Monday, March 28, 2005

Rebuilding the CP Huntington

From: "Larry Mullaly"

Bob Pecotich,

Your question about whether or not the San Francisco Shops played a role in rebuilding the CP Huntington gave me the opportunity to assemble some source material that I have been gathering. Critiques will be welcome. ...

Larry Mullaly

Work in Progress: March 28, 2005

SP’s San Francisco Shops and the Rebuilding the CP Huntington

By Larry Mullaly

The Southern Pacific Railroad’s predecessor line, the San Francisco & San Jose had established repair shops in San Francisco as early as 1864. The Feb. 9, 1866 US Railroad Commissioners’ Report on the newly completed SF&SJ states: "The machine shops and engine house are located at the City of San Francisco, at which place there is a large shop for building and repairing cars, a machine shop for putting up and repairing locomotives and an engine house all built of wood of sufficient capacity to do the work required."

Throughout the early 1870’s, the SF&SJ line – now being extended under the flag of the Southern Pacific Railroad of California—continued to shop its "North Division" engines (those running between San Francisco and Soledad) in its San Francisco shops. Central Pacific Shops records indirectly confirm this practice. The Logbook of the CP Shops 1870-1874 [in its photocopied form at CSRM] shows a number of engines shopped in Sacramento prior to their purchase by the SP. Among these are CP Huntington, Mohave, Black Deer and Raven. But once a formal transfer of ownership had taken place between the CP and the SP there is no record during this period of an SP locomotive being shopped in Sacramento. Associate Superintendent Bassett’s journal for 1873 frequently refers to engines being sent to shops in San Francisco for servicing, including engines on temporary assignment leased from the CP.

During these early years, even as CP Master Mechanic AJ Stevens began his Sacramento tenure, the SP retained its own master mechanic, RB Bishop. In court testimony made in the summer 1873, Bishop described his background: "I have been in the business of machinist 25 or more years, and I am thoroughly acquainted with locomotive building; has been may business for a good many years." Bishop described work done to the locomotive Red Eagleshortly after it was purchased from the CP in 1872. "During the first week of June last we overhauled her at the San Francisco shop," he declared [California Supreme Court: Perry vs. SPRR Co., p. 35.]

By 1874 Bishop was replaced as Southern Pacific Master Mechanic by John T. Wilson who retained this post at least the mid-1880. The work conducted by Wilson’s San Francisco Shops was significant. A letter from CP Huntington to DD Colton dated April 6, 1875 declares: "I hand you the enclosed railroad receipt for the Locomotive #23 now en route for Cal[ifornia] and the Quadrant Table, which you will please hand to Mr. Wilson, the Master Mechanic as he will want it in working the engine." In testimony given during the Ellen Colton vs. Leland Stanford trail [p. 9359]. Wilson confirmed that the practice of setting up new engines was commonplace at San Francisco in the 1870s.

The relationship between the CP and SP Master Mechanics between 1870 and 1885, is complicated by the fact that SP’s Southern Los Angeles Division as well as the Tulare Division were leased and operated by the Central Pacific. As a result, the oversight of engines on "Southern Lines" of the Southern Pacific (i.e., those south of Goshen) took place under mechanics reporting to AJ Stevens.

But Stevens’ jurisdiction did not extend to San Francisco. Until about 1874, the Master Mechanic in San Francisco reported to Alban Towne through AC Bassett, the SP North Division Assistant Superintendent. After that time the SP North Division was formally severed from Town’s oversight, leaving the SP Master Mechanic reporting to Superintendent Bassett and then the SP Board of Directors.

The distinction between the CP and SP is apparent in Collis Huntington’s ire at the sale of five used engines by the CP to the SP in 1873 at what Huntington judged as inflated prices. "The mechanical department of the C[entral] P[acific].... so as to keep the C.P. account looking well...turned over to the SP five old locomotives for nearly twice what they were worth," Huntington wrote to Colton on October 1, 1874. Also revealing

In a letter from SP Northern Division Superintendent AC Bassett to CP Huntington of January 5, 1875 discussed the SP’s choice of new motive power needed for the Tehachapi’s "On Sunday last Mr. Crocker instructed me to talk with master mechanic Wilson in regard to the kind of locomotive he thought most desirable for the hill work on the Southern Extension SPPRR and I write you the result. I enclose a communication from Wilson, his absence down the line has caused the delay." Wilson as the representative of the railroad that owned the locomotives (that is, the SP) was a determining voice.

All of the above provides context for the story of the rebuilding of the CP Huntington. On June 5, 1872 the C.P. Huntington, while hauling a Watsonville-bound gravel train, collided with a northbound train near Gilroy and was severely damaged. The San Jose Mercury of June 7, 1872, noted: "the construction locomotive is small, and when the collision occurred the larger engine went completely through the smaller, taking in steam boxes, cylinders, smoke stack, driving wheels, boilers, etc., and leaving it a mass of ruins."

Despite the heavy damage, the engine remained on the Southern Pacific roster. It was not repaired for some time. Two years later the railroad reported that "No. 1.... requires rebuilding." [Annual Report of the Board of Directors of the Southern Pacific Railroad Company to the Stockholders for the Year Ending, June 30, 1874, p. 19.] Not until late 1874 or early 1875 was the CP Huntington finally rebuilt. May 1, 1875, the following account appeared in the Minor Scientific Press of Nevada – most likely taken from an article originally appearing in a San Francisco newspaper.


Editors Press: – About two years ago C.P. Huntington met with a terrible accident, and got most fearfully smashed out of form and shape. I do not mean the gentleman who bears that name, and who occupies so conspicuous a position in railroad affairs on this coast, but his namesake, the engine Number 1, belonging to the S.P.R.R. or C.P. Huntington, was one of the engines that had the misfortune to be engaged in the collision that occurred on that road, when one engineer, White, was killed, and Jerry Sullivan, and old McSawyer and other employees of the road were badly injured, and if I remember right, there some three or four passengers killed also. The engines met fact to face while they were going at the rate of twenty-five miles an hours, so that it can be easily imagined that they must have been pretty severely handled; indeed they were literally shivered to atoms. Engine Number 2 was repaired right away, but engine No. 1 was stowed up for a time, and it was not until the last few months that the administration determined to rebuild again.

Last week it was finished, and certainly a peculiar looking craft it is. The engine is of a most unique pattern, there being but one or two others like it on the coast. The front of the engine rests on a truck somewhat n the same manner that other locomotives do, but there is but one pair of driving wheels, which are located immediately in front of the fire-box, while the hind part of the engine and the tender, which are joined together, rest on a single truck, which brings up the rear. The engine has been rebuilt in the most thorough manner by Messrs. Wilson & Smith, and all the latest improvements in locomotives have been put on that go to make a first-class engine. With the exception of one or two plates in the centre of the boiler, it is entirely new, being built at the boiler shops of the company, by Mr. J. Kelshaw. There are also new cylinders, steam-chests, steam-pipes, dry-pipes, and indeed, nearly all the main parts of the engine, with the exception of the wheels and a few other items, are new, so that as she stands to-day, it is more as a new engine than one that has been simply rebuilt. One of the Westinghouse air brakes has been put on, but the position of the air drum, and the various pipes leading thereto tend rather to detract than otherwise from the looks of the engine, and the various pipes leading thereto, tend rather to detract than otherwise from the looks of the engine, giving it a clumsy and muddled appearance. It has been painted throughout in the most somber colors that could possibly have been thought of, without making it black altogether and looks in striking contrast to the gay and bright looking engines that come out here from the East. With the exception of the bottom part of the smoke stack, which, strangely enough has been painted a flaming red, the engine and tender is of a dark brown color, relieved at places by the brown having a greenish tint given to it.

On the side of the cab is the name of the engine, C.P. Huntington, put on in gold leaf, and Mr. Wilson, the painter, has placed some very pretty designs directly underneath, with the words "Enterprise, 1863," and on the next panel, "Progress, 1875," intending to show the enterprise and indomitable energy that in 1863, began to work and fight its way onward, in spite of all the difficulties that obstructed its path, and now in the year of 1875, we can mark the extensive progress that has been made, and the great results that have been achieved in so short a time on this new line of road.

Taken altogether, it is a peculiar looking thing, blending as it does, in its own being, some of the crude ideas that prevailed at the time it was originally built, and also carrying with it some of the latest and best improvements that human skill and thought have been able to suggest in the engineering world. S.C.


A careful reading of early SP documentations shows that, despite later denials by Company officials, there was a clear distinction between the SP’s Northern Division and the parts of the SP managed by the Central Pacific and supported by that railroad’s great Sacramento Shops. There is no evidence that the two mechanical departments did not collaborate with one another. But at the end of the day, they represented two strands of history as distinct in spirit as the two cities in which they were based. The mechanical departments of the CP and SP did not loose their separate identities until the late 1880s or even later.