The power and romance of the rails lives again in the paintings of artist Gil Bennett. From the huge 600-ton Union Pacific 4-8-8-4 to the modest 42-ton Little
Cottonwood Transportation Company shay, you’ll find remarkable locomotives. You’ll also find notable passenger trains from time past, including: the Panama
Limited, Golden State Limited, Sunland and Water Level Limited, in addition to freight trains from the Santa Fe, Delaware & Hudson and Southern. All are
depicted with historical and informational captions for every month in Great Trains 2020.
Trains and lines pictured in this edition include:
• Illinois Central, 1958
Every day at 4:30 p.m. Illinois Central’s Panama Limited would leave Chicago and head to the warmth of the Gulf Coast. The temperature is a steady 8 degrees as 4031, an E-9s, and 4018, an E-8B, plus 4006, an E-6, have the Panama Limited kicking up fresh snow running south at 100 miles per hour. Running just beyond Homewood, IL as the sun begins to set, the train will travel through the night and arrive in New Orleans, LA at 9:00 a.m. The Panama Limited was one of the finest trains in the United States and those traveling on it enjoyed the highest level of service, including a gourmet meal, as well as a comfortable bed. The train was inaugurated in 1911 to celebrate the construction of the Panama Canal and ran through 1971.
• Western Pacific, 1940
In 1931 the Western Pacific Railroad ordered six huge 2-8-8-2 single-expansion locomotives from Baldwin. Assigned numbers 251 through 256, each locomotive weighed 1,072,000 pounds and delivered a tractive effort of 151,000 pounds with the booster cut in. These were the heaviest 2-8-8-2s ever built. Designated as class M-137, they were used on the mainline through California’s Feather River Canyon. In 1938 four more M-137s, came from Baldwin with a few differences and were numbered 257 through 260. These locomotives worked the 116-mile 1% grade between Oroville and Portola CA. The locomotives could move 4,000 tons up that grade at a steady 12 mph. Locomotive 257 is seen here crossing the Spanish Creek bridge at Keddie, CA headed down grade on a cold winter afternoon.
• Santa Fe, 1945
In 1930 the Santa Fe Railway ordered a single 2-10-4 from the Baldwin Locomotive Works. The locomotive was tested and performed better than expected, however, no more were ordered because the Great Depression cut freight shipments. In December 1936 the railroad ordered ten new 2-10-4s and upgraded them with larger drivers and a boiler pressure of 310 psi. As World War II began, the Santa Fe found itself in need of more power and ordered 25 additional 2-10-4s to move traffic. These locomotives had 74-inch drivers, 93,000 pounds of tractive effort and each weighed 929,500 pounds. Built for speed, they were put on the grades between Clovis and Belen, NM. The big locomotives’ territory was enlarged as tracks and curves were ungraded between Ft. Madison, IA and Los Angeles, CA. The locomotives worked until 1957 and were retired in 1959. Five have been placed on display.
• Union Pacific 1946
In 1942 the Roosevelt administration advised the railroad War Production Board that World War II would last until late 1946 or even until 1947. The Union Pacific had just received its gigantic 4-8-8-4 locomotives and had ordered for five more. The volume of traffic exceeded the railroad’s ability to move it, so more locomotives were called for. The Los Angeles & Salt Lake, the western leg of the Union Pacific, needed power as traffic on that line overwhelmed the locomotives at hand. In 1943 the UP sent three 4-8-8-4s to work on the LA&SL and found that five 4-8-8-4 locomotives would be able to keep the line fluid. The big new engines would be oil burners with extended centipede tenders that would hold 6,500 gallons of oil and 33,000 gallons of water. This painting shows what these locomotives would have looked like on the line for which they were built. The 4027 climbs Boulter summit between Lynndyl and Salt Lake City, UT.
• Denver & Rio Grande Western, 1949
Once the fall livestock rush was over, the Rio Grande would store hundreds of stock cars in sidings and yards all over its narrow-gauge system for the winter. Once the spring thaw began, the empty stock cars were repaired and staged for the movement of cattle and sheep to summer grazing pastures high in the Rockies. On an early May morning, K-27 456, helper 361 and pusher 454 move a train of empty stock cars up the 4% grade of Cerro Summit. The train has just left Cimarron and is headed to Montrose, CO for the first load of the season. The spring rush would start in May and last until the end of June.
• Delaware & Hudson, 1946
The Delaware & Hudson Railway’s mainline ran from Wilkes-Barre, PA to Montreal, Quebec, Canada. The line was a bridge route and a coal conveyor, so speed wasn’t as essential as toting tonnage. While other roads in the region chose larger and newer power, the D&H stayed with the 2-8-0-wheel arrangement and perfected the design; some locomotives achieved 85,000 pounds of tractive effort! As time passed, however, the slow-running 2-8-0s could not move trains fast enough to capture high-priority traffic. In 1939 the road ordered the first of 35 huge 4-6-6-4s. The D&H liked clean lines, capped stacks and striped tires, and that is how these engines were built. Some say they were best-looking articulated locomotives anywhere and, while not the largest of the 4-6-6-4 Challengers, they were the biggest locomotives in New England. The engines weighed in at 990,000 pounds, had 69-inch drivers, 285 pounds of boiler pressure, and a tractive effort of 95,800 pounds. As World War II arrived, the road was ready to move enormous volumes of traffic at much faster speeds than with the old 2-8-0s. J 1521 is seen climbing the 1.39% grade up Pennsylvania’s Mount Ararat.
• Union Pacific, 1946
As World War II progressed, the Union Pacific found its lines swamped with tonnage and short of motive power. The call went out for help from other railroads, and the answer came from the C&O. It had some surplus 2-8-8-2s, that were built in 1923-24, and while almost worn out, the UP bought them. These locomotives were large and powerful, delivering 113,595 pounds of tractive effort, but they were slow, built for the drag-service era of the 1920’s. Overhauled in UP’s Cheyenne, WY shops, the locomotives were added to the roster hauling trains over Sherman Hill where brawn trumped speed. Some headed west of Laramie, WY on coal drags, or on empty fruit drags where speed was not imperative. War baby 3584 has a heavy train running at 12 mph just below Sherman summit on a westbound freight. Once in Laramie, a faster 4-6-6-4 will lead the train west.
• Southern Pacific, 1948
In 1902, the Southern Pacific and Rock Island railroads launched a new passenger train between Chicago and Los Angles and called it the Golden State Limited. It was made an extra-fare train in 1929 and ran on a 63-hour schedule. After World War II the train would make the journey in 39 ¾ hours as California became a year-round destination. The first section of the westbound Golden State climbs California’s Beaumont Hill with 5037, a big three-cylinder 4-10-2, helping 4458, a GS-5 4-8-4, up the 1.99% grade. The train is headed uphill at a steady 45 mph in the hot desert heat.
• Southern, 1979
A warm September afternoon finds train 222, an Atlanta, GA to Alexandria, VA piggyback train accelerating out of Greensboro, NC. The eastbound train is headed by 3160, an SD-45, 3327, an SD-40-2, and 3143, another SD-45. This was a “hot” priority train on a fast schedule and the three units up front use their combined 10,200 horses to speed the train along at 60 mph. After years of service in both high-speed and drag-service, the locomotives were retired in 1986.
• Little Cottonwood Transportation Company, 1920
Rich silver ore was found high up the canyons of the Wasatch Range in northern UT. The town of Alta was established to house the miners for the many mines around the area. To take the ore to the smelters in the Salt Lake Valley, a railroad was built in Little Cottonwood Canyon, from the valley floor at 4,600 feet, to the little mining town at 8,560 feet, a line of 16 miles. The grade up the canyon reached 6.3% on rails spaced three feet apart. Small wood-burning shays would take empty cars up and bring loaded trains down. Today the little town is still there and booming. More than 500,000 people visit each year, not to mine ore, but to ski.
• Richmond, Fredericksburg & Potomac, 1948
The Richmond, Fredericksburg & Potomac Railroad was built as a bridge route between Washington D.C and Richmond, VA. The line funneled freight and passenger trains from the northeast to the southeast. When the weather got cold in the north thousands of people would head south to the shores of Florida and all the passenger trains would take the “bridge” route. The Sunland is just north of Milford, VA. In charge of the train is RF&P 622. The big 4-8-4 is a Statesman-class, a class named after Carter Braxton, a Virginia statesman and one of the signers of the Declaration of Independence. The big 4-8-4 weighs in at 689,810 pounds and could wheel a passenger train at 100 miles per hour.
• New York Central, 1938
The Water Level Limited hustles along New York Central’s Hudson River Line as fast as the wheels will turn on the J-1 4-6-4 Hudson locomotive. The train is making up time to try to meet its 9:10 a.m. arrival schedule at Grand Central Station in New York. The reason for the tardiness is a winter storm off the Great Lakes. Heavy, blowing snow from Cleveland to the Mohawk Valley has slowed, but not stopped, the Central’s Great Steel Fleet of named passenger trains. It’s the holidays, and people and parcels are moving by rail. The Water Level Limited departed Chicago 45 minutes behind the 20th Century Limited and would arrive 50 minutes after the Century reached New York. J-1d 5297 has the first section of the Limited running at more than 90 miles per hour leaving Bannerman’s Castle behind as it races the approaching storm to New York City.
© Tide-mark Press 2019