Written By: Ken Hulsey
Source: Pentrex Railroad Videos And Books
I have honestly been a train nut since I was a baby. My childhood home was about two blocks away from where the Southern Pacific joined up with the Union Pacific in Whittier, California. Both railroads were separate entities back then, but they did merge together in my hometown to share trackage, linking the Los Angeles suburbs with Orange County.
Since I regularly watched local freights, from both the SP, and UP, in the comfort of my car seat, and then later on, the back seat of my folks car, I have had a love for both railroads. A love that still exists today, though, now both railroads are one entity, the Union Pacific.
Growing up in Southern California, in the 1970s, I never got a chance to witness the majesty that was the Southern Pacific's vast line of varying steam locomotive power. All I had were pictures in books, and those occasional film clips on Captain Kangaroo. Not much to go on, but I was still enamoured with steam.
There were, of course, toy trains, and I had plenty of those.
The one style of locomotive that I didn't like as a child, were SP's cab forward locomotives. I always thought they looked funny. "They were backwards, for Christ's sake!" To me, they didn't have the sex appeal of UP's 'Challengers' and 'Bigboys.'
As people grow older, their tastes generally change, and I am no exception. My dislike for the cab forward locomotive changed as well. I began to admire the locomotives for their unique style, and raw power.
This new 'love' for the AC-12 and their kin, came to a head two years ago, when I laid eyes on locomotive 4294 in the California State Railroad Museum. What a magnificent monster, a true giant.
Now, I have been in the cab of a Bigboy, the one in Pomona, and in comparison, the AC-12 is a sport scar. I know it was an optical illusion, but the 4294 looked bigger indoors than the Bigboy did outdoors. I know which one is actually larger. I just want to mention that 4294 looks spectacular displayed in the Sacramento museum, all polished, it is something to behold, I tell you.
Throughout my reading, I have heard the tales from rail fans who lived during the heyday of steam that spent many a free hour near Donner Pass, watching SP train after SP train being pulled by cab forwards.
Secretly, I envied them. I too wanted to see those monster locomotives in action. Alas, that will never happen.
In my railroad video collection I have several DVDs that feature classic steam locomotives in action. None of these have any footage of Southern Pacific cab ahead units. That always bummed me out.
I was delighted today, when I came across Pentrex's channel on Youtube, and learned that they had a video available with nothing but SP's cab forwards.
The DVD is called "Southern Pacific Cab Forward Collection". Here is the vids synopsis from Pentrex's website:
The Complete Story of SP’s Mighty 4-8-8-2 Articulated Locomotives!
For nearly 47 years, the Southern Pacific Railroad relied upon its massive AC-type steam locomotives to haul freight and passenger trains throughout California and neighboring states. Built to provide the power and flexibility demanded by the mountainous passes they traversed, these giants were constructed with their cab in front of the boiler, thus earning them the name Cab Forwards. The last Cab Forward revenue train ran in 1956, after which all but one were scrapped. From then on, film coverage of these AC-class engines was eagerly sought, hard to locate, and highly prized. Now, after years of research, Pentrex has assembled an awesome collection of footage and still images of SP AC-1s through AC-12s spanning the years 1927 to 1956.
You’ll see Cab Forwards in service on the Overland Route, the San Joaquin Line, the Sunset Route, the Coast Route, the Shasta Route, and the Modoc Line. You’ll thrill to incredible images of Cab Forwards in the snow, on grades, bridges, and scenic valleys; running with mid-train and rear-end helpers; teamed with Black Widow F-units and GS-class helpers; and in meets with other CF’s. The locomotives shown include nearly every class of Articulated Consolidation SP ever rostered: the Baldwin-built Cab Forwards and the Lima-built 3900 class AC-9s. Historic stills of the original cab forwards, the Baldwin-built MC, MM, and AM class engines, are also featured. Plus, author Dr. Bob Church and photographer Stan Kistler provide insightful insiders’ views. This is the most comprehensive record of the legendary Cab Forwards ever presented on film and it belongs in every railfan’s collection!
DVD Special Features:
Chapter Menus provides instant access to program segments.
1 Hour 30 Minutes, plus 15 Minutes Bonus Footage
In Color and Black & White, with Hi-Fi Sound and Narration
Full-screen (4x3) Format
No region code; can be played in NTSC DVD players worldwide
Packaged in Sturdy Vinyl Clamshell Case
Produced by Pentrex 2007
As I am saving up my lunch money to one day buy a scale model of an AC-12, I believe that I will have to purchase this one, you know, for reference material.
Other Articles By Ken Hulsey: Why Is The CSX Intermodel Yard In Atlanta Named 'Hulsey'?......And Does Anybody Know? / Classic Locomotives, Including SP #4449 & SP&S #700, Featured On Portland Holiday Trains / Railroad Job Postings For December 2009 / The Cajon Pass Railroad Museum - The Birth Of A Dream / The Diesel Railroad Locomotive - From Box Cabs And The SD40 To The SD70 And Gensets / Railroad History - Fun Facts - The Modern Era (1980-Present) / Railroad History - Fun Facts - The Post-War Era (1945-1980) / Railroad News - Cumbres & Toltec - Photographers Special With K-36 Plow & Flanger
See Other Southern Pacific Items: Athearn HO Scale AC4400 Locomotive - Southern Pacific / MTH HO Scale GS-4 4-8-4 Locomotive - Southern Pacific/ Bachmann HO Scale 4-8-4 GS-4 Locomotive - American Freedom Train #4449 / Bachmann HO Scale 4-8-4 GS-4 Locomotive - Southern Pacific (War Baby) / Athearn HO Scale C44-9W Locomotive - Southern Pacific / Athearn HO Scale GP40-2 Locomotive - Southern Pacific / Athearn HO Scale Bay Window Caboose - Southern Pacific