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Built new as Sierra Railway No. 12, Jamestown, CA
Note: This is the oldest operable 3-truck Shay in the world.
Shay No. 12
By C. G. Heimerdinger, Jr.
Shay locomotive Number 12 is without doubt, one of the most historic items of rail equipment owned by the Pacific Locomotive Association. Built by Lima in 1903, she is the oldest three truck Shay known to exist. In fact, there are only two other two truck Shays that are known to be older than the Number 12.
Shay Number 12 was to be the third Shay locomotive to be acquired by the Sierra Railroad. In 1902, they had acquired the Number 10, and in the following year, the number 11 and 12 were acquired. The builder's number for the Number 12 is 789. She was Sierra's only three truck geared locomotive.
It appears that the Number 12 was originally purchased for use on the mainline between Jamestown and Tuolumne, California. It must be kept in mind that the heaviest rod power on the Sierra in 1903 was 4-6-0 number 3, which has the honor of still being active on the Sierra. While probably being built for mainline service, it is known that the 12 also spent time working the Angels Camp branch.
During the construction of the Hetch Hetchy Dam, the Number 12 spent a considerable amount of time being leased to the Hetch Hetchy Railroad for use on the heavy grades between Mather and the Dam site. When that project neared completion in 1924, the Number 12 was sold to the Pickering Lumber Company, which had a large mill in the Sierra Nevada mountains at the town of Standard.
In 1924, the Pickering still operated the mill and their logging railroad under the name of Standard Lumber Company, and it was this name that was applied to the tank of the locomotive. Not only did the Number 12 receive a new name, but a new color as well. In 1924, the standard color for Standard Lumber Company locomotives was Burgundy Red. When the Pickering Lumber Company consolidated all of their holdings under their own name in 1926, they retained the Burgundy Red color, but applied the new name on the locomotive.
During the early 1930's, as a result of the Great Depression, the Pickering Lumber Company failed and went into bankruptcy. It was not until 1936 or 1937 that the lumber company and its railroad reorganized under the name of the Pickering Lumber Corporation, and again commenced operations. The "new" company did not retain the former Pickering colors, and the Number 12 was again painted in the more standard locomotive black.
By the early 1950's, Shay 12 spent most of its active time working as a mill switcher at Standard. That job came to an end when Pickering acquired its first diesels in 1956, and the locomotive was sent to the "dead" line where she joined the three truck Heislers and 2T Shay Number 3.
In 1958, the Number 12, along with most of the three truck Heislers, were sold to an individual who intended to sell them to a buyer in Cuba. At about the same time, [Fidel] Castro came to power and the sales effort to Cuba failed. Instead, the four locomotives were moved to a space behind the Connell Truck Company in Stockton, California where they were to remain "for sale" for a number of years.
By 1965, the locomotives were in the possession of the Connell Truck Company and were in the way of a planned expansion of their facility. Only one of the locomotives, Heisler Number 1, had been sold, when we approached Connell about the possible donation of Heisler 5 and Shay 12. The one remaining Heisler, the Number 10, was donated to a group in Southern California.
The big problem was in the moving of the locomotives to Castro Point in Richmond, California where we had established our "museum" in early 1967. The original plan called for trucking the locomotives to a railhead in Stockton and then loading them on flatcars for the move to Richmond. However, we ran into problems in loading on our first attempt and the entire operation was aborted.
Our second attempt involved trucking the locomotives all the way to Richmond, and that proved to be successful. George Childs, Karl Koenig and Dan Ranger were the individuals responsible for the movement of these locomotives and enough cannot be said about their efforts. Keep in mind, the entire membership of the Association at that time number under fifty.
At the end of September 1967, Heisler 5 arrived at Castro Point followed a day later by Shay 12. They were the first steam locomotives to be delivered to our new operation. For a year and a half, the Shay and Heisler were stored just outside of our terminal area. We were finally able to move the Shay into the terminal area when 2-6-2T Number 6 arrived on the property and was steamed up.
Steam operation at Castro Point had commenced in May 1969, and a year later, Heisler 5 was restored to operation and put into service. However, work on Shay 12 was on a slow pace. Under the direction of P. H. Rogers, work on the boiler was carried out. "Bones" Andrews did most of that work. R. A. MacAllister carried out the process of installing a new jacket. Part of the line shaft did not come with the locomotive and could not be located, so Frank Fontes located a new one and arranged to have it machined. The rod bearings on the crankshaft needed to be completely rebuilt, and Charles Blake took on the job. All the aforementioned work was carried on over a period of fourteen years.
The final job concerned the painting of the locomotive, and it was decided to paint her burgundy red and letter her for the Pickering Lumber Company as she had been in the late 1920's. During the rebuilding of the cab, a toolbox had been removed which revealed a large spot covered by the burgundy red paint. With that development, matching the color did not prove to be a problem.
In early 1985, Shay Number 12 was again in steam and back in operation for the first time in thirty years. She put on a grand show for a short period of time handling passenger trains at Castro Point. She was one of two steamers operated on the last day of passenger service, December 1, 1985.
Shay 12 was the other locomotive (along with 2-6-2T number 2) that was to move to Niles [Fremont, CA] via Vancouver, Canada and their World's Fair. The entire move was made via flatcar. Late in 1986, the Number 12 arrived at our Shinn Street location where she still resides.
Plans call for the locomotive to be moved to the canyon sometime in the future. Once in the canyon, she will receive a new set of flues, and then, hopefully, be put back into service.
Because of her rather slow speed, it is expected that most of her operation, except for special occasions, will be limited to the section of track between Brightside and Sunol. When that does take place, Shay Number 12 will not only be the oldest existing three truck Shay, she will also be the oldest Shay in operation.