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Photos from Southern Pacific's Final Years

"Scarlet, Gray... and Grime"

The late 70's and early 80's were not kind to the railroad industry.  They were especially hard on the Southern Pacific.  But somehow, like a cat with nine lives, the Southern Pacific survived many hardships that would have killed most businesses.   One symbol of this perseverance was Southern Pacific's equipment, which while dirty and beaten still usually got the job done.

Through the mega-mergers of the 70's and 80's, the SP/Santa Fe merger denial of 1986, and purchase of SP by Rio Grande owner Phillip Anschutz, the Southern Pacific Railroad survived.  Through all of the turmoil, the trains still ran and the products got delivered.  It may not have always gone smoothly, and it may not have always been on time.  It was almost never beautiful.  But the job did get done, and isn't that what is most important in the railroad business?

The photos below document the Southern Pacific's final years, fighting for survival before finally losing the battle to Union Pacific in 1996.

Click on the photo to view - Full sized image will open in a new window
Click on the location link to view a map and information on the photo location.

k02168707t.JPG (6506 bytes) Date:  February 16, 1987

Location:  West of Caliente

Part of the daily parade of 1980's SP lumber drags winds through the Caliente Creek narrows below Caliente.

k10008706t.JPG (7505 bytes) Date:  October 1987

Location:  Tunnel #2, West of Caliente

A symbol of pride for the SP was the BKDOU, Shell's unit oil train between Bakersfield and Wilmington (near Long Beach).

k12008705t.JPG (8723 bytes) Date:  December 1987

Location:  Below (West of) Walong

Although Tehachapi isn't known for snow, it does get some from time to time.  This view is of a Westbound SP train that has just passed around the loop at Walong.

k12288801t.JPG (6758 bytes) Date:  December 28, 1988

Location:  Woodford

Being below 3000 feet, Woodford doesn't regularly receive much snow.  On this December day, several inches have covered everything, including the power of a Southern Pacific work train parked on the short siding at Woodford.

k06249001t.JPG (6757 bytes) Date:  June 24, 1990

Location:  Caliente

Early morning light shines off the nose of the lead Tunnel Motor as a Southern Pacific train leans into the horseshoe curve at Caliente.

k10009028t.JPG (5962 bytes) Date:  October 1990

Location:  Woodford

In the late afternoon shadows, the Oil Cans crawl through Woodford led by a mix of SP and Rio Grande power.

k01069108t.JPG (5757 bytes) Date:  January 6, 1991

Location:  Between Tunnel #1 and #2, West of Caliente

A panoramic view overlooking the high fill between tunnels #1 and #2 allows a broad look at the Oil Cans. 

k12009201t.JPG (5943 bytes) Date:  December 1992

Location:  Bealville

In later years, Southern Pacific relied on much leased power, as the reliability and capacity of their own well worn power was unable to handle the surging traffic.  Here a couple of SP Tunnel Motors lead visiting BN units on a Westbound drifting downhill through Bealville.

k12009225t.JPG (7080 bytes) Date:  December 1992

Location:  Walong

A sight that was an almost daily occurrence in the 1980's and 1990's was the afternoon climb over Tehachapi Pass of the Los Angeles bound Oil Cans.

k09009402t.JPG (7177 bytes) Date:  September 1994

Location:  Caliente

Finally, some new power for SP.  In 1994, SP finally received a boost in the form of 101 new GE C44-9W's and 25 EMD SD70M's.  One of the GE's lead a collection of older power uphill out of Caliente.

k12009412t.JPG (5361 bytes) Date:  December 1994

Location:  Walong

A similar shot as one above, a few years later.  These two December shots show the wide variance of weather on Tehachapi in winter.  Days can be anything from sunny and warm to severe winter snowstorms.  The other catch is, these extremes can be from one day to the next.

k10069604t.JPG (6100 bytes)

Date:  October 6, 1996

Location:  East of Monolith

A train pioneered by Southern Pacific in the mid 1990's that lives on under Union Pacific ownership is the Brooklyn (Portland), OR to City of Industry, CA RoadRailer trains.  Originally run once a week, they compete with trucks for traffic on the Interstate 5 corridor between Los Angeles and the Pacific Northwest.