Santa Fe 4-8-4 3751

The Santa Fe 3751 is a 4-8-4 steam locomotive, which is among the half-dozen such locomotives owned by the AT&SF. The Atchison, Topeka & Santa Fe Railway was a pioneer in developing better steam locomotives in the era of the presidency of Edward H. Ripley, who served from 1895 to 1920.

In 1903, AT&SF developed the 2-10-2 wheel configuration, affectionately known as the Santa Fe model. In 1918, Santa Fe bought two 3700 class 4-8-2 Mountain locomotives as the passenger cars transitioned to all-steel design, demanding more powerful locomotives. In 1927, the Santa Fe transitioned to 4-8-2 engines. The Santa Fe received locomotives with higher tractive effort prior to the other western rivals.

Santa Fe started an upgraded program on ten of the fourteen 4-8-4s in 1938. Some of these upgrades included new axles, and brand new 80-inch Boxpok drive wheels, and Timken roller bearings. After retirement, the Santa Fe 3751 was saved from the scrapper’s torch and given to the city of San Bernardino. It was displayed for several years after being restored to service in the early 1990s by the San Bernardino Railroad Historical Society.

ATSF 3751
Ed Gately Photo

The locomotive still makes appearances from its own home in Los Angeles occasionally, pulling trips or assisting in the education of the public at large regarding railroads. Many railroads having given their 4-8-4s various names like Westerns and Niagaras, the AT&SF stuck with the classic ‘Northern’ moniker.

In terms of pure aesthetics, the Northern was among the most attractive and fastest steam locomotives ever built. The Northern Pacific Railway gave steam locomotives the “Northern” name because it required a bigger firebox to burn the low-grade coal prevalent along the track. The flexibility of the 4-8-4 wheel configuration contributed to its success. It was equally able to bring a time-sensitive passenger train zipping along at 70+ mph or carrying a heavy freight train up steep gradients.

With over 1,000 locomotives manufactured for 36 different railroads, the Northern was among the most successful designs of all time due to its adaptability and implementation of cutting-edge technology. The AT&SF owned fourteen 4-8-4s, numbered between 3751 and 3764.

The locomotives, each constructed by Baldwin, had 66,000 pounds of tractive effort, 73-inch drivers, and 210 pound-per-square-inch of boiler pressure. The 3751, like Santa Fe’s first 4-8-4, had a max horsepower of 3,220 HP at 40 mph. The manufacturer stated the maximum speed was 70 mph, but it was measured at 103 mph in 1941 after obtaining new 80-inch drivers in that same year.

Despite the fact that this early 4-8-4s had lower boiler pressures compared to those used by other railroads, Santa Fe found them to fit their needs quite well. This is especially true after ATSF 3751 effectively demonstrated its performance against a 4-8-2 Mountain on Santa Fe’s Raton Pass route between Albuquerque, Colorado, and La Junta.

Santa Fe 4-8-4
Drew Jacksich Photo

Santa Fe 3751 Restoration

The San Bernardino Railroad Historical Society was established in 1981 to preserve and run the 3751. They were finally able to purchase the locomotive four years later for just one cent! This was on the basis that it be restored and operated by the SBRHS. 3751 was transferred from its exhibition location to California Steel Industries in 1986.

And after 38 years, it operated under its own power on August 13, 1991. On December 27, 1991, it then embarked on its debut run, traveling from L.A to Bakersfield using two Santa Fe EMD FP45 locomotives and 16 passenger cars. It has since been used for various outings and trips and presentations on a variety of occasions.

The San Bernardino Railroad Historical Society’s volunteers were honored for their hard work when Santa Fe No. 3751 was fired up for the first time since December 2017. The locomotive has been out of operation ever since the end of 2017, receiving its mandatory 1,472-inspection mandated by the Federal Railroad Administration.

Santa Fe steam locomotive
Drew Jacksich Photo

The celebration, which took place on a hot summer day in downtown Los Angeles, concluded with the locomotive’s primary safety valve discharging and the locomotive’s six-chime sound whistle reverberating off neighboring structures. The 280 flues and tubes were withdrawn from the boiler during this refurbishment, the locomotive’s second during the SBRHS control.

The purpose of the rebuild was to remove compromised components and to make ultrasonic measurements. The high cost of new boiler material was covered mainly due to grants and the kind help of historical society volunteers. With the boiler empty, the steam team took this opportunity to replace the actual water distribution gear, which was showing signs of wear. As water is fed into the boiler, the water distributor guarantees that it is distributed evenly.

After completing a successful steam test, the San Bernardino steam crew intends on completing the overhaul. Insulation, painting, re-assembly of dozens of pipes and other appliances, and re-installation of 75 pieces of freshly painted boiler casing were all part of the project.

Santa Fe train
Drew Jacksich Photo

Santa Fe 3751 Whistles

The locomotive has had a series of whistles through the years; when it was introduced in 1927 from Baldwin, it had a Santa Fe 5-chime which is likely an LM-191 whistle for the passenger. It was modified with a smaller LM-192 whistle with a higher pitch shortly after the 1941 overhaul. In 1995, the LM-192 whistle was substituted with a Santa Fe 6-chime whistle from a 2900-series 4-8-4, built by Baldwin around 1943 to 1944

The Santa Fe 6-chime is currently still present on the locomotive today. The AT&SF is believed to use the LM-540 on later years steam locomotives after 1931. Therefore, this adjustment was motivated mainly by a desire for genuineness.


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