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The 9000 is easily the most impractical steam locomotive in the world to restore. It has the longest rigid wheel base which heavily restricts where it could operate and there are probably few turning facilities that could handle it. When you take away the class 1 railroads which won’t want it on their track, there is really no where for it to run. Just getting it to Pomona in the 60s was an undertaking. It was moved very very slowly through Cajon Pass with many people watching the drivers at certain turns to make sure it didn’t jump the track.

Getting back to if it were possible, I can’t speak to the condition of the boiler or running gear, but almost anything is possible with enough money, the right talent, and ample resources. This would certainly be the most expensive steam restoration ever under taken. Rail Giants could never handle such a job. They don’t have the facilities, tools, equipment, experience, knowledge, talent, or capital to undertake a project of this scale. They do a fine job keeping their roster looking beautiful and the displays maintained but they are by no means a steam rebuilding group.
A particular technical challenge is it being a 3 cylinder engine. There are very few operational 3 cylinder engines and few experts who would have experience with timing one. All operational 3 cylinders are much smaller engines and are of European descent. Not to say it couldn’t be done but some highly skilled and knowledgeable steam experts would be needed to pull it off.

Hate to burst your bubble but 9000 is a railfan’s pipe dream.

Geez - if only I had had an iPhone when I was six y.o.  My grandmother lived in northeastern KS, along the UP branch that ran from Gibbon, NE (on the main line between Kearney and Grand Island) and St. Joe, MO and I'd see one or more of the 9000 class locos whenever we'd visit her.  Sometimes the freights would be double headed with 9000's and wouldn't stop in Hanover (KS) on their way to Marysville.  Often, much to my delight, they'd stop to take on water and to add a smaller helper engine for the hill between Hanover and Marysville.  I got to be good friends with the station agent, who showed me how to use a telegraph (train orders, etc. were all done via telegraphy in those days) and how to attach a flimsy to the circle of string in the train order 'hoop' (UP used the Y-shaped hoop, so only the string plus flimsy were snagged by the fireman and conductor).

When the 9000 class locos would pull out of town, the ground shook - and even I learned to identify the staccato stack sound made by those 3-cylindered monsters.

BTW - the Rail Giants Museum has two 3-cylindered locomotives.  In addition to the UP 9000 (4-12-2) they also have an SP 4-10-2, which also has 3 cylinders

Last edited by richs09

Rich, love hearing your recollections about seeing the 9000s in person. If I had a time machine, i’d be traveling back to the 40s to see and FEEL big steam power pounding the hills.

SP 5021 is a personal favorite of mine at Rail Giants. It is beautifully preserved and they take marvelous care of her. The compressed air that goes to her whistle happens to be the highest pressure in the whole air system. I believe it has around 180-200 psi usually. A special request to a volunteer may give you a chance to pull it. It is a very melodious and loud SP 6 chime whistle.

A fun fact about 5021 is that she was still operational when SP donated her in the early 60s. The museum voluteers actually steamed it a few times and ran it on a length of track. When SP caught wind of this, they told the museum if they did it again, they would take the engine back and cut it up. They were concerned about some volunteers causing a boiler explosion on an engine that said Southern Pacific on the side. 5021 was also considered to pull the Freedom Train.

Mention of the SP 4-10-2 5021 at Rail Giants reminds me of a good day.  Back in 1970, my wife and I were returning to California from a visit with family in Michigan, in our 1965 Ford Mustang.  A head gasket started leaking, not too far east of Tucumcari, New Mexico, and we coasted downhill to the conveniently-located Ford house there.  

The shop Foreman said they could get it fixed in a few hours, so (and you knew this was coming, didn't you?) I walked a couple of blocks over to the Southern Pacific-Rock Island depot and looked around.  The Roadmaster was returning from lunch, and asked me if he could help me.  When he found out that I worked for Santa Fe in San Bernardino, he invited me into his office.  There were numerous photos on the walls, and he pointed to one dated 1947, depicting an SP 5000-series 3-cylinder 4-10-2 on its side.  "Do you know where this was taken?" he asked.  I replied that it looked like San Timoteo Canyon (between Colton and Beaumont).  It was indeed there, near El Casco.  A rancher had crossed a private crossing with a load of coarse rock gravel, and spilled some as he bounced across the crossing.  The pilot truck of the steam engine had been derailed by rock stuck between the rail and the crossing planks, and the engine derailed and turned over.  The Roadmaster explained that he was then on a section crew which had been called to respond and that it had been his first time to view a locomotive on its side.  Meanwhile, my wife was taking advantage of the air conditioned waiting room in the depot, so the Roadmaster and I were able to have a nice visit about his photos.  

The Ford house put us at the head of the line, since we were traveling, finished the job in two hours, and the charges were quite reasonable, proving that there were honest repair shops on Route 66, along with the dishonest ones that had the wider reputation.

Last edited by Number 90

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