Today, Yesterday and Tomorrow

Posted by George Hamlin
on Friday, August 16, 2019

This eastbound Southern Pacific manifest is at Salinas, California on February 5, 1987.  It’s being led by a “Flare”, i.e. one of the SP’s massive fleet of EMD SD45s, followed by a Union Pacific SD40-2, and a pair of Espee “Tunnel Motors”. 

According to Wikipedia, the SP was the most prolific original operator of EMD’s 3600 horsepower C-C, with 317 units, to which should be added the 39 rostered by the St. Louis Southwestern, the “Cotton Belt”, which by that time was being operated as an integral part of its parent. 

At 356 total SD45s, the “Golden Empire” of the SP had more than twice the number of these units as the next-largest original-owner fleet, 130 belonging to the Pennsylvania Railroad; in third and fourth place, respectively, were the 125 of the Santa Fe, and the 115 at the Norfolk & Western.  No other railroad acquired more than 100 of these units new, although the Burlington Northern bought 96 (and also inherited 15 from the CB&Q, 27 from the Great Northern and 30 from the Northern Pacific) via the BN merger. 

It’s easy to see that the paint scheme of the 7566 is different from the standard scarlet and gray of the latter-day Southern Pacific, as worn by the pair of Tunnel Motors.  The yellow-and-red livery seen here had been installed in anticipation of the Santa Fe-Southern Pacific merger, and was referred to in the railfan community as the “Kodachrome” scheme, since those two colors were prominent on the packaging of that film type.

One advantage of this design was that it allowed the prospective partners the opportunity to apply the livery prior to the actual merger, with units continuing to carrier their current owners’ initials, SP for the Southern Pacific, and SF for the Santa Fe.  When the merger was consummated, the other initials could be added quickly, with combined SPSF initials ultimately ending up on the locomotive fleet.

Unfortunately, the ICC (Interstate Commerce Commission, which had regulatory oversight of U.S. railroads) voted the merger down in July 1986.  The prospective partners then appealed this decision.  Thus, on the day this photo was taken, there was still a theoretical chance that the merger would go through, but this hope was vanquished four months later, in June 1987, and the Southern Pacific Railroad was sold to Rio Grande Industries (then the parent of the D&RGW) in October 1988. As a result, SPSF came to stand for "Shouldn't Paint So Fast".

A little bit of Southern Pacific history appears at the far right of the picture, in the form of a refrigerator car belonging to the Pacific Fruit Express.  Founded in 1906, the PFE was originally a joint venture of the SP and UP, with the Western Pacific also participating between 1923 and 1967.  A glimpse of the future, however, is on the 7566’s rear coupler.

In 1996, the SP, along with its PFE holdings, was bought by the UP, and merged into the railroad that by then had also acquired the Missouri Pacific and Western Pacific.  While the “Kodachrome” paint scheme continued to be seen for a number of years, on both SP and ATSF units, the Kodak product from which it took its nickname would outlast it by many years.  The UP, with the oldest major railroad name in continuous use in the U.S., continues to this day, however, and there is speculation that it will eventually reach the Atlantic Ocean; time will tell. 

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