Southern Pacific Transportation Company

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Southern Pacific Transportation Company
Southern Pacific Lines (logo).png
SP Map.png
SP system map (before the 1988 DRGW merger)
Headquarters San Francisco, California
Reporting mark SP
Locale Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Illinois, Kansas, Louisiana, Missouri, Nevada, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Oregon, Tennessee, Texas, Utah
Dates of operation18651996
Predecessor Central Pacific Railroad
Successors Santa Fe Pacific Corporation
Union Pacific Railroad
Track gauge 4 ft 8+12 in (1,435 mm) standard gauge with some 3 ft (914 mm) narrow gauge branches

The Southern Pacific( reporting mark SP) (or Espee from the railroad initials- SP) was an American Class I railroad network that existed from 1865 to 1996 and operated largely in the Western United States. The system was operated by various companies under the names Southern Pacific Railroad, Southern Pacific Company and Southern Pacific Transportation Company.


The original Southern Pacific began in 1865 as a land holding company. The last incarnation of the Southern Pacific, the Southern Pacific Transportation Company, was founded in 1969 and assumed control of the Southern Pacific system. The Southern Pacific Transportation Company was acquired in 1996 by the Union Pacific Corporation and merged with their Union Pacific Railroad.

The Southern Pacific legacy founded hospitals in San Francisco, Tucson, and Houston. In the 1970s, it also founded a telecommunications network with a state-of-the-art microwave and fiber optic backbone. This telecommunications network became part of Sprint, a company whose name came from the acronym for Southern Pacific Railroad Internal Networking Telephony. [1]


The original Southern Pacific, Southern Pacific Railroad, was founded as a land holding company in 1865, later acquiring the Central Pacific Railroad in 1885 through leasing. [2] [3] [4] By 1900, the Southern Pacific system was a major railroad system incorporating many smaller companies, such as the Texas and New Orleans Railroad and Morgan's Louisiana and Texas Railroad. It extended from New Orleans through Texas to El Paso, across New Mexico and through Tucson, to Los Angeles, through most of California, including San Francisco and Sacramento. Central Pacific lines extended east across Nevada to Ogden, Utah, and reached north through Oregon to Portland. Other subsidiaries eventually included the St. Louis Southwestern Railway (Cotton Belt), El Paso and Southwestern Railroad, the Northwestern Pacific Railroad at 328 miles (528 km), the 1,331-mile (2,142 km) Southern Pacific Railroad of Mexico, and a variety of 3 ft (914 mm) narrow gauge routes. The SP was the defendant in the landmark 1886 United States Supreme Court case Santa Clara County v. Southern Pacific Railroad , which is often interpreted as having established certain corporate rights under the Constitution of the United States. The Southern Pacific Railroad was replaced by the Southern Pacific Company and assumed the railroad operations of the Southern Pacific Railroad. In 1929, Southern Pacific/Texas and New Orleans operated 13,848 route-miles not including Cotton Belt, whose purchase of the Golden State Route circa 1980 nearly doubled its size to 3,085 miles (4,965 km), bringing total SP/SSW mileage to around 13,508 miles (21,739 km).

An EMD FP7 leads a Pacific Rail Society Special through Floriston, California, in February 1971. SP 6453 EB Floriston PRS spc Feb 1971.jpg
An EMD FP7 leads a Pacific Rail Society Special through Floriston, California, in February 1971.

In 1969, the Southern Pacific Transportation Company was established and took over the Southern Pacific Company; this Southern Pacific railroad is the last incarnation and was at times called "Southern Pacific Industries", though "Southern Pacific Industries" is not the official name of the company. By the 1980s, route mileage had dropped to 10,423 miles (16,774 km), mainly due to the pruning of branch lines. On October 13, 1988, the Southern Pacific Transportation Company (including its subsidiary, St. Louis Southwestern Railway) was taken over by Rio Grande Industries, the parent company that controlled the Denver and Rio Grande Western Railroad. Rio Grande Industries did not merge the Southern Pacific Transportation Company and the Denver and Rio Grande Western Railroad together, but transferred direct ownership of the Denver and Rio Grande Western Railroad to the Southern Pacific Transportation Company, allowing the combined Rio Grande Industries railroad system to use the Southern Pacific name due to its brand recognition in the railroad industry and with customers of both the Southern Pacific Transportation Company and the Denver and Rio Grande Western Railroad. A long time Southern Pacific subsidiary, the St. Louis Southwestern Railway was also marketed under the Southern Pacific name. Along with the addition of the SPCSL Corporation route from Chicago to St. Louis, the total length of the D&RGW/SP/SSW system was 15,959 miles (25,684 km). Rio Grande Industries was later renamed Southern Pacific Rail Corporation.

By 1996, years of financial problems had dropped Southern Pacific's mileage to 13,715 miles (22,072 km). The financial problems caused the Southern Pacific Transportation Company to be taken over by the Union Pacific Corporation; the parent Southern Pacific Rail Corporation (formerly Rio Grande Industries), the Denver and Rio Grande Western Railroad, the St. Louis Southwestern Railway and the SPCSL Corporation was also taken over by the Union Pacific Corporation. The Union Pacific Corporation merged the Denver and Rio Grande Western Railroad, the St. Louis Southwestern Railway and the SPCSL Corporation into their Union Pacific Railroad but did not merge the Southern Pacific Transportation Company into the Union Pacific Railroad. Instead, the Union Pacific Corporation merged the Union Pacific Railroad into the Southern Pacific Transportation Company on February 1, 1998; the Southern Pacific Transportation Company became the surviving railroad and at the same time the Union Pacific Corporation renamed the Southern Pacific Transportation Company to Union Pacific Railroad. Thus, the Southern Pacific Transportation Company became, and is still operating as, the current incarnation of the Union Pacific Railroad.

G. W. & C. B. Colton & Co. True Southern Pacific Railway c. 1881 UTA.jpg
G. W. & C. B. Colton, Map Showing the Line of the True Southern Pacific Railway, circa 1881


Like most railroads, the SP painted most of its steam locomotives black during the 20th century, but after 1945 SP painted the front of the locomotive's smokebox silver (almost white in appearance), with graphite colored sides, for visibility.

Some passenger steam locomotives bore the Daylight scheme, named after the trains they hauled, most of which had the word Daylight in the train name. The most famous "Daylight" locomotives were the GS-4 steam locomotives. The most famous Daylight-hauled trains were the Coast Daylight and the Sunset Limited.

Well known were the Southern Pacific's unique "cab-forward" steam locomotives. [5] These were 4-8-8-2, 2-8-8-2, and 4-6-6-2 (rebuilt from 2-6-6-2) locomotives set up to run in reverse, with the tender attached to the smokebox end of the locomotive. [5] Southern Pacific had a number of snow sheds in mountain terrain, and locomotive crews nearly asphyxiated from smoke in the cab. [5] After a number of engineers began running their engines in reverse (pushing the tender), Southern Pacific asked Baldwin Locomotive Works to produce cab-forward designs. [5] No other North American railroad ordered cab-forward locomotives.

Passenger train service

Until May 1, 1971 (when Amtrak took over long-distance passenger operations in the United States), the Southern Pacific at various times operated the following named passenger trains. Trains with names in italicized bold text still operate under Amtrak:

Locomotives used for passenger service

Steam locomotives

Diesel locomotives

Notable accidents

Sontag's partner in crime, Chris Evans also hated the Southern Pacific, which Evans accused of forcing farmers to sell their lands at reduced rates to the company. [8]
Site of the 1991 spill. The guardrail on the left was constructed after the spill. Cantara Loop 1.jpg
Site of the 1991 spill. The guardrail on the left was constructed after the spill.
The chemical plume left a 41 miles (66 km) wake of destruction from the spill site to the entry point of the river into Shasta Lake. [20] The accident still ranks as the largest hazardous chemical spill in California history. [19] At the time of the incident, metam sodium was not classified as a hazardous material.

Preserved locomotives

There are many Southern Pacific locomotives still in revenue service with railroads such as the Union Pacific Railroad, and many older and special locomotives have been donated to parks and museums, or continue operating on scenic or tourist railroads. Most of the engines now in use with Union Pacific have been "patched", where the SP logo on the front is replaced by a Union Pacific shield, and new numbers are applied over the old numbers with a Union Pacific sticker, however some engines remain in Southern Pacific "bloody nose" paint. Over the past couple years, most of the patched units were repainted into the full Union Pacific scheme and as of January 2019, less than ten units remain in their old paint. Among the more notable equipment is:

SP 1518 at IRM, July 2005 SP 1518 20050716 Illinois Railway Museum.JPG
SP 1518 at IRM, July 2005

For a complete list, see: List of preserved Southern Pacific Railroad rolling stock.

Honorary tribute

On August 19, 2006, UP unveiled a brand new EMD SD70ACe locomotive, Union Pacific 1996, as part of a new heritage program. It was the final unit in UP's Heritage Series of locomotives, and was painted in a color scheme inspired by the "Daylight" and "Black Widow" schemes.

Company officers


Chairmen of Executive Committee

Chairmen of Board of Directors

Notable employees

See also


  1. operated jointly with the Rock Island Railroad (1926–1938) [6]
  2. operated jointly with the Rock Island Railroad
  3. operates today as part of the Coast Starlight train
  4. operated jointly with the Chicago and North Western Railway and the Union Pacific Railroad; SP portion operates today as part of Amtrak's California Zephyr
  5. operates today as part of the Coast Starlight train
  6. proposed, was to have been operated jointly with the Chicago, Rock Island and Pacific Railroad
  7. operated jointly with the Chicago, Rock Island and Pacific Railroad
  8. operated jointly with the Rock Island Railroad 1946–1967) [6]
  9. operated until 1985, now Caltrain
  10. operated jointly with the Chicago and North Western Railway and the Union Pacific Railroad
  11. operated from 1927 till 1949 as an international train under the subsidiary Southern Pacific Railroad of Mexico between Tucson and Guadalajara, featuring through sleepers from Los Angeles to Mexico City
  12. operated from 1927 till 1951 as an international train under the subsidiary Southern Pacific Railroad of Mexico between Tucson and Guadalajara
  13. see SP 6051
  14. SSW only
  15. see SP 5623
  16. see SP 4450
  17. leased from Amtrak

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<span class="mw-page-title-main">Southern Pacific 9010</span> Preserved Krauss-Maffei ML 4000 CC diesel-hydraulic locomotive

Southern Pacific 9010 is a KM ML 4000 C'C' diesel-hydraulic locomotive, built in 1964 by German manufacturer Krauss-Maffei for the Southern Pacific Railroad. SP 9010 generated 4,000 horsepower (3,000 kW) from two 2,000-horsepower (1,500 kW) V16 Maybach MD870 diesel engines. It was painted to Southern Pacific's 1958 standard, the so-called "bloody nose" colors of Scarlet and Lark Dark Gray, for its entire operating career. It was renumbered to SP 9113 in late 1965, rebuilt extensively at SP's Sacramento General Shops during the latter half of 1966, and was initially retired in 1968. It was revived and rebuilt by Sacramento General Shops into a "camera car" for the purpose of shooting motion picture background plates for a ground-based full-motion locomotive training simulator. As camera car number 8799, it was retired in 1984 and donated to the California State Railroad Museum in Sacramento, California. It was de-accessioned by CSRM and acquired by the Pacific Locomotive Association and moved to the Niles Canyon Railway's Brightside, California rail yard in the summer of 2008. At the date of its inception, its type represented the highest-horsepower six-axle diesel locomotives in the world. SP 9010 is the sole surviving ML 4000 C'C' built for use in North America, and the sole surviving mainline diesel-hydraulic locomotive in North America.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Krauss-Maffei ML 4000</span>

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<span class="mw-page-title-main">Arizona and California Railroad</span> Short line railroad in the Southwestern United States

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The history of the Southern Pacific stretches from 1865 to 1998. For the main page, see Southern Pacific Transportation Company; for the former holding company, see Southern Pacific Rail Corporation.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Southern Pacific 1744</span> Preserved SP M-6 class 2-6-0 locomotive

Southern Pacific No. 1744 is a preserved American class "M-6" 2-6-0 "Mogul" type steam locomotive built by the Baldwin Locomotive Works for the Southern Pacific Railroad in November 1901. Originally equipped with Vauclain compound cylinders, it was rebuilt with conventional cylinders in 1912. It operated for many years out of Oakland, California on the Southern Pacific's Western Division and in California's Central Valley where the locomotive and its classmates were fondly called “Valley Mallets” by their crews. The locomotive was made famous in later years by pulling some of the last steam excursions on the SP alongside other steam locomotives, including 4-8-4 4460. In 1959, No. 1744 was donated to the Sons of Utah Pioneers in Corinne, Utah where it remained on static display, until 1980. That year, it was restored by New London Railroad and Village Incorporated to operate on the Heber Valley Railroad in Heber City for the rest of the decade. In 1989, it was sold to Tarantula Corporation for a rebuild that never came to fruition, and it spent another decade in storage in Fort Worth, Texas. In 1999, it was sold again the Rio Grande Pacific Corporation, and it was restored to operate in New Orleans, Louisiana until 2001. It was eventually sold once again to Iowa Pacific Holdings for use on the Rio Grande Scenic Railroad between Alamosa and La Veta, Colorado. However, its fourth return to service only lasted less than a year, as firebox repairs needed to be done for the locomotive. The boiler was sent to several out of state facilities for repairs, until the Rio Grande Scenic ceased operations. In March 2020, the Pacific Locomotive Association purchased No. 1744 with the hopes of bringing it back to service on the Niles Canyon Railway in Sunol, California.


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