|Southern Pacific engine #1673 had a starring role
in the 1954 film Oklahoma. Since wheat fields did not
exist in Oklahoma the way they did around the turn of the century, filming
was done near Elgin, Arizona instead. The
Elgin depot (of the former New Mexico and
Arizona Railroad) was made to look like the Claremore station. 1673
was fitted with a early diamond-type smokestack, the headlight was moved
to above the boiler, and the engine was painted special colors for the occasion
to make it fit into the turn of the century scheme.
Engine #1673 is listed on the National Register of Historic Places, and has been since 1992. As a result of this happening, $20,000 in monetary funds were allocated by the State Heritage Fund to aid in restoring the locomotive cosmetically. Another $14,000 was added by the Tucson-Pima County Historical Commission, the Tucson Parks and Recreation Department, and the contributions of nearly 200 private individuals. This funding allowed the locomotive and tender to be taken apart, sandblasted, primered, and repainted to their original colors. The cosmetic restoration was completed in 1994.
When the railroad first came to Tucson in 1880, the Pope was invited to attend the ceremonies. As a joke, one early Tucson resident claimed to have received the pontiff's response, which included a thank you, a blessing, and a question: "Where the Hell is Tucson anyhow?" In 1955, the 75th anniversary of the first train into Tucson, a much more official congratulatory letter was received from Archbishop Cicognani, apostolic delegate on behalf of Pope Pius XII.
The diamond anniversary ceremonies on March 20, 1955 were grand. A reenactment of the first train into Tucson was held. A flatcar and a coach were attached behind locomotive 1673. Then-Tucson Mayor Fred Emery and the City Council rode in the coach while the flatcar carried two local groups of the time, the Tucson Vigilantes and Jaycee-ettes. The train pulled into the Southern Pacific Depot and the flatcar was used as a platform for the presentation of the locomotive to Tucson by then-SP vice president in charge of operations J. W. Corbett. Later that day, engine #1673 pulled five "Daylight" coaches full with people to and from the Pacific Fruit Express Yard until dusk. The trips were intended for "children accompanied by adults and adults accompanied by children." Nearly 10,000 Tucsonans turned out for the event, which was held at the Southern Pacific Depot.
Through the years, there have been many suggestions to move engine #1673 from Himmel Park. In 1979, there was a proposal to move the engine to the Pima County Fairgrounds. However, the engine was deemed to be too heavy to be trucked over the Rita Road overpass at Interstate 10. In 1980, there were a couple of proposals to move the locomotive downtown, but each time a suitable location could not be found. In 1984, a group of Tucson businessmen paid $20,000 to determine if the engine could be returned to operation for excursion service between Tucson and Nogales. Although it was found to be possible to restore the engine, the idea was dropped.
There are about a hundred surviving Mogul-type locomotives left in the North America. However, 1673 is one of only 8 surviving Southern Pacific Moguls, and of those 8, only two (#1673 and #1629) are of the M-4 class design. The rest are M-6 and M-8 class. So of the original 331 Mogul type locomotives SP built from 1899 to 1930, and operated from 1899 to 1957, only 8 are known to survive. The others are:
Some mechanical facts about the engine:
It was originally numbered Schenectady Locomotive Works #5683 when it was built in November, 1900. The wheel arrangement is 2-6-0, which means that there are two pilot, or pony wheels, followed by six main wheels, and no trailing wheels. It was coal fired until 1906, when the Southern Pacific Company converted it to use oil fuel instead. The engine itself weighs 65 tons empty with a driver (main wheel) diameter of 63 inches. Its boiler operates at 190 PSI. There are two cylinders that are 20 x 28 inches each. The engine has a tractive effort of 28,710 pounds. The tender weighs 30 tons empty.