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Railfair 1995

In March of 1995, the California State Railroad Museum in Sacramento invited us to bring the 5623 to their annual mini-Railfair. Thereupon began a 7 day a week push to finish a few hundred details and get her ready for her first public outing. Not only that, she would be back on home rails for the first time in over 3 years. This was an opportunity too good to pass up. And so, on June 12, 1995, she was interchanged to the S.P. and put to bed for the night in the Oakland Diesel Shop. Well, that was the plan at any rate. Fortunately, a good friend who has since retired, brought her out for my son to take some night shots of the ghostly visitor. SP5623 had been here many times during the past 40 years and this night could have been like any other. The 5623 glistened in the company of locomotives too modern for the period but she was the star of the evening. All 5 of the following photographs were taken by Brian T. Wise.

At this time, Errol was engineer on the Ozol job which was bulletined from Oakland to Roseville. He normally went to work in Ozol, got the power, brought it to Oakland for servicing if required and then went back to Ozol to pick up his train. The plan was that he would come to Oakland as usual but would pick up the 5623 and use it as the lead unit on the train. The train for that day consisted of 2 well worn Geeps, SP3852, SP3873 and 6415 tons of train. Errol coupled into the train at Ozol, worked between there and Suisun, then left the cars at Tolenas, between Suisun and Canon, and ran the 3 units light to Sacramento. After dropping the 5623 off, the crew returned to Tolenas to finish the days work.

While waiting for Errol to arrive with our "escort" power, I managed to round up most of the roundhouse crew and got them to pose with the 5623. I am proud to say that a copy of the photo hangs on the West Oakland roundhouse office wall to this day. My photo.

Pinole is the site of this great spot made famous in years past by the great rail photographer Fred Matthews. Back in the late 1950's, Fred photographed the 5623 on the head end of the Senator in the same spot, but I have been unable to get permission to use the photo on the web site. Perhaps some day that will come to pass. Brian T. Wise photo.

Seen in front of the Martinez station, the 5623 and the two trailing geeps are in in run 4. Yet to come is the run 8 charge up the incline to the Martinez bridge. As it turned out, the 2 Geeps assigned to the job would not have been up to the task of the bridge approach. The two together did not put out sufficient horsepower in the first place and the 3873 was not loading fully. The 5623 had to work. And work she did. Brian T. Wise photo.

Barely visible behind the tangle of antique bridge iron are 3 relics in charge of 6415 tons of train. In another quarter mile, once clear of the bridge's 30 mile per hour speed limit, engineer Ohman will begin to widen out on the throttle of the 5623 and the the trailing units will obey the command passed through the MU cables. Don Buchholz photo.

On the east end of the bridge, probably no more than 30 seconds after Don Buchholz snapped the photo above, the 5623 and her helpers dragged the 32 loads and 6 empties off the span. You can see the wisp of black exhaust from the stacks of the 3852 as her governor forced her to load harder and make up for the lagging 3873. The clear stacks of the 5623 are a testament to the condition of her engine and electrical system. Brian T. Wise photo.

The classic Davis depot forms the background for the 5623 and friends. Except for the truck in the foreground, one would be hard pressed to put a year on this image. Brian T. Wise photo.

Sacramento at last! The three Geeps emerge from under the "I" Street Bridge approach structure and coast past the east end of the passenger train platforms. Brian T. Wise photo.

My favorite photograph to come out of Railfair '95 is this one. It represents two things to me. First, here within arms reach of each other are S.P.'s 3 major pre-1959 paint schemes. Tiger stripe on Baldwin switcher 5208, Black Widow on Geep 5623 and most well known of all, Daylight on E9, 6051. Second, the photo spans the gamut of passenger power from the utilitarian geep to the twin engine epitome of the diesel age. Photo by Brian T. Wise

There's lots of black and orange in these photos. CSRM's beautifully restored Baldwin AS615 switcher looks great coupled to the 5623. Who knows, they easily could have been in the same place at the same time within the past 40 years. Left photo by Russ Gaal. Right photo is mine.

While not a passenger locomotive, CSRM's Santa Fe F7 number 347C still brings to mind the legions of boiler equipped 4 axle cab units that once pulled America's passenger trains. "E" units were a dedicated luxury, but the "F"'s and Geeps were everywhere, doing everything. Aaron Stout photo.

One of the fun things we got to do that weekend was provide the power for the CSRM's Sacramento Southern passenger train.The excursion train departs from the boarding area at the reconstructed Central Pacific freight station. My photo

Another cool thing was spinning the 5623 on CSRM's turntable.    Photo by Dave Maffei.

The car of military vehicles immediately behind the 5623 were from a military historical group who had equipment on display during the weekend. Here, we are crossing Capitol Avenue with Errol in the engineer's seat, entering the museum grounds. Shortly after this, the 5623 suffered her first (and God knows, I hope only) road failure. First and third photos by Aaron Stout, center photo is mine.

Unknown to us, during the 8 month rebuild and repainting operation, algae had infested the fuel tank of the 5623. Shortly after our one run on the Sacramento Southern, she began starving for fuel and would not stay running. This should have been no big deal and should have easily corrected by changing all the filters but should did not work that day. As it turned out, the algae had worked it's way into the injectors and plugged their screen filters. Jim Plunkett photo.

So, we spent the rest of the weekend on display, and probably had more fun anyway. I am sure that many hundreds of visitors did as they got to tour the cab and hear all our tales about railroading. My photo.

Having visitors line up to pass through the cab was kind of a surprise but a lot of fun. Plenty of questions to be answered and photos to be taken. By the way, the large holes in the roof of the 6051 were due to the radiator hatches being taken out in order to remove the stacks (mufflers) from both engines. They had devoloped serious cracks and had to be removed to be repaired. My photos.

Another photo showing counterpoint in orange. Western Pacific F7 913, Southern Pacific E9 6051 and Southern Pacific GP9 5623. Brian T. Wise photo.

A shot I could not resist. 1955 vintage passenger power coupled to 1995 technology. A world of difference in implementation but identical in purpose. My photo.

The littlest railfan making a valiant effort to get that foot up on the step. Of course, grandpa eventually helped him so the other photo could be taken of Matthew and his dad. His dad Brian is the one who is responsible for all the beautiful lettering work on the 5623 and many of the photos seen throughout this site. My photos.

What we have here is a classic case of "stuff happens". One of the locomotives on display was the Santa Fe 1010, the famous Death Valley Scotty engine. At one point, it became necessary to couple it into the 5623 and this was the result. That long, pointy cow catcher on the 1010 stuck out just far enough to bend up the steam connection cover on the 5623. Oh well, another day, another ding. My photo.

If the depth of field on my camera was a bit better and the 3852 had not been bouncing around quite as much, you could see that the speedometer needle is pointing at 65mph. A worn out old geep at that speed is a real adventure in movement. When it is not bouncing up and down with a slight rotary motion, it is banging side to side. But Errol, in the cab ahead, has a grin a mile wide. And, if I said that I was not having fun, I would be lying. My photo.

Rod Ciganovich caught the 5623 near Davis, scooting along at track speed, on her way back to Oakland on June 19. Although dead internally from the fuel algae problem, she could still operate as lead unit in MU with the trailing geeps.

Jim Bartolotta captured this beautiful shot as we set out our train in the siding at Bahia.  I notice that I can see my arm out the window of the second unit from which I took the window photo above.  The arm in the cab window of the 5623 belongs to Errol.

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