Survivors from the Industrial Past – Baldwin Narrow Gauge Steam Locomotives



Industrial archeology tends to be a subject that you don’t often think about. Unless you happen to be a fan of scenes like the one above, that is.

Railroading in the days between 1870 and 1890 was a heady pursuit. With the late unpleasantness between the States behind us as a nation, not only imaginations looked to the West, but those in search of opportunities did as well. Lines expanded in all directions as the country grew as resources required transportation from the factories and to the markets.

Narrow gauge railroads often were the method of choice because of two points. The first was cost. As narrow gauge railroads were smaller in size that their larger cousins. Which meant lower prices for equipment. The second item was that narrow gauge railroads were more flexible than their larger cousins, too. With some inventive engineering, they could go places that full size railroads found difficult.

These railroads served a variety of masters to reach resources that the West needed to bring from remote places to markets across the country. Cattle and sheep could spend summers in high pastures full of green grass. Mines could get necessary supplies needed to dig deep into the earth where the mineral bonanzas lay; and to bring those bonanzas of coal, gold, silver, copper and more to smelters and other locations away from the mines for processing. Or perhaps it was timber from forests to mills to be come lumber used in building homes, businesses, ships or other structures of all kinds.

One of the most prolific builders of steam locomotives for the 3-foot gauge railroads of California and Nevada was the Baldwin Locomotive Works, of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. From the first locomotive in 1832 to it’s last in 1956, it set standards that made it the envy of others in the business.

Image from Wikipedia.

Image from Wikipedia.

This Baldwin product was a good example of the art in the period starting in 1870. It was built in 1872 for export to Finland. The 4-4-0, or American type, featured four (4) pilot wheels, four (4) driving wheels and no (0) trailing wheels on the locomotive. It had been a standard locomotive type on both Union and Confederate railroads throughout the War. First patented in 1836 by William H. Campbell (as chief engineer for the Philadelphia, Germantown and Norristown Railway), it was estimated that by 1872, this wheel arrangement represented eighty-five percent of all steam locomotives in operation in the United States.

So great was the demand for this design, that even when surpassed by larger and more flexible designs, orders for the type continued to be received at manufacturers around the world. The last one built in the United States was a Baldwin product in 1945 for the United Railways of Yucatan in Mexico (Interestingly enough, this was the same railroad that the Walt Disney Company chose to purchase the five Baldwin 3-foot gauge steam locomotives from in 1969. They became the locomotive fleet still in operation today at the Walt Disney World Railroad in Orlando, Florida.)

My own connection to these products is a genealogical one. One of my paternal great grandfathers was a young man earning his living as a vaquero at ranches in the Pine Valley in Central Nevada before the turn of the 20th Century. He joined a group traveling to a Mardi Gras dance by train in the mining town of Eureka, Nevada in 1899. He was hoping to spend time with a certain young woman at the dance, but she was intent on someone else, and he had a miserable time that evening.

Instead of riding back to the ranch in the passenger cars of the narrow gauge Eureka and Palisade Railroad, he rode in the cab of the steam locomotive instead. It was on this trip that he decided that he would give up life on the back of a horse and take up railroading instead. While he was turned away by the Southern Pacific (as being too small) that year and told to come back the next, he had a 51 year career in railroading; retiring as a locomotive engineer in 1951 and holding number one in seniority on the SP’s Salt Lake Division. I have no doubt that the narrow gauge locomotive that started his life long interest in railroading was a Baldwin 4-4-0.

Palisade, Nevada as seen from the back of a Southern Pacific passenger train in the 1930's. Note the narrow gauge passenger car on the right. This was the location of the Eureka - Nevada Railroad shops, formerly the Eureka and Palisade.

Palisade, Nevada as seen from the back of a Southern Pacific passenger train in the 1930’s. Note the narrow gauge passenger car on the right. This was the location of the Eureka – Nevada Railroad shops, formerly the Eureka and Palisade. Photo from the John W. Barriger National Railroad Library on Flickr.

Thanks to him, I started my own passion for railroading with a cab ride in a diesel locomotive with him and my father at the SP’s Sparks, Nevada yard facility at the tender age of 3 years old. I have strong memories of being handed up to cab and hearing the airhorn blow during the short ride and forth. Likewise, it probably explains my attraction to the sounds of an Electromotive Division 567 diesel engine. But that is another story…

Oddly enough, there are a good number of Baldwin 3-foot gauge steam locomotives still with us today. Especially here in California and Nevada.

Of those, there is one that may even be the locomotive that started it all for me. The Eureka and Palisade’s steam locomotive number 4. the “Eureka” calls Las Vegas, Nevada home and it is owned by Dan Markoff. Built in 1875, it is Baldwin builders number 3763. From Wikipedia:

The locomotive was built in 1875 for the Eureka & Palisade Railroad, which was built to transport passengers and goods from the mining town of Eureka to connect with the Central Pacific Railroad in Palisade. The engine served on this railroad until 1896, when it was sold to the Sierra Nevada Wood and Lumber Company. It operated on the Sierra Nevada Wood and Lumber until 1938 when the company dissolved and the engine was sold to a scrap dealer.

Warner Bros. bought the engine in 1939, and it was featured in many films, such as Torrid Zone, Cheyenne Autumn, and The Great Train Robbery. The Eureka’s last film appearance was in the 1976 film, The Shootist, and it was sold thereafter to Old Vegas, an amusement park in Henderson, Nevada, where it was placed on display. In 1978, the California State Railroad Museum, was in the process of restoring North Pacific Coast no. 12 Sonoma, another 8/18C class 4-4-0 nearly identical to the Eureka. The museum had the latter stripped down to reveal its original paint scheme that was still on the engine, and used it as a guide for restoring the former. In 1985, a fire had consumed the Old Vegas park, with one of the burning buildings collapsing on the Eureka, badly damaging the engine.

A year later, the engine was discovered by Las Vegas attorney Dan Markoff, who then purchased the engine and had it restored to operating condition. The restored Eureka debuted at Railfair ’91 at the California State Railroad Museum.

The locomotive has visited a number of 3-foot gauge railroads and has seen operation at the Nevada State Railroad Museum at Boulder City, near it’s Las Vegas home. Markoff is also building a brand new “vintage” passenger coach to match the “Eureka”.

The restored “Eureka” seen on the Durango & Silverton Railroad at Rockwood, Colorado

during a refueling (wood) stop in October of 1997.Photo from Wikipedia.

Another Baldwin locomotive from Palisade, the Eureka Nevada Railway number 12, a 2-8-0, builders number 14771, built in 1896 (for the Florence and Cripple Creek Railroad in Colorado) is part of the collection on display at the Nevada Southern Railroad Museum in Boulder City, NV. The museum has a new executive director and we can hope some love and attention will come to this classic locomotive in the future.

Dan Markoff isn’t the first person to take on the restoration of a Baldwin narrow gauge steam locomotive of the 1870’s. In 1938, that honor fell to Ward and Betty Kimball with their acquisition of the Nevada Central Railroad’s number 2, a 2-6-0, built in 1881, builders number 5575, as they brought it to their home among the orange groves in San Gabriel. The “Emma Nevada” from the Grizzly Flats Railroad is the project of a determined group of volunteers at the Orange Empire Railway Museum in Perris, CA. Be sure to check out the new Facebook page for this group!

The "Emma Nevada" as work is about to begin on the day's projects in the Grizzly Flats Barn at OERM.

The “Emma Nevada” as work is about to begin on the day’s projects in the Grizzly Flats Barn at OERM.

Another Nevada narrow gauge veteran recently returned to operation after a long restoration (including using portions of the original lap-seam boiler) is the “Glenbrook“, locomotive #1 of the Carson-Tahoe Lumber and Fluming Company. Built by Baldwin in April of 1875 (Builders Number 3712), she was part of the efforts of the Carson-Tahoe Flume and Lumber Company to bring much needed wood for construction from the shores of Lake Tahoe to the mines of Nevada’s Comstock Lode at Virginia City.

When lumber operations ceased in the late 1890’s, the owners moved the locomotive to a new railroad, the Lake Tahoe Railway and Transportation Company, providing passenger and freight service between Tahoe City and the connection with the Central Pacific at Truckee. in 1926, that line was sold to the Southern Pacific and converted to standard gauge. The Bliss family (owners of the LTR&T) held onto the “Glenbrook” until 1937 when it was sold to the Nevada County Narrow Gauge Railroad between Colfax and Grass Valley, CA. When that line was abandoned in 1943, it looked like the locomotive was headed to scrap as the war was rounding up all kinds of surplus metals.

The Bliss family was convinced to repurchase the “Glenbrook”, and to donate it to the Nevada State Museum in Carson City. There it sat until the creation of the Nevada State Railroad Museum. Restoration efforts began in the 1980’s and were finally completed last year. A great deal of the original locomotive was retained in the project including parts of the original Baldwin lap-seam boiler.

The “Glenbrook” is the oldest operational steam locomotive in the country, and was first operated for public display on May 23, 2015. Truly a gem!

The sister locomotive to the “Glenbrook” was the number 2, named the “Tahoe” and was Builders number 3709, also built in 1875. She also went to the Lake Tahoe Railway and Transportation Company after the end of lumber operations. After the line was standard gauged by the Southern Pacific, it was sold off to the Nevada County Narrow Gauge Railroad, becoming their number 5.


The Nevada County 5 seen at Grass Valley in 1935. Photo courtesy of Phil Reader.

From there, she became the railroad star at Universal Studios, appearing in many films. When it was retired at the studio, it came back to Grass Valley and the Nevada County Narrow Gauge Railroad Museum. Today, the number 5 is also under restoration and will make use of new replacement boiler, originally ordered for the “Glenbrook” by the Nevada State Railroad Museum.

Down the road a bit from Grass Valley, two other narrow gauge Baldwins are on display at the California State Railroad Museum in Sacramento. Another 2-6-0 is the Nevada Short Line number 1. She was built in 1879, builders number 4562, for the Utah & Northern as their #13. She led quite a life moving from railroad to railroad, eventually becoming number 6 on the Nevada Central.

Nevada Short Line Number 1 on display upstairs at the California State Railroad Museum in Sacramento. Photo from Flickr.

Nevada Short Line Number 1 on display upstairs at the California State Railroad Museum in Sacramento. Photo from Flickr.

Battle Mountain turned out to be quite the place for Baldwin survivors. Another 4-4-0, built in 1876, as builders number 3483, is the “Sonoma“, number 12 of the North Pacific Coast Railroad. The NPC ran in Marin and Sonoma Counties to reach the rural communities bringing passengers and freight from the North Bay into San Francisco by ferry boat. At it’s peak it had almost 93 miles of railroad in service. The railroad later became part of the Northwestern Pacific Railroad and was standard gauged with electric commuter service from Mill Valley and San Rafael.

Sacramento Railroad Museum, Sacramento, CA Sonoma: North Pacific Coast Railroad Locomotive No. 12

Sacramento Railroad Museum, Sacramento, CA Sonoma: North Pacific Coast Railroad Locomotive No. 12, from Flickr.

In 1879, the “Sonoma” was sold to the Nevada Central, becoming their number 5. She was still in service when the line ceased operation in 1938. However, that was not the end for the number 5 and number 6. They went on to a life on stage during the Golden Gate International Exposition in 1939, recreating the Golden Spike ceremony between the Central Pacific and Union Pacific at Promontory Point, Utah in 1869. And that show has a Disney connection as it was showman Art Linkletter who produced it! The experience he gained there came in very useful in 1955 when he was called upon to emcee the Disneyland opening telecast.

From the Cavalcade of the Golden West at the 1939 Golden Gate International Exposition on Treasure Island in San Francisco Bay. From the Treasure Island Museum,

From the Cavalcade of the Golden West at the 1939 Golden Gate International Exposition on Treasure Island in San Francisco Bay. From the Treasure Island Museum.

Both locomotives were donated to the California State Railroad Museum where they have been restored and are on display today.

Now Disney theme park fans have enjoyed their own Baldwin products in service on the Disneyland Railroad. Number 3, the “Fred Gurley”, a 2-4-2T, builders number 14065, built in 1894; number 4, the “Ernest S. Marsh” a 2-4-0 with the tender addition, builders number 53867 from 1925; and number 5, the “Ward Kimball”, also a 2-4-2T, builders number 20925, built in 1902. If you haven’t read either the books by Michael Broggie or Steve DeGaetano on the Disneyland Railroad, they have plenty to share on the subject of these locomotives.

Disneyland Railroad number 3, on display at the Main Street station.

Disneyland Railroad number 3, on display at the Main Street station.


The Ernest S. Marsh, Disneyland Railroad #4, on display at the New Orleans Square Station.


DRR number 5, the “Ward Kimball” and her restoration crew at Boschan Boiler Works.

But theme park fans have two more Baldwin survivors just down the road from Anaheim in a pair of two narrow gauge Consolidations (2-8-0’s) at Knotts Berry Farm’s Calico Railroad. Denver and Rio Grande 340 (builders number 5571, built in 1881) and Rio Grande Southern 41 (builders number 5731, built in 1881). Both hail from 1881, and came west from Colorado to Buena Park in 1952. The railroad has always been a part of this classic theme park.

Archetypical Knott's Berry Farm / Calico Mine Ride, steam train, giant red-and-white-striped pole with a neon "K" on top... All that's missing is the Log Ride. Ghost Town, Knott's Berry Farm, Buena Park, California. From Wikipedia.

Archetypical Knott’s Berry Farm / Calico Mine Ride, steam train, giant red-and-white-striped pole with a neon “K” on top… All that’s missing is the Log Ride. Ghost Town, Knott’s Berry Farm, Buena Park, California. From Wikipedia.

Rio Grande 340 and train leaving on another trip around the Ghost Town & Calico Railroad.

Finally, the Southern Pacific’s narrow gauge line in the Owens Valley had quite the stable of Baldwin steam locomotives in operation at one time. Starting as the Carson & Colorado, then the Nevada and California, and finally as the Southern Pacific, ending service in 1959. Three steam locomotives survive, all Baldwins and all 4-6-0’s. SP 8 (builders number 31445, built 8/1907), displayed at Sparks, NV; SP 9 ( builders number 34035, built 11/1919) displayed at Laws, CA; SP 18 (builders number 37395, built 12/1911), under restoration to operation at Independence, CA.

The Southern Pacific 18 project underway at Independence, CA.

Who would have predicted such a group of these industrial tools of their days would still about 135 years later? If you have the time and are in the neighborhood, stop by a visit one of them!

Posted in Ruminations, Travel | Leave a comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

* Copy This Password *

* Type Or Paste Password Here *

This site is protected by Comment SPAM Wiper.