oaks Park, Jack Holst, a Southern
Pacific employee, looked after 4449 along with two other steam
locomotives. Holst kept the engines bearings and rods oiled in case
they were ever to move again. Holst died in 1972 and never got to
see 4449 returned operation.

4449 was removed from display on December 14, 1974, and restored at
Burlington Northern's Hoyt Street roundhouse in Portland and
returned to operation April 21, 1975, wearing a special paint scheme
of red, white, and blue. As part of the American freedom train the
engine to the display train around most of the United States.
Afterwards, 4449 pulled an Amtrak special, the Amtrak
Transcontinental Steam Excursion. After nearly 2 years on the road,
4449 was returned to storage in Portland, this time under protective
cover and not exposed to the elements.

In 1981, 4449 was returned to its original "Daylight" colors for the
first Railfair event at the California State Railroad Museum in
Sacramento, California. In 1984, 4449 pulled an all daylight painted
train from Portland to New Orleans Louisiana and back, to publicize
the worlds fair. The 7477 mile round-trip was the longest steam
train excursion in US history.

Only one other Southern Pacific GS class steam engine survives,
Southern Pacific 4460, a GS-6, which is on static display at the
Museum of transportation in St. Louis Missouri. It was built during
war 2, was never painted the famous "daylight" paint scheme.
Instead, it was painted black and silver thus, giving it the
nickname black daylight.

There folks, is the official story of engine number 4449, in my
estimation the most beautiful steam engine ever built. Also one of
the fastest at 110 miles an hour. As a young boy in Stockton
California I remember seeing the "San Joaquin Daylight" train pull
into the station to pick up passengers, with number 4449 at the
front of the train. It was such a delight and a joy to a young boy
like myself who loved steam engines to see that big engine come
roaring into the station, then stop while the train took on
passengers, all the while moaning and groaning and emitting steam
and fumes. Then when the conductor gave the signal it would almost
silently start to move and in a flash of smoke and steam, with its
signature chuff chuff chuff sound pull out of sight in no time at
all.
Then, in 1976, when the American Freedom Train came to Stockton
California, and was on display for about a week, I took my children
to Stockton to see it, and experience what I got to see when I was a
kid. Lo and behold setting there in it's red white and blue paint
scheme was my beloved Southern Pacific 4449! What a thrill for me to
see that grand old steam engine setting their under steam, grunting
and groaning like it used to when I was a kid. The whole crew on
that freedom train were volunteers down to the last man. If I
remember right the only paid members of the crew were the engineer
and the firemen for the engine itself. I got to talking to one of
the crew, who turned out to be a professional photographer who had
signed on for a three month long stint on the train. He planned on
publishing a book of photographs about his experience on the freedom
train, a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. I became intrigued by his
story and asked them if they had any openings on the crew. He said
they were in dire need of a steam fitter, to which I replied; you
are talking to a journeyman steam fitter! Where do I sign up? He
explained that I had to pay my own expenses, and sign on for a
minimum of a three month stint. I was laid off for the winter, so we
went and talked to the engineer who was in charge of hiring. As luck
would have it, he had just signed up a steam fitter not 20 min.
before I got there. Just in case I gave him my phone number and
name, if the other steam fitter backed out on the trip. Rats!!! If I
had only got there 10 min. earlier, I would have the train story of
stories to tell you folks about my experience of riding the Freedom
Train around America for three months. But alas, it was not to be.

On a still summer night, I still long to hear the whistle of a fast
freight as it approached the Farmington Road crossing, and the fast
chuff chuff of the exhausted steam blowing out of the smokestack of
a big 4-8-4 steam locomotive. Those sounds will forever give me
goosebumps and raise the hair on the back of my neck every time I
hear them. It's a shame that the children of today can't experience
the trains of yesterday, when the engineer would blow his whistle,
and waved back at you when you waved at him. It is truly a shame
that "Coast Daylight" doesn't run between San Francisco and Los
Angeles anymore. That was the most beautiful train that America will
ever see. I thank God that I got to see the "San Joaquin Daylight"
when it was in its heyday. I used to wait in the station in Stockton
California for it to arrive, and then touched the side of that huge
engine as it sat there hissing steam, waiting for the call"all
aboard", and then watch it steam out of the station, to its
destination in the southern San Joaquin Valley. Memories of days
long gone, never to return. Wonderful memories of the old mountain
man, of a wonderful time long ago.

 
Posted:  6/27/2013



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