Southern Pacific SP-4449

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Talk to anyone who grew up in the first part of the Twentieth Century: there is nothing quite like the wailing cry of powerful steam locomotives as it whistles through the night. Railroads were a lifeline that connected cities and farms, supporting industry and helped build America.

Of hundreds of trains that ran the rails, one locomotive was special. The Southern Pacific SP-4449 was known as 'The Daylight' because of its striking red/orange paint scheme. It carried passengers and freight from 1941 until it was retired in the Fifties. Luckily, on December 14, 1974, Southern Pacific 4449 was towed out of Oaks Park in southeast Portland, Oregon, and taken to the Hoyt Street Roundhouse, where it was brought back to 'as delivered' condition. 

Today, the SP-4449 is working as a living museum of the Nation's railroads. In 1976, the locomotive helped celebrate the America’s Bicentennial by steaming at the head of the 1976 'Freedom Train.' That train carried more than 500 treasures of Americana, including George Washington's copy of the Constitution, the original Louisiana Purchase, Judy Garland's dress from The Wizard of Oz, Martin Luther King's pulpit and robes, and even a rock from the moon.

Fully restored and with engineer Doyle McCormack at the throttle, ‘The Daylight’ can speed at over 110 MPH on a clear track. Although the locomotive and tender weigh 870,000 lbs, the 5500 horsepower can take the SP-4449 anywhere it needs to go -- as long as all the accessories are playing along.

That's where Grover entered the picture. Piston rings in the SP-4449's air pump lubricator were worn beyond specs and needed to be replaced. Spare parts are always a challenge for a monster built over 64 years ago! A call went out to Diane Steeno (customer service representative) and Mark Butenhof (process technician) who were able to identify some stock rings that could be modified to fit the locomotive application. "This kind of work might have taken up to several weeks to complete, but we were familiar with that type of ring, and we were able to complete the modification in just two days," explained Mark Butenhof.

They got a personal Thank-You note, signed by engineer McCormack himself!

Once again, SP-4449 is able to take to the rails. In addition to excursions and Whistle Stop events, the locomotive has starred in a number of motion pictures and TV shows, including Dukes of Hazzard, and Come See the Paradise. In the Disney production Tough Guys, you can see some great action shots of the SP-4449 with Doyle McCormack as the engineer of his hijacked train!

Locomotive Piston Rings

In the movie Tough Guys, Kirk Douglas and Burt Lancaster played gangsters who hijacked the Mighty SP-4449 - a powerful locomotive from the Golden Age of Railroads.  In real life, the failure of a piston ring in the train's air pump lubricator threatened to do the same thing, until Grover opened up the throttle, pulled back on the Johnson Bar, and steamed to the rescue!