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2011 NRHS Convention -- Southern Pacific 4449 Tacoma to Portland 6/26/2011

by Chris Guenzler

My last morning in Lynnwood I arose early, checked the e-Mail then had a good breakfast before Bob and Elizabeth drove me to the Tacoma Amtrak station (they would follow in the car to Portland) and I picked up my boarding pass for the Southern Pacific 4449 trip to Portland, the final event of this year's National Railway Historical Society convention. I met Bob Riskie to give him my extra route guide from the trip on Tuesday. After socializing on the platform, I set up to catch the steam engine pulling the train into the station.

Southern Pacific 4-8-4 4449 and its train arrived at the station and I boarded Amfleet coach 82720.

Southern Pacific 4449 is the only surviving example of Southern Pacific Railroad's (SP) GS-4 class of steam locomotives. The GS-4 is a streamlined 4-8-4 (Northern) type steam locomotive. GS stands for "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 SP in May 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. No. 4449 was retired from revenue service in 1957 and put into storage. In 1958 it was donated, by the railroad, to the City of Portland who then put it on static display in Oaks Park, where it remained until 1974. It was restored to operation for use in the second American Freedom Train, which toured the 48 contiguous United States for the American Bicentennial celebrations. Since then, 4449 has been operated in excursion service throughout the continental US; its operations are currently based at the Brooklyn roundhouse in Portland, where it is maintained by a group of dedicated volunteers called Friends of SP 4449. In 1983, a poll of Trains magazine readers chose the 4449 as the most popular locomotive in the nation.

Revenue Years: 4449 was the last engine manufactured in Southern Pacific's first order of GS-4 (Golden State/General Service) locomotives. 4449 was placed into service on May 30, 1941, and spent its early career assigned to the Coast Daylight, SP's premier passenger train between San Francisco and Los Angeles, California, but it also pulled many other of the SP's named passenger trains. After the arrival of newer GS-4s and GS-5s, 4449 was assigned to Golden State Route and Sunset Route passenger trains. 4449 was re-assigned to the Coast Division in the early 1950s. One of 4449's career highlights happened on October 17, 1954, when 4449 and sister 4447 pulled a special 10-car train for the Railway and Locomotive Historical Society from Los Angeles to Owenyo, California, and return. In 1955, after being one of the last few Daylight steam engines in Daylight livery, 4449 was painted black and silver and its side skirting (a streamlining feature of the Daylight steam engines) was removed due to dieselization of the Coast Daylight in January of that year. 4449 was then assigned to Southern Pacific's San Joaquin Valley line, occasionally pulling passenger trains such as the 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 back-up 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.

On Display: 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, where it 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 dead line and could be 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 builder's 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 graceful lines made it a good fit for the Bicentennial train. After finding that 4449's bearings and rods were in good shape, it was chosen.

American Freedom Train: 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 pulled a display train around the most of the United States. Afterwards, 4449 pulled an Amtrak special, the Amtrak Transcontinental Steam Excursion. After nearly two years on the road, 4449 was returned to storage in Portland, this time under protective cover and not exposed to the elements.

Present Day: In 1981, SP 4449 was returned to its original "Daylight" colors for the first Railfair 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 World's Fair. The 7,477-mile round trip was the longest steam train excursion in US history. In 1986, 4449 went to Hollywood to appear in "Tough Guys" and pulled business trains for the Southern Pacific. No. 4449 had another famous moment in 1989 when 4449 and Union Pacific 844 (another famous 4-8-4 steam engine) made a side-by-side entrance into the Los Angeles Union Passenger Terminal in 1989 for the station's 50th anniversary celebrations. No. 4449 returned to Railfair in Sacramento in 1991 and again in 1999. In 2000, 4449 was repainted black and silver for a Burlington Northern Santa Fe employee appreciation special, then was repainted into the American Freedom Train colors again in early 2002 after the events of the September 11th terrorist attacks. In 2004, the locomotive was returned to Daylight colors again, this time in its "as delivered" appearance.

In 2005 at the Portland, Oregon Go by Train NRHS Convention" she double-headed to Wishram with SP&S 700. In 2009, SP 4449 went from Portland, Oregon to Owosso, Michigan for Train Festival 2009. The Tacoma NRHS Convention will be SP 4449's 4th NRHS convention she has been at since her return to service.

The Trip

Today's consist was Southern Pacific 4-8-4 4449, Auxiliary Tender DLMX 4219, Amtrak P42DC 202, baggage/concession DLMX 5659, Amfleet coaches 82540, 82720, 82510, cafe/business class 58107, Amfleet coaches 82560 and 82620, San Luis and Rio Grande full dome 511 "Nenana" 800124, Santa Fe short dome "Plaza Santa Fe" 503 800392, California Zephyr "Silver Lariat" 800190 and California Zephyr dome/observation CZ10 "Silver Solarium" 800038.

We left Tacoma at 8:44 AM for Portland and I went to the vestibule for my best lit pictures of the day.

Canadian National C44-9WL 2520 at the BNSF engine facility in Tacoma after which we made the big turn to leave town.

Southern Pacific 4-8-4 4449 put on a good show departing Tacoma this morning.

Commencement Bay.

Soon we started our run along the Puget Sound then we reached Ruston and went onto single track first through the short tunnel then the longer Nelson Bennett Tunnel.

The Tacoma Narrows bridge.

Bald eagles following our train along Puget Sound.

Puget Sound.

Rolling along Puget Sound.

Puget Sound.

The steam train had nearly finished its run along Puget Sound and turned south this morning.

Mount Rainier. The train next rolled through the Amtrak station at Olympia/Lacey.

Mount St. Helens before running down to Centralia where we stopped because a radio from the baggage car had to be brought up to the steam engine as that one had been giving the crew problems since leaving Tacoma. We made a nine minute stop then headed south through Chehalis before starting the climb up Vader Hill and then down the other side running at track speed. After going through the tunnel, we ran through the Kelso/Longview Amtrak station and I relaxed the rest of the way to Vancouver, where some passengers detrained to return to Tacoma earlier than taking the Coast Starlight later today.

Passing the approach signal for Vancouver.

Crossing over at Vancouver.

At Vancouver before crossing the Columbia River into Oregon.

We had crossed the Willamette River and made the big turn south heading to Portland Union Station.

The steam train arrived at 12:06 PM, ending a great trip aboard the final trip of the NRHS convention.