In February of 2022, the transfer of ownership of several significant assets from Santa Clara County (SCC) to the Pacific Locomotive Association (PLA) was completed. These historic assets were donated to the PLA by Santa Clara County thanks to our proven track record of restoring and operating significant artifacts over the years. The PLA wants to thank the Board of Supervisors of Santa Clara County for its recognition of PLA and its Niles Canyon Railway to provide a forever home for these assets where they will be preserved, revered, and given new life and for its financial support to make a move of this size feasible. All that was left was to move them from the Santa Clara County Fairgrounds to the Pacific Locomotive Association’s Niles Canyon Railway.
On Monday August 22nd, a large 150-ton steam locomotive, Southern Pacific #2479, was disassembled and loaded on to special trucks to go from its home for the last 40+ years at the Santa Clara County Fairgrounds for a new home at the Niles Canyon Railway based in Sunol. On Wednesday August 24th the 50-ton Locomotive Tender (which carries the fuel and water for the steam locomotive) was disassembled and loaded onto trucks for movement to the Niles Canyon Railway. After that was handled, the 65,000-pound, 80 foot long ‘bridge’ of the Lenzen Roundhouse turntable was loaded onto another truck for transport to the PLA’s Niles Canyon Railway.
Originally built in 1923, steam locomotive #2479 pulled passenger trains for the Southern Pacific Railroad finishing its career in commute service between San Francisco and San Jose. In 1958, locomotive 2479 was donated for display at the Santa Clara County Fairgrounds. For the past 30 years, the locomotive has been undergoing an extensive restoration effort by volunteers of the California Trolley and Railroad Corporation (CTRC).
The Lenzen Roundhouse was donated by Union Pacific Railroad to Santa Clara County for preservation. The lead-based paint was removed from the turntable bridge, and the asbestos-filled mortar was removed from the bricks when the roundhouse was deconstructed. For the last 20 plus years, the roundhouse components were stored at the fairgrounds in the hopes of reconstructing it one day.
On Tuesday August 23rd the undercarriage and boiler for the locomotive were unloaded from their trailers and placed on the rails of the Niles Canyon Railway. The boiler was secured to the undercarriage, and the entire 120 tons of locomotive traveled about 4 miles on its own wheels for the first time in over 60 years and is now securely located in the Niles Canyon Railway’s Brightside Yard. (About 30 tons of material were removed from the locomotive prior to the move and will need to be placed back onto the locomotive as part of the restoration).
Take a 3D look around as #2479 was unloaded. 360 image by: Chris Hauf – Used with permission.
On Thursday August 24th the tender body was lifted from its special trailer and reset onto the tender’s pair of 3 axle 23,000 pound trucks (known as bogies in the rest of the world) at Brightside Yard, and securely stowed away. The crane was then moved out to the unloading spot east of Sunol used for the locomotive to place the turntable bridge onto a special heavyweight railroad flatcar. The 80-foot turntable was too long to navigate the roads into our Niles location, so the solution was to move it by rail. The crane than moved again to do the offloading of the bridge in Niles. The crane also had minor difficulties getting onto the property, but successfully arrived.
The volunteers at CTRC spent the last 9 months preparing these items for transport, including separating the boiler from the undercarriage, something that rarely happens to a steam locomotive. The professional at Steam Services of America were brought in to plan the locomotive and tender disassembly, and then to oversee the work of getting the pieces safely loaded onto the trucks, transported to Niles Canyon, and reassembled. In order for this to all happen in the four-day window the experts at Renn Transportation and Peninsula Crane & Rigging were brought in to plan the lifting of these massive pieces and transporting them over the highway to Niles Canyon.
All of this planning was worth the effort because the Pacific Locomotive Association is proud to announce that all of these massive pieces were successfully disassembled, safely transported and reassembled exactly as planned. On a project of this scale, there will always be little hiccups but these were handled professionally by all involved.
The Pacific Locomotive Association would like to express its heartfelt thanks to all the folks who worked so tirelessly and efficiently on this project. The crews from Renn Transportation and Peninsula Crane & Rigging, the crew from Steam Services of America, and the volunteers from both the CTRC and the PLA/NCRy who made this all happen.
This is only the first step in the relocation of the assets which Santa Clara County donated to us. The 60,000 gallon water tank from the Lenzen roundhouse needs to be disassembled and transported to Niles where it will be reassembled. All of the components of the roundhouse need to be re-palletized and loaded into containers for transport to Niles. These components will be used to recreate a modern version of the Lenzen Roundhouse to meet the structural requirements of today. There is still a lot of work to be done to get these items ready for transport, and then even more work to get the items put in place at Niles. We are still at the planning stages of that portion of this project.
We will need plenty of volunteers to handle the logistics and prep work for these future developments, and constant seek new people to join us. As a non-profit organization, the support of our community through donations and patronage of our railroad excursions to make these dreams into reality is needed as well. Please visit our website to see how you can volunteer, ride and donate.
We gladly accept donations by mail. Please make checks payable to Pacific Locomotive Association and note SP #2479 in the Memo area. Please mail your donation to: Pacific Locomotive Association, SP#2479, P.O. Box 515, Sunol, CA 94586-0515
About the organizations:
Pacific Locomotive Association / Niles Canyon Railway
The Pacific Locomotive Association, an IRS 501(C )(3) a community-benefit non-profit organization, is celebrating its 60th Anniversary this year. From a group of 6 friends who formed together to preserve the last aspects of Steam railroading back in 1961 the PLA has grown to an organization that boasts almost 1000 members and many historic railroad artifacts that have been rescued and restored over the years. The PLA is an all-volunteer organization and has no paid staff. For the past 35 years, the Pacific Locomotive Association has operated the Niles Canyon Railway on roadbed that once carried the original Transcontinental Railroad on its way to Pacific between Niles (City of Fremont) through Sunol and continues to rebuild its railroad toward Pleasanton, CA.
California Trolley and Railroad Corporation
Founded in 1982, the 501(C)3 non-profit California Trolley and Railroad Corporation is dedicated to preserving the historical railroad legacy of the Santa Clara Valley for the educational and recreational benefit of current and future generations. The CTRC currently operates vintage trolleys and a historic display of railroad equipment at History Park in San Jose.