Santa Fe Locomotives Project

Back On Track: From Graffiti to Glory for Two Santa Fe Locomotives

There is a large, in fact a very large, positive on the rails at the California State Railroad Museum these days. Thanks to the California State Railroad Museum Foundation’s strong financial commitment and lots of hard work by paid staff and volunteers, the Museum’s Atchison, Topeka, & Santa Fe steam locomotives, 2925 and 5021, now look great in freshly applied black paint and historically correct silver lettering.

Baldwin Locomotive Works built 2925 and 5021 in 1944, from designs Santa Fe developed in 1938. The engines are considered thoroughly modern because they have one-piece cast steel frames, disc-type driver centers, and roller bearings on all axles. Mechanical components such as feed-water heaters, injectors, valve gear, and many smaller details are common between these two fast and powerful engines. Boiler pressure for both was set at 310 lbs. per square inch. They were the ultimate Santa Fe steam locomotive designs.

Stored indoors for years in roundhouses at Belen, and later at Albuquerque, New Mexico, Santa Fe donated the locomotives to the Railroad Museum in March, 1986, along with a number of first- and second-generation diesel-electric locomotives. Due to limited indoor storage space, the steamers sat outside for a number of years, finally ending up on Sacramento Southern Railroad tracks on the river levy south of the Railroad Museum and Old Sacramento. Fortunately, the locomotives’ insulation and jacketing were removed some years ago, allowing the boilers to readily shed moisture, preventing corrosion, but, ironically, providing a ready canvas for graffiti artists.

The plan to get the engines painted began this year in early March, when a Sacramento Southern switch crew moved the 2925 and the 5021 to Old Sacramento. On April 22nd, Al Di Paolo, CSRM’s Chief Mechanical Officer, asked long-time Shop volunteer Chuck Bird to take the lead to get the thoroughly tagged 2925 and 5021 painted. Chuck moved quickly, lining up a painting contractor to pressure wash the engines, which occurred over three days, starting on May 23rd. Days later, Chuck and Shop volunteers Dusty Galland, Will Dutton, John Evans, John Rosso, and Marv Alexander used more than seventy gallons of industrial black paint, applied with assorted brushes, rollers, and an airless sprayer, to cover both engines. Not only were the engines’ boilers and tenders painted, but also the drivers, valve gear, side, and main rods, giving the engines a finished appearance.

These big engines, now freshly painted and lettered, are currently displayed on tracks close to the Sacramento Southern’s railroad station in Old Sacramento. The engines look great, and they’re a welcome addition to the Museum’s roster of cosmetically restored locomotives. Their clean, finished appearance is generating lots of positive comments from both the general public and the railfan community. Next time you’re at the Museum, make a point of stopping by to look at 2925 and 5021. They’re a real tribute to the professional work done by paid and volunteer staff in seeing this important project through to completion so quickly.

Written by Don C. Shapiro