Southern Pacific class GS-4

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Southern Pacific GS-4
Night session june 23 2011 033xRP - Flickr - drewj1946.jpg
SP 4449, the youngest (and sole-remaining) GS-4 locomotive, under steam in Tacoma, WA in June, 2011.
Type and origin
Power typeSteam
BuilderLima Locomotive Works
Serial number7798–7817, 7848–7855
Build dateApril–May 1941 (20), March–April 1942 (8)
Total produced28
 • Whyte4-8-4
 • UIC2′D2′ h2
Gauge4 ft 8 12 in (1,435 mm) standard gauge
Driver dia.80 in (2,032 mm)
Wheelbase88.23 ft (26.89 m)
Axle load69,000 lb (31,000 kg; 31 t)
Adhesive weight275,700 lb (125,100 kg; 125.1 t)
Loco weight475,000 lb (215,000 kg; 215 t)
Total weight788,730 lb (357,760 kg; 357.76 t)
Fuel typeFuel oil
Fuel capacity6,275 US gal (23,750 l; 5,225 imp gal)
Water cap23,300 US gal (88,000 l; 19,400 imp gal)
 • Firegrate area
90.4 sq ft (8.40 m2)
Boiler pressure300 psi (2.07 MPa)
Heating surface4,887 sq ft (454.0 m2)
 • Heating area2,086 sq ft (193.8 m2)
CylindersTwo, outside
Cylinder size25 12 in × 32 in (648 mm × 813 mm)
Valve gearWalschaerts
Valve typePiston
Performance figures
Maximum speed110 mph (180 km/h)
Tractive effort66,326 lbf (295.03 kN), 78,000 lbf (346.96 kN) with booster
OperatorsSouthern Pacific Company
First runApril 1941
RetiredOctober 1958
RestoredApril 21, 1975
Disposition#4449 restored, remainder scrapped

The GS-4 is a streamlined 4-8-4 Northern type steam locomotive used on the Southern Pacific Company from 1941 to 1958. They were built by the Lima Locomotive Works and were numbered 4430 through 4457. "GS" stands for "Golden State" or "General Service."


Unlike the GS-3, the GS-4 had a dual-headlight casing (top headlight was a mars light) on the silver smokebox. Another change was the all-weather cab. It retained the skyline casing atop of the boiler, skirting on the sides, an air horn to supplement the whistle and teardrop classification lights. They carried the orange and red "Daylight" paint scheme.

The GS-4s were passenger engines capable of 110 mph (180 km/h), though timetable speed limit never exceeded 75 mph or 121 km/h. Southern Pacific's premier passenger trains were pulled by GS-4s, the Coast Daylight, San Joaquin Daylight, Lark, Cascade, Golden State and Sunset Limited. During wartime and in the first years after the war some of the GS-4 locomotives were painted black; by 1948 all had been repainted into Daylight colors. Starting in 1947 most were painted black again and had their side skirts removed for easier maintenance, and were reassigned to the San Jose-San Francisco commuter trains, freight service and the occasional San Joaquin Daylight (steam locomotives remained on that train as late as 1956 which made the San Joaquin Daylight the last streamliner train to be pulled by steam on the Southern Pacific) until new diesels arrived and they were retired. The last GS-4 engines were deskirted and painted black in 1956; a GS-4 pulled its last passenger train in October 1958. All were retired by 1958. GS-4 number 4443 pulled one of the final steam excursions on the Southern Pacific in 1957, and appeared in the opening credits of the Frank Sinatra film Pal Joey. SP 4449 (Southern Pacific 4449) appeared in the 1986 movie Tough Guys as the Gold Coast Flyer. In the screenplay, the 4449 was hijacked, and then crashed through the Mexican border in the movie; however, a wooden and fabric full-size scale model was used to depict the crash. The actual SP 4449 was returned unscathed to the private group that owned it. An unknown GS-4 appeared in the movie Dear Heart as the 20th century limited, and another GS-4 appeared as the main setting for Strangers on a Train (film).


Southern Pacific 4449 is the only surviving GS-4 locomotive and is one of the most recognizable locomotives of all time. She was donated to the City of Portland in 1958 and moved to Oaks Amusement Park for static display until December of 1974 when the locomotive was removed from the park to undergo restoration. From August 1975 to December 1976, 4449 shared duties with several other steam locomotives pulling the American Freedom Train throughout the U.S. 4449 is still operational and since mid-2012 resides at the Oregon Rail Heritage Center in Portland along with other preserved locomotives and rolling stock.

The tender of SP 4444 (the last GS-4 to be scrapped) was rebuilt by SP and used as a "hammer car" to test impacts on hydracushion boxcars; it was scrapped in the early 1970s.


  • Church, Robert J. (2004). Southern Pacific Daylight Locomotives (1st ed.). Signature Press. ISBN 1-930013-11-6.
  • Diebert, Timothy S. & Strapac, Joseph A. (1987). Southern Pacific Company Steam Locomotive Compendium. Shade Tree Books. ISBN 0-930742-12-5.
  • The American Freedom Train Foundation (1975). The American Freedom Train Official Commemorative Program 1975 / 1976. The American Freedom Train Foundation.

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