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Ride the Number 7 for the 1744 12/6/2020

by Chris Guenzler

We got up early and made the template for the story after I checked things on the Internet. At 7:30 we took Chris Parker and Robin Bowers to McDonald's to pick up breakfast and bring it back to the room per their suggestion. At 8:00, we drove over to Sunol for the trip today and parked and picked up our tickets.

Background Information

The Pacific Locomotive Association and the Niles Canyon Railway are offering you two chances to take part in a railfan photographer's special on December 5th or 6th, 2020 to benefit the restoration of recently acquired Southern Pacific M-6 Steam Locomotive 1744. Tickets are $150 per person, per day, and additional donations are most welcome. ALL proceeds of this event will go directly to the restoration of the 1744.

Both days will feature a historically accurate period freight train, pulled by 2-4-4-2 Columbia River Belt Line 7, known as the "Skookum", while ticketholders ride in a separate chase train pulled by SP 1195, a vintage SW900. Starting in Sunol at 9am, there will be multiple photo-runby's throughout the canyon in exclusive locations. Time permitting, there will also be opportunities to work with the conductor to stage other shots as the group desires. Halfway through the day, a box lunch will be served while the locomotive is turned for westbound run-by's for the remainder of the day. Return to Sunol and tie up to be around 4:30 PM.

The trip will also include a stop at the Brightside Steam Shop for a tour of the SP 1744, and an overview of the restoration effort by the project managers. They will detail the restoration and how funds will be used to return this artifact to operating service.

Our Trip

We walked down to the west end of the station area and joined some photographers, all wearing masks, to get the train coming into the station.

The scene the train will come through.

Our passenger train came into the siding at the Sunol station. This train's consist was Southern Pacific SW900 1195, Southern Pacific baggage car 6719, open car 3308, Southern Pacific coach 2101 and Santa Fe baggage car 1830 rebuilt to a boom tender car and modified into an open car by the Niles Canyon Railway.

The freight train pulled into the Sunol station this morning. It had a consist of the Columbia Belt Line Railway 2-4-4-2 "Skookum" 7, NATX tank car 8502, UP gondola 6107, AOX tank car 848, Western Pacific flat car 276, Milwaukee Road express car 29330, Southern Pacific boxcar 100752 and Southern Pacific caboose 1101. Elizabeth and I decided not to photgraph the first runby as it was in a shady area so we walked down to where the other photographers were waiting.

Backup move at Sunol.

Photo runby number 1 at Sunol.

Second backup move at Sunol.

Photo runby 2 at Sunol.

The Skookum heading west down Niles Canyon. Next the passenger train would come out of the siding and reverse to pick us up to take us to the next photo runby location.

The train dropped us off at the location of the next photo runby and would get out of the way by heading east.

Photo runby 3 west of Sunol.

Back up move west of Sunol.

Photo runby 4 west of Sunol.

Backup move west of Sunol. From here we were then picked up again and taken to our next runby stop at the Stairway to the Stars.

Backup move of the passenger train.

Photo runby 5 at the Stairway to the Stars.

Backup move for the next runby.

Photo runby 6 at Stairway to the Stars.

Backup move.

Photo runby 7 at Stairway to the Stars.

The freight train left for the next photo runby location at the Farwell Bridge which was built in 1896 and replaced a 1866 wooden bridge that was converted into a covered bridge in 1870. Elizabeth and I love covered bridges.

Our passenger train at the Farwell Bridge before it headed up the canyon and out of the way.

Photo runby 8 at the Farwell Bridge.

Backup move.

The photographers on the north side of the tracks, including Elizabeth, who moved between runbys.

Photo runby 9 at the Farwell Bridge.

The train headed to the next runby location in Niles.

The passenger train preparing to back out of sight to the east.

Photo runby 10 at Niles.

Elizabeth, me and Robin at Niles photo runby 10. Chris Parker photo.

Backup move at Niles.

Photo runby 11 at Niles.

Backup move at Niles for watering the engine.

Our passenger train returned to pick us up for lunch. A choice of ham, turkey or roast beef sandwiches were offered along with potato salad and chips. Since the sandwiches all included cheese, I could not eat them due to my dietary restrictions. I enjoyed chips and a Coca-Cola.

The Skookum was turned on the wye to reverse its direction while we ate lunch.

We moved back east by the Skookum in order to clear the switch so the engine could return to its train and pick up its caboose that it had set out.

Union Pacific 8815 West heading down to the Warm Springs auto facility and the UP train whistled to the Skookum and it gave a reply back.

Click here for part 2 of this story