Locomotive History


P. Allen Copeland and. Joseph A. Strapac

As printed in the following REPORTS
Dec. 1980 No. 170, Jan.-Feb. No. 171, May 1981 No. 173, Nov.-Dec. 1981 No. 177, Jan.-Feb. 1982 No. 178, Jul.-Aug. 1982 No. 181, Nov.-Dec. 1982 No. 183

(Note: Much of the following material originally appeared in Railway & Locomotive Historical Society Bulletin #71, published in November, 1947 and DISPATCHER #31, published in June, 1960. Since then, much new material has come to light and the roster as it originally appeared has been extensively revised and augmented.)

From the start of construction, the San Diego & Arizona owned only four locomotives, (0-6-0 #l and 2-8-0's #50, #101 and #102). These sufficed for construction trains and limited mainline service until the merger of October 1, 1917, when the San Diego & Southeastern was taken over. This merger added 2-4-2ST's #2 and #5, 4-6-0's #21-23, and gas-electric motors #41-43 to the roster.

After the mainline from San Diego to El Centro was completed in late 1919, the company had a need for additional power. Weight restrictions and the many curves on the line cramped the possibilities for larger steam locomotives such as Mikados or Mallets. Two 2-6- 0's were leased from the Southern Pacific of Mexico from 1919 to 1921, and other S.P. and Santa Fe locomotives were borrowed from time to time as the need arose, a policy which continued to the end of steam.

From 1919 to 1921 the motive power stable was enlarged with the addition of five 4-6-0's (Nos. 20, 24-27) from defunct Nevada railroads and an 0-6-0 (2nd #2) and four heavy 2-8-0's from the Southern Pacific. In January, 1920 light 4-6-0's #21-23 were renumbered #10-12 to differentiate them from the "mainline" 4-6-0's. The final addition to the roster was 0-6-0 #3, which graced the roster for less than five years, between 1936 and 1940.

The 0-6-0's were used for construction work (primarily No. 1), and as terminal switchers in and around San Diego, including the Union Depot passenger switching. They were augmented in later years by leased S.P. 0-6-0's and two N.W.P. engines during WW II. The 2-4-2ST's were used for branch line trains to Coronado and Chula Vista, and light switching.

"Light" Ten Wheelers
With the merger of 1917 between the S.D. & A. and the San Diego & Southeastern, three light 4-6-0's were taken over and lettered to S.D. & A. Nos. 21-23. 21-22 were old Southern Pacific castoffs, while 23 was a much newer ALCO 1913 locomotive. These 4-6-0's were used as branch line power almost exclusively, one being required to pull the daily mixed train to Lakeside, another the Coronado and Chula Vista branches, while the third was used as a backup and utility locomotive.

In 1920, perhaps to remove them from the same series as the "main line" passenger engines, the trio was renumbered to S. D. & A. 10-12. Their assignments remained much the same, however. Availability of more powerful locomotives in the 1920's, in particular S. D. & A. No. 50 and the larger 4-6-0's, the discontinuance of steam passenger service to Lakeside, and old age lowered locomotive needs and No. 11 was scrapped in 1925. No. 10 was leased to the Southern Pacific during the 1930's for use out of Mexicali on the F.C. Mexicali y Golfo until old age caught up with her and she was scrapped in 1938. No. 12 was also sent to the S.P. for use on the MyG. She was one of the last Southern Pacific locomotives to be used on the railway before it was taken over and completed by the Mexican Government as the F.C. Sonora-Baja Calif. There being no need for the light 4-6-0 on either the S.D. & A.E. or the S.P., #10 was sent to Los Angeles and scrapped, the very last former San Diego & Southeastern locomotive to survive.

"Heavy" Ten Wheelers
While the mainline of the San Diego and Arizona was still under construction, the management began casting about for passenger power to handle whatever service was going to be provided. The leased S.P., Santa Fe and self-owned freight locomotives were fine for mixed train service, but locomotives designed for passenger service would be required whenever service started. The first locomotive acquired for passenger service must have been a real bargain, as being minus a boiler, it was hardly in running condition. The chassis, tender and assorted parts were purchased from the abandoned Bullfrog-Goldfield via a dealer, and turned over to the Southern Pacific. S.P. built a new boiler for the unfortunate machine, and the locomotive was outshopped as S.D. & A. #20. Esthetically, the locomotive suffered from a smaller than usual smokebox, but the engine seemed to work just fine with the new boiler. When the mainline from San Diego to El Centro was finally opened in December, 1919, the locomotive was put into service pulling the trains for which it was acquired, supplemented by leased S.P. Ten-wheelers. It is not known what the locomotive was used for from its delivery in December, 1918, but presumably some useful work was obtained from it.

Additional locomotives were still required for passenger service, and again, some locomotive bargins were acquired from an abandoned Nevada mining road, this time the former Las Vegas & Tonopah. Slightly heavier than the Bullfrog engine, these were in much better shape and required only an overhaul and a new paint job. Four 4-6-0's were purchased in December 1919, and became S.D. & A. 24-27. It was thought that the purchase of these engines would allow the return of the leased S.P. engines, and such was the case for a time, particularly during the 1920-1925 period. However, as the demands on the engines grew with increases in passenger service, the engines, it became increasingly clear that the engines were too light for this service, and the road found it necessary to lease S.P. engines again. By the late 1930's, these five 4-6-0's were only used infrequently on S.D. & A.E. passenger trains, and several of them spent years in the deadline at the S.P. Los Angeles Shops. These two were the first ones scrapped in 1940. The other 4-6-0's found use on the road pulling branch line trains or being leased to S.P. Several even carried S.P. numbers for a time, but all were eventually relettered and renumbered to their S.D. & A.E. numbers. The locomotives continued to see service until 1950 and 1951 when all were scrapped. It should be noted that San Diego and Arizona Eastern passenger service lasted longer than these locomotives when on January 11, 1951 the service was abandoned, still steam powered.

The smallest 2-8-0
After the SD&A started construction, a second locomotive was deemed, appropriate to handle supply trains and switching. Number 1, an 0-6-0 purchased in 1909 was fine for switching and construction work, but the lengthening mainline of the road as it was being extended from San Diego east called for a road type engine. Accordingly, in 1910 a small 2-8-0 was ordered from Baldwin. Delivered in January, 1911, the Consolidation was assigned SD&A No. 50. The engine was immediately placed into service pulling work trains and performing construction duties. The 0-6-0 and 2-8-0 were adequate for light work, but as construction continued and limited operations were started to intermediate points, even heavier power was required and two 2-8-0's were purchased from ALCO in late 1914, almost twice the size and power of No. 50.

When the San Diego & Southeastern was merged into the SD&A in 1917, with its lightly built suburban lines to Lakeside, Chula Vista and Coronado, new operational territory was available for No. 50. The 2-8-0, small as it was, was considerably more powerful than the 2-4-2ST and 4-6-0 types previously used on the lines. At first, the No. 50 continued to see service in work trains, but as the need for that service declined, the 2-8-0 was used to supplement the older locomotives on the branches. No. 50 even saw occasional use of passenger trains, pulling open platform coaches to the race track at Agua Caliente and for inspection trips.

When in need of heavy shopping, No. 50 (as well as all other SD&A steam locomotives) was sent to the Southern Pacific Los Angeles Shops via the Imperial Valley, Indio and Colton. The SP assigned class C-30 to this unique locomotive, the only one of its type on the far flung SP system. SP also leased the locomotive for varying periods as required.

When the oldest 4- 6-0's became unserviceable, No. 50 saw more service on the Lakeside Branch as the regular freight engine, but it continued to be used on the other branches as well. During the Depression, freight service to Lakeside declined to three times a week, and this allowed plenty of time for the little 2-8-0 to handle other assignments. No. 12, the most modern of the small 4-6-0's was retained as a backup branch line engine. No. 50 continued in this service until 1950, when it was sent to Los Angeles and scrapped. Leased SP 2-6-0's replaced No. 50 and soon they were in turn returned as new SP GE 70-ton diesels took over all switching and branch line chores out of San Diego.

At the time that No. 50 was built, many railroads were selling off small 2-8-0's of similar size to this engine. It may be wondered why the line didn't pick up one of these "locomotive bargains" instead of ordering a new locomotive from Baldwin. However, it is doubtful that any castoff would have been as serviceable and useful to the SD&AE to have lasted for almost forty years. It is fortunate that the Spreckles management were trying to run a "class" operation and decided to purchase an off the shelf version of a Baldwin shortline and logging locomotive design.

In late 1914, the SD&A took delivery from ALCO of two large 2-8-0's to use in construction work. Numbered 101 and 102, the two engines weighed almost fifty tons more than the little No. 50 of the same wheel arrangement. The two new engines were purchased to pull trains over the lengthening mainline as it was being extended east from San Diego. The 0-6-0's and 2-8-0's on the roster prior to this time were needed for handling the actual construction train and working the yard in San Diego.

As it turned out, the two new engines were the last to be purchased direct from a manufacturer, subsequent locomotives being acquired through merger, the second hand market or from the Southern Pacific. Nos. 101 and 102 were generally similar to S.P. contemporary locomotives of the type, being delivered with Vanderbuilt tenders, but equipped with modern Walschaerts valve gear and piston valves. The class assigned by the S.P. was C-31.

The new engines were pressed into service hauling construction supplies eastward, and returning empties to San Diego. As soon as rudimentary facilities were available, a mixed train service was offered on the mainline, usually pulled by these 2-8-0's. The soft and spongy track, often laid without benefit of ballast, was not the most suitable for these heavy locomotives at this time, and leased S.P. light 4-6-0's were used to replace them until such a time as the track structure was improved. The addition of many 4-6-0's from the San Diego & Southeastern roster allowed these 2-8-0's to be leased to the Southern Pacific in 1917, as that company's Nos. 2837-2838. Photos taken during this period show them renumbered, but stilled lettered for the SD&A. Both were returned to the SD&A and numbers 101-102 in late 1919.

After completion of the SD&A mainline in 1919, the 2-8-0's were used almost exclusively in heavy freight service. Supplemented by purchases of slightly larger 2-8-0's from the S.P. in 1921, the C-31's were used extensively as helper engines, operating westward from El Centro up the hill to Hipass, and returning light to El Centro. Minor servicing was performed at the S.P. facilities in El Centro and by the shops in Los Angeles. Generally, the engines were worked between El Centro and Los Angeles, and pictures of them pulling S.P. trains over this route are not unusual.

The high headlights were lowered to the smokebox centers in common with other S.P. 2-8-0's in the late 1930's. With lessened traffic levels caused by the depression, the C-31's were not always needed for helper service and were used in other duties, such as work trains, special movements and protracted leases to the S.P. for use in the Imperial Valley. It was uncommon for them to be operated all the way into San Diego by this time, but it did happen on occasion, particularly during World War II.

After World War II, both locomotives received silver smokebox fronts. No. 102 received a modified smokebox front and door during this time, but No. 101 was never changed in this respect. Both locomotives were equipped with larger class 120-SC tenders about 1951. These came from scrapped S.P. 2-8-4's that had originated on the Boston & Maine. Much rebuilt and converted to oil, in 1951 the tenders were applied to No. 101-102 during routine shopping. When dieselization of the SD&AE mainline freight trains occurred in 1951, Nos. 101 and 102 were kept to assist the new S.P. Baldwin road switchers up the hill. No. 101 was first to be set aside in 1952 and went to Los Angeles for scrapping, No. 102 continued in service until mid-1953 when complete dieselization of the S.P.'s Imperial Valley lines occurred. The No. 102 was then also sent to Los Angeles for dismantling. The hardly used tender was assigned to S.P. 2-8-0 No. 2799.

Number 104
After the completion of the SD&A mainline in 1919, the two large C-31 2-8-0's Nos. 101 and 102 were sufficient for a time to power through freights. When one of the big 2-8-0's was sidelined for shopping, a replacement became necessary, usually a leased S.P. engine. In 1921 four similar sized 2-8-0's were purchased, used, from S.P. to supplement the original engines. One of these four was Number 104, purchased in March, 1921. The engine had been built in 1904 by Baldwin, as S.P. 2720, a member of S.P. Class C-8.

Six large 2-8-0's were probably more than what was required to provide power for the daily freight each way between San Diego and El Centro, helpers from El Centro to Hipass, and shop spares, but all were used heavily in the 1920's by the SD&A, and were also leased to the S.P. to help that road during seasonal traffic peaks. When leased to S.P., SD&A locomotives were sent far and wide all over California. At the conclusion of traffic surges, the locomotives were returned to the SD&A.

From 1922 to 1926, SD&A passenger trains 101 and 102 connected with the S.P.'s SUNSET LIMITED at Niland (instead of Yuma), and 104 was often used in passenger service during that period. It was uncommon for a 2-8-0 to be used in passenger service on any part of the S.P. system, but the tractive effort of 104 was appreciated on the grades of the SD&A, even in passenger service. It should be remembered that the SD&A started at 49 feet below sea level, climbed to 3,657 feet at the Tecate Divide and then to sea level at the Harbor of The Sun.

For heavy shopping the 104 was sent to S.P.'s Los Angeles Shops (as were all SD&A locomotives). Running repairs and minor work was handled in San Diego and El Centro.

In 1941, No. 104 was sent to the S.P. on long term lease and restored to S.P. #2720. The locomotive continued to be used on occasion on the SD&AE, as well as on S.P.'s Imperial Valley lines and on the Coast Division as far north as San Luis Obispo. In September, 1948 the engine was returned to the SD&AE as #104. The big 2-8-0 resumed regular service on the mainline, pulling freights, performing switching enroute at Plaster City, Tecate and Tijuana and heavy switching in San Diego.

In 1950, the S.P. dieselized SD&AE freight trains, and replaced the 2-8-0's with new Baldwin road switchers. Two consolidations were retained for helper service up the "hill" to Hipass, while the others were turned over to S.P. for use elsewhere. By 1953, S.P. dieselized the Imperial Valley and the two remaining 2-8-0's were also turned over to S.P. Number 104 operated for a time on the San Francisco Peninsula, based at the huge Bayshore Shops complex, near San Francisco. The engine was finally retired in October, 1954 and stored. In 1955, the locomotive was donated to the Railway Historical Society of San Diego and placed on display at the San Diego County Fairgrounds at Del Mar.

NUMBERS 103, 105 and 106
As mentioned above, in 1921 the SD&A purchased four heavy 2-8-0's from the Southern Pacific to power freight and mixed trains over the mainline between San Diego and El Centro. One of the four was number 104, now in PSRMA's care, and already covered in an earlier section, and the other three were nos. 103, 105 and 106. No. 103 had been built by Baldwin in 1907 as S.P. 2523, while the other two were newer, being built in 1917 and 1918 by S.P.'s Los Angeles Shops as S.P. 2843 and 2844 respectively. Although of different ages and S.P. classes, all these 2-8-0's were essentially similar mechanically and in appearance. All had piston valve cylinders and Stephenson link valve gear, the latter unusually archaic for locomotives built as late as 1918, but these engines were consistent with the majority of the SD&A steam fleet.

All of the SDSA's heavy 2-8-0's were used to provide motive power for the daily way freight each way between San Diego and El Centro, helper service from El Centro to Hipass and spares. All were used heavily in the 1920's by the road, and during times when traffic was lower, they were leased to the Southern Pacific to help that road. When leased to the S.P., SD&A locomotives were used all over California, but generally tended to be assigned to the Los Angeles Division and in the Imperial Valley. For heavy shopping, the 2-8-0's were sent to the S.P.'s Los Angeles Shops (the same shops where 105 and 106 were built). Running repairs and minor work was handled in San Diego and El Centro.

As built, the 2-8-0's had headlights mounted on the top of the boiler front, just like contemporary S.P. and U.P. practice. In common with other S.P. headlights, these were lowered to the center of the smokebox front in the late 1930's, and lowered still further after World War II to slightly below center. The latter change occurred when the old Sunbeam headlights were replaced with new Pyle-National lights (with visors). After the war, all 2-8-0's received silver smokebox fronts.

Nos. 103 and 106 were leased to the S.P. in May, 1941 and fully relettered and renumbered to that road (becoming S.P. 2523 and 2844, their original, numbers). They usually saw service in the Imperial Valley. Both were returned to the SD&AE in September, 1948 and restored to their former numbers and S.D.& A.E. lettering. In December, 1948, both 105 and 106 were leased to the S.P. for a lengthy period, but retained their lettering and road numbers. Their usual station at this time was Calexico, and both operated all over the Imperial Valley and on the Inter California Railway to Yuma.

Both were eventually returned to the S.D.& A.E. It should be noted that while these locomotives were off-line. Southern Pacific 2-8-0's of similar size in Classes C-8, C-9 and C-10 were leased by the S.D.& A.E. Larger locomotives, such has 2-8-2's or Mallets would have been welcome, but the light track and heavy curves of the road precluded such power and the 2-8-0's were the heaviest steam power ever operated on the road.

When dieselization of the S.D.& A.E. mainline freight trains by Baldwin road switchers occurred in 1951, No. 103 and 105-106 were leased permanently to the S.P. No. 103 was sent up the coast to operate out of Bayshore Yard near San Francisco, while the latter two remained in and around El Centro. In 1955, both were sent to Los Angeles and used there for heavy switching, local freight work and transfer runs. All remained in use until 1957-58 when they were set aside and scrapped. Although long out of use, No. 103 was one of the very last steam locomotives to remain on railroad property until it was eventually sold for scrap.

Back to the SD&A Steam Locomotive Roster

to the San Diego Railroad Museum
This page last updated 3/5/2000