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ATSF 3751 West I Finally Rode over Tehachaphi

by Chris Guenzler

I was a member of the San Bernardino Historical Society, the group that had been working on the restoration of the Santa Fe Steam Locomotive number 3751 that had been located in Viaduct Park near the San Bernardino Station. The group started the restoration in June 1981 with an initial evaluation. Over the next few years minor work was done in the park. In January of 1986 a work session was held at what would become 3751 future shop at California Steel Industries in Fontana and in April of 1986, the engine was rolled out of Viaduct Park and taken to the Fontana Shop. In the Fall of 1990, the proposed California Limited excursion was announced and I had a Segment 2 Barstow to Bakersfield 1st Class ticket for April 30, 1991 when the engine would be going to Railfair 1991 in Sacramento. In April of 1991 although the group did its best to try to have the engine ready to go to Railfair they decided to postpone the trip to a later date. I still believed the group would complete the engine so I stuck by them. On June 23, 1991 the Giant Awoke after 38 years of slumber. August 13 1991, the engine moved under its own power for the first time since August 25, 1953.

The trip was then scheduled for after Christmas so I was issued another 1st Class ticket for the new trip which would only go as far as Bakersfield. I would finally get to ride across the Tehachapi Mountains.

The Desert Wind 36 12/27/1991

It was my Christmas Vacation from MacArthur after my JV Girls Basketball team went undefeated with me coaching my first championship basketball team in my life. My father drove me up to Fullerton to catch the Desert Wind for Barstow. We arrived there early enough so I could get a picture of the 3751 and train blasting through Fullerton. After about thirty minutes there came the 3751 and the all private car train heading east through Fullerton.

I shot my pictures and after saying goodbye to my Father who could not believe that I was going to be riding behind that engine tomorrow, I walked over to the Fullerton Station to wait for the Desert Wind. The train pulled in and I boarded. The conductor could not believe I was just going to Barstow instead of Ogden until I told him that I would be riding the 3751 tomorrow to Bakersfield. He wished he could be going with me. I bet a lot of people did. We went east through Santa Ana Canyon as I nursed a drink until Colton when I went on 3751 alert. We took the "Short Way" to reach San Bernardino and holding the mainline in "A" yard was the 3751 and train waiting patiently for us to do our station work. I went to the lounge car and picked up a couple more drinks for the trip over Cajon Pass. There were people with cameras everywhere waiting for the 3751 to storm over Cajon Pass who all got a preview with our Desert Wind. We went up Cajon via Sullivan's Curve and the tunnels before passing through the high cut at Summit and entering the high desert. We slide around freight trains at Lugo before traveling through Hesperia and Victorville and an hour later arrived at Barstow where I detrained. I walked up the hill into town to my hotel where I went to have dinner followed by the liquor store. I arrived back at the hotel just as the 3751 arrived in Barstow which I witnessed from my hotel. I enjoyed an evening of television and nightcaps before I called it a night so I would be rested for tomorrow's big day of riding.

ATSF 3751 West 12/28/1991

It had rained overnight and the wind was really howling as I walked out of my hotel room towards the train. I stopped at a donut shop for breakfast before walking over the bridge across the old Barstow Yard. Down below at the north end of the bridge was the ATSF 3751 West waiting to depart at 9:00 A.M. The lighting was perfect for pictures as I stared at the machine which would pull me to Bakersfield. The crowd was beginning to build so I walked down by the engine for a quick picture before I waited to board my car for this trip which was the ex Santa Fe Domed Lounge Car called the Plaza Santa Fe. They finally let us board and I took the right front right hand seat so I could enjoy the view out over our train. The Union Pacific and Santa Fe paraded freight trains by us before our departure came. Our train consisted of the ATSF 4-8-4 3751, ATSF 97 FP-45, ATSF 95 FP-45, ATSF 1517 combine, "Santa Cruz" combine, "Palm Leaf" ex ATSF 10-6 sleeper, unnamed gray lounge {Overland Trail}, "Norma Peterson" sleeper, "Regina Wendt" sleeper, "Belle McKee" lounge sleeper, "Colonial Crafts ex PRR sleeper, "Pony Express" baggage, "National Forum" ex UP sleeper, "Eagle Canon", 'Pere Marquette' lounge, unnamed obs lounge, "New River Gorge" ex Seaboard diner, "Silver Garden" dome coach, "Plaza Santa Fe" ex Santa Fe dome lounge car and the "Silver Solarium" ex California Zephyr dome obs.

With the blast of the whistle the train slowly began to roll forward past the being restored Barstow Station and under the highway bridge I had walked over. The 3751 slowly eased onto the mainline and began to pick up speed as it rolled along the north side of Santa Fe's vast Barstow Yard. We passed the eastbound mainline fueling pads with freights getting topped off before heading east. A few minutes later we passed the westbound fueling pads with the same events taking place there. We next passed the Barstow Diesel Servicing Facility with a vast assortment of locomotive types present. We slowed back down as we made our way to Valley CT where we switched onto the Mojave Subdivision of the Santa Fe for the trip to Bakersfield and onto new mileage for me with the 3751 putting on quite a show with its smoke.

The 3751 train curved off of the huge wye and out onto the Mojave River Bridge where 3751 slowly began to accelerate with great stack talk emitting from the engine. My view from the Dome was fantastic as I was really going to enjoy watching his engine put on a show. We crossed Highway 58 where we picked up most of the chasers for this morning segment to Mojave and crossed the road with everyone waving. We passed the small town of Hinkley with most of its folks out watching our train pass through their town. From Hinkley we climbed the short grade to Jim Grey siding, a place I once came out to watch trains at. We closed in on the highway and at Four Corner we crossed Highway 395 with many curious onlookers who must have not known we were coming through. Our tracks made a beeline to Boron passing underneath Highway 58 east of town. We passed the old red Boron Depot before we reached the switch for the industrial track age that is located to the north of the highway. Located to our south is Edwards Air Force Base, a vast expanse of High Desert with a huge dry lake bed that the Space Shuttle had used for its landings. Our pacers are doing a great job of staying with us as we made our way to Silt before dropping down a short grade and a slight climb to Edwards where we did a photo runby.

They backed the train after everyone was off and run the train by us with the engine producing great sound but not too much smoke. With everyone satisfied we reboarded and we left the highway while the train climbed the grade between the hills through Bissell with me scouting future photo locations. We made our way closing in on the Tehachapi Mountains by passing through Sanborn and at the Highway 14 bridge south of Mojave there were more chasers waiting for us as we entered the trackage of the Southern Pacific for the trip over the Tehachapi Mountains to Kern Jct in Bakersfield.

As the train slowly made its way through Mojave, I took a walk to explore all of the private cars on our train. It was quite a collection of equipment and I felt pride in the SBRHS in pulling off this trip after the ex Santa Fe Coach cars from Indiana could not make the planned trip west and they had to scramble to get cars for this train almost at the last minute. A special thanks to all of the private car owners who allowed their cars to be used. This trip would not have happened without your kind support. Thank you to all of you who made this trip possible. It was really special walking through such an assortment of cars and I received quite an education.

I was back in my front Dome seat about two miles north of Mojave as the train runs parallel to the mountains at this point. The train runs through a series of very gentle curves with the highway jammed with pacers. The hills here are covered with windmills to produce electricity. We made the big left hand turn to reach the 2.3% grade following Cache Creek up its canyon into the mountains. The train made a big sweeping curve with the engine really working as a few more people came up into the Dome to watch the engine working. The canyon narrows with the traffic on Highway 58 running at the same speed as the train. The train passed the location of Cameron and a large crowd was waiting for us at the grade crossing. We made a right hand turn and steamed our way up one of the longer straight tracks on the mountain. We ducked under Highway 58 and made the long sweeping turn into Monolith with the large cement plant. At the grade crossing here there was an even larger group of people who then paced us over the summit of the pass and into the town of Tehachapi where the engine was watered and serviced. I enjoyed a Coca Cola while all this was taking place with people asking me about my rail travels as we sat. I was just really excited to be finally crossing the Tehachapi Mountains by train after all of these years.

The 3751 steamed out of Tehachapi with the pacers all waiting for us at the highway bridge west of town. We went under all of them into the canyon of Tehachapi Creek where we made a big sweeping curve to the Cable X-overs. The trip through the canyon could best be described as the 3751 snaking the way west on the descending grade. Many photographers were perched above us on the ledges to get their very special pictures. We snaked our way to Cable and the end of double track entering the tunnel after tunnel section as the canyon narrowed with the tracks high above the creek on the south aside of the creek and the highway on the north side. The engine was drifting down the grade so there was not much smoke through the four tunnels here. We reached Marcel siding with the 3751 twisting its way west. We then entered tunnel number 12 with the Dome filling up with people. We passed through that tunnel, then tunnel 11 before we entered tunnel number 10. Exiting that tunnel gave us all the view we had been waiting for. The view of the Tehachapi Loop was below us and ready for us to circle it. There were people everywhere waiting for the 3751 to circle the Tehachapi Loop. We made a left hand turn to the switch of Walong Siding before the right hand turn took us out onto the loop. The 3751 crossed high above tunnel number nine before we circled to the right making our trip around the Tehachapi Loop. We headed into tunnel nine with the 3751 whistling and ringing its bell. Exiting this tunnel, I had finally ridden around the Tehachapi Loop. We made the curve to the right with where we had just been out the window to the right. We crossed Tehachapi Creek while making a reverse curve to the left and minutes later crossed the creek again before curved to the right arriving at Woodford as the 3751 drifted down grade.

The 3751 snaked its way through Woodford crossing Tehachapi Creek near the west end before ducking under Highway 58 for the last time on this trip. We made another large horseshoe curve before crossing Tehachapi Creek once more twisting our way to Rowen with the creek dropping off rapidly. We lose sight of the highway before entering Tunnels 8 and 7 which led us to Cliff set high on a ledge with Tehachapi Creek far below. As the train twisted and turned through Cliff, the view looking down was incredible as I could see all the way down to the horseshoe curve down at Caliente which we would round in about twenty minutes. We made a hard left hand turn at the west end of Cliff before we plunged into Tunnel 5 and exited to a hard right hand turn to reach Tunnel number 3. This area of the Tehachapi Mountains was forever altered on July 21st, 1952 when a 7.5 earthquake destroyed much of the line and damaged all of the tunnels in this area. When they rebuilt the line 206 ft of Tunnel 3's east end was day lighted, Tunnel 4 was abandoned, Tunnel 5 suffered major damage and tunnel 6 was day lighted. To open the line to traffic, a shoofly was built around Tunnel 5 while the rebuilding of it took place so that train service could be restored 26 days after the earthquake had struck. You could see where the shoofly was if you looked at the right spot. The quake also knocked down the water tower at Tehachapi. It was quite the seismic event.

We popped into Tunnel 3 before reaching the east switch at Bealville where a great crowd was waiting for us as this was the next point of public access since Woodford. These people would meet the train again at Caliente about a mile down the road but about five miles by rail which everyone on the train was enjoying. We made our way through Bealville twisting down the grade and made another horseshoe curve before we made our way to the west switch of Bealville. We plunged into Tunnel 2 with many fans on the ridge above. We made a sweeping right hand turn heading east to reach Tunnel 1 which we exited twisting our way to the great horseshoe curve at Caliente. We crossed over the Caliente-Bealville Road and Tehachapi Creek before we made the left hand turn around the horseshoe curve with the whole train easily seen along with the throngs of rail fans. We reached the east switch of Caliente crossing the grade crossing with a large crowd before we continued to follow Tehachapi Creek to the west end of Caliente and our passage through the Narrows after which we attained Ilmon before crossing Tehachapi Creek rounding a left hand curve crossing the creek again for the last time to Bena where the double track began. After drifting down grade since Tehachapi, the 3751 had to work up the short hill to Sandcut. Once at the top of that grade, the 3751 had reached the San Joaquin Valley for the rest of the trip to Bakersfield. The parallel road was jammed with chasers and at every grade crossing people were gathered to witness our passage. We passed through Edison with the agricultural persists before we reached the outskirts of Bakersfield. More people were out as we reached the SP's Bakersfield Yard and a few minutes later arrived at Kern Jct where we left the Southern Pacific rails for the home rails of the Santa Fe. We travelled due west for over two miles through downtown Bakersfield to the Santa Fe Yard and the Amtrak Station where our trip came to an end.

I detrained and went straight into the Amtrak trailer to get a ticket on the next bus/train home to Santa Ana. With over two hours to kill, I walked to the head end to admire the 3751 and thanking the crew for the safe and unique trip over the Tehachapi Mountains on a very special trip. They took the train west to Jastro to wye the train for tomorrows trip back to Barstow before returning to the depot area. I walked over to a store while they did that to enjoy a couple of beers before my bus ride to Los Angeles. I enjoyed the 3751 until departure time came and I boarded the bus for a rainy trip over the Grapevine to Los Angeles and a San Diegan for home thus ending a very special and unique steam trip with me finally riding around the Tehachapi Loop.