Southern Pacific 745
SP 745 receiving visitors at "The Butterfly", Audubon Park, New Orleans, 2007
Southern Pacific 745 is Mikado-type steam locomotive that was fabricated at the Southern Pacific Railroad’s Algiers Shops at Algiers Point directly across the Mississippi River from New Orleans. With a 2-8-2 wheel configuration, 745 was built as a freight engine for the Southern Pacific Railroad Company. The locomotive returned to service in 2004 after a restoration period and is now housed on a short spur line in suburban Jefferson Parish.
- First and foremost, the Mikado-type locomotive is considered by many to be the classic American freight locomotive from the golden age of steam locomotives, before Diesel-electric locomotives became widely used. About one out of every five locomotives in service on North American railroads was a Mikado or MacArthur.
- Second, despite well over 10,000 Mikados being built for American use, according to SteamLocomotive.com, only 12 remain capable of operating on standard railroad tracks (others are smaller, narrow-gauge locomotives and a few are tank locomotive, designed only for short-range operation).
- Third, SP 745 is a "Harriman Standard Mikado". Railroad tycoon E. H. Harriman obtained control of the Southern Pacific and several other major railroads, and then insisted that all of them have their new locomotives built to more-or-less standard designs for each type, based on the best features known at the time. The Harriman standard Mikados, including SP 745 and the other members of Southern Pacific's Mk-5 class designed in 1913, were the first great attempt at standardizing the main freight locomotive. (The other great standardized version was the USRA Light Mikado design produced by a government committee during World War I.)
- Finally, SP 745 is the last surviving steam locomotive built in Louisiana. It was one of a small batch of steam locomotives that the Southern Pacific built essentially from spare parts after World War I. The railroad built 745 and her sisters mostly at its Algiers shops in New Orleans. Number 745 was built in 1921, based on the 1913 Mk-5 class design.
Although the Algiers Shops' primary function was the repair and service of locomotives, the demands of World War I caused the Shop to begin limited construction of locomotives. Among these were the Southern Pacific Class MK5 Mikado-type locomotives numbered 739 to 750. Of the twelve locomotive, 745 is only known to have survived.
SP 745 transported primarily freight (owing to its relatively slow speed capabilities) throughout Louisiana and Texas during its tenure from 1921 until 1956. However, the locomotive was also used to transport soldiers during World War II. Although it was always painted "Southern Pacific" or "Southern Pacific Lines", it actually worked for SP subsidiaries. The state of Texas had a law that required railroads operating in the state to be based there. SP owned the Galveston, Harrisburg, & San Antonio, and sent 745 to work for it. Later 745 worked for another Texas-based, SP-owned line, the Texas and New Orleans Railroad . In these roles 745 operated mostly between east Texas and the east end of the SP system in New Orleans.
In 1956, the locomotive completed its final journey by its own steam when it retired to Audubon Park in Uptown New Orleans, where it remained until 1984.
After Southern Pacific retired 745 in 1956, it was donated and placed on display in Audubon Park in New Orleans. It remained there until 1984, when it was removed to make room for expansion of the Audubon Zoo. Ownership was transferred to the Old Kenner Railroad Association (OKRA). After OKRA disbanded, Louisiana Railway Heritage Trust assumed ownership. The locomotive is currently leased to the Louisiana Steam Train Association (LASTA). In 2001, they had obtained enough donations and grants to begin a several year restoration project with volunteers and professional crews.
In December 2004, SP 745 conducted its first main-line operations in forty-eight years, running to Reserve, LA and back over the Kansas City Southern Railway with William H. Johnson, engineer and David Bartee, fireman, as engine crew. Since then SP 745 has visited many areas around the state of Louisiana and southwest Mississippi as well as Kansas City, Missouri. Each year during Gretna Fest each year, 745 finds itself only a few miles from its birthplace on the old SP line.
SP 745 has been used in several films, including two major motion picture, the Brad Pitt / Cate Blanchett movie The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, for which it was painted to look like a Southern Railway locomotive, and Jonah Hex, where it took on characteristics of a much older locomotive.
Pictures of SP 745 are available by its road number on Railpictures.net.
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Southern Pacific 745.|
- "National Register of Historic Preservation". National Park Service. 1998. Retrieved 18 May 2016.
- "Louisiana Division of Historic Preservation". State of Louisiana. 1998. Retrieved 18 May 2016.
- Drury, George H (1993). Guide to North American Steam Locomotives.
- Edward Weinstein. "SteamLocomotive.com". Retrieved 18 May 2016.