About Southern Pacific Locomotive #1673

(Click on pictures for enlargements)


Southern Pacific Locomotive #1673 began its life as a coal burner in November 1900.  Produced by Schenectady Locomotive Works in New York, the engine was originally numbered Schenectady 5683.  She was categorized as a mogul of the M-4 class and weighed 146,000 pounds.  In the early photo to the left, the pilot, boiler skirting, and numbering scheme are vastly different than any other photographs of #1673.  This is believed to be the oldest known photograph of the engine.  In 1906, #1673 was converted from being a coal burner to an oil burner.

Locomotive #1673 is one of 105 of its type originally numbered 1615-1719 for the Southern Pacific Railroad. During operation on the Southern Pacific it logged over one million miles, primarily in freight service in the Southern Arizona region. In 1954, the engine was used in the filming of the movie Oklahoma. #1673 played a significant role in 1955 when the 75th anniversary of the arrival of the Southern Pacific Railroad in Arizona was celebrated in Tucson. Steaming into Tucson with a vintage coach, it was welcomed by then-Tucson Mayor Fred Emery and a crowd of 10,000 citizens. Congratulatory messages were read, including one from Archbishop Cicognani, apostolic delegate on behalf of Pope Pius XII. The locomotive was donated to the City of Tucson immediately following this event.

Locomotive #1673 was retired from service in 1955 and donated to the City of Tucson, at which time it was moved to the property of the Arizona Historical Society in Tucson. The locomotive was in excellent running condition when donated to the City. Due to construction at the Historical Society, it was moved to a display location at Himmel Park in Tucson in 1962. The cost of the move was $2,800, with the City of Tucson paying $1,800 and the Frank E. Gannett Newspaper Foundation paying $1,000 of the cost. In 1965 the locomotive was steamed up and run a short distance on the display track at Himmel Park. #1673 was slightly damaged but repaired within a year.  In 1984 a group of Tucson businessmen spent approximately $20,000 to perform a boiler inspection in anticipation of using the locomotive in public excursion service between Tucson and Nogales, Arizona. Although it was determined that an operating restoration was feasible, the project was not pursued.

Because of the importance of railroads to the early history of Tucson, numerous groups have attempted over the years to have the locomotive moved to a more appropriate site for cosmetic restoration and public viewing. However, none succeeded and the locomotive remained in Himmel Park, where it had been sitting since 1962.

With minimal upkeep, the old engine began to succomb to the elements. Rust started to eat away at the exposed metal and gauges, handles, and other parts began to disappear due to people climbing on it. By the early 1990's, the engine was in bad shape. It had deteriorated to the point that many thought the engine would be scrapped. It was about this time that a group of Tucson residents decided that something must be done quickly, or there might not be a locomotive left. The group sprang into action and within a year, the locomotive had been listed on the National Register of Historic Places. By 1994, the engine had been taken apart, sandblasted, cosmetically restored, and reassembled. The engine appears today much as it did in 1955 when it was donated to the people of Tucson.

In December of 2000, the old engine and tender were brought home to the historic Southern Pacific depot in downtown Tucson.

The locomotive is historically significant to Tucson, the State of Arizona, and nationally. Engine #1673 is one of only a few moguls of its class still in existence. It is the challenge of the people of Tucson to preserve this landmark for future generations to see and appreciate.

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