Diesels with Trolley Poles – Trains

Diesels with Trolley Poles: Intercity railroads usually had some form of freight traffic supplementing their passenger business, but almost none could come close to the Pacific Electric Railway, Southern California’s first streetcar system. A subsidiary of Southern Pacific, even after the company ceased carrying passengers, cargo service continued apace until the very end of its corporate identity when it was integrated into the operations of the owner Southern Pacific.

Diesels with trolley poles weren’t just Pacific Electric’s domain. Far in Utah, Bamberger Railroad Alco RS1 570 lies under the wire in September 1948. Better known as interurban, the line had considerable freight traffic switched by 570 and a pair of EMD switches. The unit was re-engined with an EMD diesel and rebuilt in 1950. It eventually ended up on Union Pacific and became their 1270. It lasted until 1972 before becoming rework fodder. –Robert Townley; Lloyd Transport Library

Black and white switch locomotive with carriage pole.

Baldwin locomotive with extended carriage post pulling refrigerated cars.

Dominguez Junction, just north of Long Beach, is where Don Sims caught a slice of reefer in the 1950s riding behind a 1,000hp Baldwin VO1000 1326. Note this maze of telephone poles mixed with overhead railway cables.

Baldwin locomotive with extended carriage post pulling refrigerated cars.

Baldwin locomotive with carriage posts at either end.

This is the Southern Pacific Baldwin DRS-6-6-1500 5212 emblazoned with PE letters at the State Street Yard just east of downtown Los Angeles in the early 1950s. These were the largest diesel locomotives bearing the inscription PE. They quickly reverted to SP lettering. Joe Strapac Collection.

Baldwin locomotive with carriage posts at either end.

Baldwin locomotive with elongated carriage post hauling a freight train.

This is the first 1,000 horsepower Baldwin switch from the South Pacific, now bearing Pacific Electric lettering, working a freight train through San Marino, California, in March 1951. The 1320 was part of the initial order of 10 Baldwin , numbered 1320-1329 which roughly remained in Southern California. –Craig Rasmussen; Joe Strapac Collection.

Baldwin locomotive with elongated carriage post hauling a freight train.

Modified gasoline powered doodlebug with trolley pole.

PE had a pair of these scaled down gas powered doodlebugs working as switches. On September 8, 1946, No. 1648 was between races in the town of San Fernando in the northern part of the San Fernando Valley. A dispatcher assigned here was busy with the myriad of citrus packing plants online. HL Kelso; Joe Strapac collection

Modified gasoline powered doodlebug with trolley pole.

Side view of a modified petrol doodlebug with trolley pole.

The #1649 doodlebug coupé sister was photographed 50 miles away in Orange, Calif., in neighboring Orange County in 1950. It was rumored that the modified “locomotives” were not liked by crews. Robert Townley; Lloyd’s Transport Library.

Side view of a modified petrol doodlebug with trolley pole.

EMD locomotive with extended carriage post pulling a freight train.

A marvelous 1956 West Hollywood street scene, EMD SW1 1007 works along Santa Monica Boulevard, west of downtown Los Angeles. The carriage post lying on the locomotive cab is responsible for activating the crossing signals. Notice the PE caboose without a cupola. –Craig Rasmussen; Joe Strapac collection

EMD locomotive with extended carriage post pulling a freight train.

Southern Pacific EMD SW1 1016 – A painter’s nightmare with all those orange safety stripes in West Hollywood in June 1956. Next to it is one of a baker’s twelve homemade electrical appliances from the 1920s. You can see the 1624 Electric Sister now in the Southern California Railway Museum – John Shaw; Joe Strapac Collection.

EMD diesel locomotive with carriage pole.

EMD locomotive with extended carriage mast pulling boxcars.

Southern Pacific TR6A 4603 was one of the most modern diesels assigned to PE work. They switch near Butte St. Yard just south of Los Angeles in March 1954. The EMD TR6 “cow” is a standard SW8 equipped with mu controls to operate a set of TR6B “calf” switches. Robert B. Townley; Lloyd’s Transport Library.

EMD locomotive with extended carriage mast pulling boxcars.

EMD locomotive with extended carriage post pulling freight train through switches.

Southern Pacific TR6A 4603 was one of the most modern diesels assigned to PE work. They switch near Butte St. Yard just south of Los Angeles in March 1954. The EMD TR6 “cow” is a standard SW8 equipped with mu controls to operate a set of TR6B “calf” switches. Robert B. Townley; Lloyd’s Transport Library.

EMD locomotive with extended carriage post pulling freight train through switches.

General Electric mid-cab locomotive with carriage post.

PE’s GE 44 tons were delivered during World War II in a red livery similar to its tramcars. #1653 was taking a break near downtown Los Angeles in the early 1950s. – Collection of the Lloyd Transportation Library. 1654 was a San Bernardino, Calif. carriage barn on April 20, 1950. RE Smith; Joe Strapac Collection.

General Electric mid-cab locomotive with carriage post.

General Electric mid-cab locomotive with carriage post.

PE’s GE 44 tons were delivered during World War II in a red livery similar to its tramcars. #1653 was taking a break near downtown Los Angeles in the early 1950s. – Collection of the Lloyd Transportation Library. 1654 was a San Bernardino, Calif. carriage barn on April 20, 1950. RE Smith; Joe Strapac Collection.

General Electric mid-cab locomotive with carriage post.

Baldwin diesel locomotive with carriage post extended.

Pacific Electric 1325 is actually Southern Pacific 1325 re-lettered for toll service, a practice which was later abandoned when leased units began to keep SP on their flanks. The 1000 horsepower Baldwin VO 1000 drifts through Azusa, California toward its next job. – Walter H. Vielbaum; Joe Strapac Collection.

Baldwin diesel locomotive with carriage post extended.

EMD locomotive with two carriage posts.

Portland Traction Company had this sleek late model EMD SW1. Tom Gray photographed it in Portland, Oregon in 1958. It still operates today for the Oregon Pacific Railroad.

EMD locomotive with two carriage posts.

With freight traffic sometimes overwhelming its fleet of freight engines, South Pacific steam engines could frequently be seen on the PE, and during World War II its Los Angeles-San Bernardino line literally became the secondary main line east -west of SP. For those who have seen it, a PE freight motor – with both extra tractive effort and the trolley poles to activate signals and crossing protection – mated to a number of wheel arrangements steam engine, was a sight not to be forgotten.

With the decline of steam power in the 1950s, PE leased various SP diesels to move its freight trains. A few were relettered for intercity, while most retained their South Pacific identity on their flanks. There was, however, one critical addition that steamships never had. Trolley poles! No, the diesels weren’t dual power locomotives, but the poles were still needed to run the line without veering onto a juice locomotive to activate the signals.

Over the years, a variety of turnouts and road switches have criss-crossed the Pacific Electric, including those from Baldwin, GE, and EMD. Here’s a little variety of what those diesels looked like with cart posts. And yes, other railroads also had diesels with carriage poles, but nothing like the amount in service in Southern California.

Units fitted with trolley poles, whether branded Southern Pacific or Pacific Electric, included five 380-hp GE 44-ton switches, 660-hp Baldwin VO660 and 1,000-hp VO1000 switches, and a handful of road switches from 1500 and 1600 horsepower. A number of 660 horsepower EMD SW1s were also fitted. PE also listed a shortened gas-electric pair.

For the record, other units, without carriage posts, included 800hp SW8 SPs, 1,000hp NW2s and a few 800hp TR6A EMDs, the latter delivered as SW8 cow-calf sets, the units cabs remaining in Southern California and TR6B calves assigned to the Roseville, Calif. yard service as multiple units with standard SW8s. And of course, always a collector of unusual driving power, PE also had a 225-horsepower Plymouth tri-axle end cab switch. This strange duck, #1647, was used on an isolated stretch of track in San Fernando to serve the citrus packing plants.

About Jun Quentin

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