Friday, September 22, 2017

Curiosities: Monterey Bay Area Static Locomotives

Throughout its history, the Southern Pacific Railroad maintained thousands of steam locomotives. But when steam was phased out in the mid-1950s, most of the locomotives went to scrap, the cost of maintaining them too expensive and their worth to the railroad negated by the more efficient diesel locomotives. However, Southern Pacific remembered the communities through which its trains went and donated many of their old trains to municipal parks across the country. Three of those locomotives settled around the Monterey Bay, two of which still remain at those parks.

Southern Pacific 1285 (Dennis the Menace Park, Monterey)

The first static locomotive installed at a park in the Monterey Bay area was a Lima Locomotive Works S-14 class 0-6-0 switcher locomotive build in 1924 for the Southern Pacific Railroad. It was classified by Southern Pacific as an oil-fired yard switcher, which means it remained at a freight yard to move rolling stock around to make it easier for the larger, long-distance trains to pick up stock on its way through a station. During its years as an active locomotive, SP1285 operated at the San Francisco freight yard.

SP1285 at the San Francisco freight yard moving box cars, April 1953. [Save the Train at Dennis the Menace Park]
The locomotive and its tender were donated to the City of Monterey in January 1956. The engine was installed by Company C of the 84th Army Engineers from Fort Ord since the locomotive weighed 155,000 lbs and its tender 50,000 lbs. The task was not easy and the engineers used a 300-horsepower tank retriever to move the train after carefully surveying the streets between the track and the installation site. After installation, the new play structure was dedicated February 15, 1956, with Hank Ketcham, creator of Dennis the Menace, in attendance beside the city's mayor and representatives of Southern Pacific. Ketcham, a resident of Carmel who died in 2001, had helped plan the park and donated money to get it built as a children's playground in honor of his comic's theme. The park officially opened on November 17, 1956, and SP1285 served as the centerpiece of this new facility.

Children climbing on SP1285 at Dennis the Menace Park, c. 2010. [Save the Train at Dennis the Menace Park]
For fifty years, children were able to climb on, over, and under the locomotive with virtually no restrictions in place, but new mandatory safety standards for playground safety force the city to fence the locomotive and tender and deny the public access in 2012. It was the last playground locomotive in the state to close access. Since then, the city council of Monterey has created a subcommittee to find a way to reopen the train to public access, although a solution has yet to be reached. The locomotive and tender are maintained by the City of Monterey. A community action group is currently rallying to restore the engine to playground use, which can be found at

Southern Pacific 1298 (Harvey West Park, Santa Cruz)

Much like the locomotive at Dennis the Menace Park, the Harvey West Park engine was built relatively late in its run as a oil-fueled yard switcher. The locomotive was constructed in September 1917 as one of the last S-10 class 0-6-0 Baldwin Locomotive Work engines.

SP1298 before it was repainted and fenced off from the public. Note the kids climbing on the back. [Childhood Memories]
When this locomotive rolled off the production line, it went to the Arizona Eastern Railroad Company as engine #39, but that company was merged into Southern Pacific in 1924, at which point it was renumbered (SP had purchased the Arizona Eastern in 1905, but did not dissolve the company until 1924). Where specifically this switcher operated is unknown, but it was probably in the San Diego area where a number of former Arizona Eastern locomotives went.

SP1298 sitting within its fenced area at Harvey West Park in Santa Cruz. []
SP1298 went out of service in September 1956 but did not arrive in Santa Cruz until 1961. In the meantime, Harvey West Park was founded on May 30, 1959, named after Harvey E. West, Sr., a local lumber magnate and philanthropist who donated 27 acres of his land to create the park. The locomotive quickly became a popular fixture at the park. Originally, it included a C-9 tender and children were allowed to climb over and under both. The tender was sold to the Eccles & Eastern Railroad in 1989 to act as a backup to their tender, discussed below. Around this time, the locomotive was repainted with a colorful and somewhat anachronistic paint scheme (although local railroad yards often painted their switchers) to make the engine appear more fun. The locomotive now has a gate around it to stop children from climbing on it, undoubtedly due to safety concerns. It is maintained by the City of Santa Cruz.

Southern Pacific 2706 (Ramsey Park, Watsonville)

The oldest locomotive in the region was Southern Pacific #2706, a Consolidation-type 2-8-0 Baldwin Locomotive Works engine built in 1904. Unlike the smaller engines above, this locomotive was designed for long-haul trips, not simply yard work. Throughout its years in service, it likely was paired with multiple tenders, but a 70-C-10 was what accompanied it to Watsonville. Throughout the 1920s and 1930s, the locomotive operated throughout the Southwest, from Utah to Texas to Arizona and elsewhere, but by the 1940s and 1950s, it primarily operated in Central California, between San Francisco and the upper Central Valley. The locomotive was decommissioned on November 29, 1956 and sat abandoned for five years while Southern Pacific decided what to do with it.

SP2706 at the Bayshore roundhouse in San Francisco, October 11, 1953. Photo by D.S. Richter. [Colusa Steam]
In August 1963, the engine and tender were donated to the City of Watsonville for use as a play structure at the new Ramsey Park. It operated in that capacity for 28 years and many children in the area grew up climbing on the oddly-shaped tender and large locomotive.

SP2706 as a play structure at Ramsey Park in Watsonville, c. 1970s. [Colusa Steam]
Unlike the two locomotives above, this engine had many afterlives. It was purchased from the City of Watsonville in June 1989 by the Eccles & Eastern Railroad, founded by Karl Koenig, Rick Hamman, Burneda Koenig, and Carol Hamman. After four months of preservation work, the locomotive and its tender were loaded onto a heavy-duty truck and taken to Santa Cruz to be placed on the Swift Street siding on the West Side, which was reserved for Eccles & Eastern rolling stock. Unexpectedly, the ground shook under the relocation crews and the locomotive—the date was October 17 and the great Loma Prieta Earthquake struck Santa Cruz with a vengeance.

SP2706 on a flatbed truck awaiting transport to Santa Cruz, October 17, 1989. Photo by Tony Johnson. [Colusa Steam]
Ramsey Park was decimated by the temblor but the yard at Santa Cruz survived with only minor damage. The locomotive and tender were unloaded onto the siding and, for the next seven years, were repaired and restored to operating condition. Unfortunately, the Eccles & Eastern closed operations in 1995 and the locomotive with both its tender and SP1298's tender were taken by John Manley, one of the railroad's investors. For three years, the stock sat abandoned, enduring vandalism and neglect.

Stripped down parts of SP2706 soon after moving into the new workshop, January 2014. [Colusa Steam]
In January 2000, the locomotive and its tenders began their long journey to Colusa, California. The rolling stock stopped at Oakland, Hunter's Point, South San Francisco, and Oakdale on its way to Colusa, where it arrived in 2006. For another seven years the stock sat in the yard at Colusa, awaiting completion of a workshop that was finally built in October 2013. Work to restore SP2703 is ongoing and people interested in its progress can visit

Citations & Credits:


  1. Good to see the old girl is secure. I remember when it was removed from Watsonville, and that the engine almost went over on its side, account ground problems. Hopefully it will see service again, after being vandalized off the Swift street location.

  2. I was lucky enough to spend a lot of time as chief engineer of SP1298 back when it had its tender. Got to operate the brakearm too and the steam valves, it was all still there. Many robbers tried to sneak on from the tender so you had to keep a lookout on the cabin roof. The train did not stop for 2nd graders, they could go play somewhere else. Mostly we hauled circuses and gold. I think we put banana peels in the firebox too.

  3. Have you looked at Guy Dunscomb's A CENTURY OF SOUTHERN PACIFIC STEAM LOCOMOTIVES from 1977? After subtracting 0-6-0 # 1294 which was scrapped in June, 1981, I count 70 S.P.steam locomotives surviving, a few of these which
    are now operating again. On pages 86-87, Dunscomb shows 35 of the S-!0 class surviving. There were 464 of the 0-6-0 of varying classes built. See p. 77. Of the surviving 0-6-0 classes, Dunscomb shows 12 in California: in Hanford, Alameda, Salinas, Fresno, Martinez, Los Angeles and Tracy. These are in addition to the two you described and # 1233 and 1269 which have been restored and operating. # 1251 is now in Virginia City, Nev. awaiting restoration. Does anyone have more recent information? I must check out the number of the S.P. steam locomotive now on display at Kelley Park in San Jose.

    1. To avoid complications, I removed the one line about the number of surviving locomotives. I think these comments probably do the matter much more justice.

  4. Postscript: I have travelled to Kelley Park in San Jose and found what I thought I remembered along Senter Road: an 0-6-0 with a box car from Orchard Supply Hardware and a caboose. The 0-6-0 here is # 1215, originally displayed in Hanford, California. Incidentally, there are three 0-6-0's
    which are now outside California in addition to the one mentioned in
    Virginia City. These are in Deming, New Mexico and Roseburg, Oregon and Ogden, Utah. Actually, I meant to say there were 35 S-10 0-6-0 locomotives
    BUILT. Except for the # 1294 in San Francisco which was scrapped, Dunscomb
    claims 17 0-6-0 Southern Pacific locomotives were SAVED. Two Texas & New Orleans 0-6-0's are part of this list.

  5. Hank Ketchum did not donate any land in Monterey for the Dennis the Menace park. That land was and is owned by the City of Monterey. Hank donated his time to plan and design the park and donated money to help get it built. He was a resident of Carmel until his passing in 2001.

    1. Thank you for the clarification. The article has been corrected.

  6. I did my research and I couldn't find anything about what the Eccles & Eastern Railroad did with SP 1298's tender. Anyone got an answer?


Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.