About the Santa Fe Historical Society

Howard Branch: Locomotives


James Burke has kindly reviewed his notes from the 1950s and gives the following report.

I find that I cannot confirm that February 4, 1951, was the first day that GP-7 2672 came through Eureka, although that is the date of my first photo of her. She may have been there a few days earlier - but only a few. The 1028 (2-6-2) had the duty the first half of January and the 1075 (2-6-2) was there during the last half.

You are correct that the appearance of the FT pairs was spasmodically irregular during 1950. They were normally used to Superior and St. Joe, and after the 2672 came they disappeared.

I photoed sister 2673 in Eureka in March, 1951 - but no other GP-7s there.

Steam showed up occasionally during later 1951,. e.g. The 1925 with a livestock extra on February 17. But my days in Eureka were about done. I spent the summer in Nebraska and Wyoming and shortly after returning moved to Emporia to go firing iron horses for John Santa Fe! I occasionally saw the Howard Branch train, but with a diesel up front I couldn't respond.

June 20, 1952, Engineer Roy Ringer and I took GP-7 2733 north with all the empty wheat cars we could handle to round up loads of wheat around Salina. We spent three days taking them to Abilene for forwarding to Emporia and beyond.

On June 24 we were called for Extra 1840 East; the 1840 (2-6-2) had been doing Salina switcher duty. We left the 2733 for that duty. We took all the wheat the 1840 could handle and went to Emporia - that was the end of steam north of Neva.

We took the Galva Turn out of Emporia July 6, 1952, to round up wheat loads with the brand new GP-7 2737. Thirteen hours on duty - paid well but uninspiring.

Next on September 14, 1952, brand new 2759 and 2760, Emporia to Arkansas City on their way to Texas - the death knell for a couple of ten hundreds - no fun. Further more I could not believe what I was getting paid to ride along and watch the scenery roll by. The farm boy in me said it couldn't last (it didn't).

On November 20, 1952, I caught the vacation relief for the regular fireman on the Connell Switcher which worked the McConnell Air force Base at Wichita. Our power was GP-7 2698 (recent replacement for the 3113). We worked 5 a.m. to noon and more 6 days per week, mostly handling limestone for runway extensions for B-52s. Early to bed and early to rise was the best plan, but Wichita had lots of pretty girls in 1952. I survived.

On December 6, 1952, Engineer Roy Ringer and I took the new 2819 and 2820 Emporia to Wellington with a hot 81 train full of California auto parts.

In January and February 1953 I worked the Wellington local, Wellington - Wichita - Wellington 3:45 p.m. to midnight 6 days a week. Our power varied between Big Mikes 3181 or 4044 or GP-7s 2806, 2808, 2809, 2814, or 2819. On this job I fired my last locomotive, the 3181 on February 27, 1953. I went away to the army with misgivings.

In May of 1955 I returned to a "Deesil" railroad. My seniority - or lack of it - forced me to the hinterlands. I spent essentially the entire summer parting the weeds of the Salina Northern or the somewhat more exciting Superior line. Our power was Alco road switches with an occasional Fairbanks Morse for confusion.

The Superior job was called in Emporia in the wee hours and generally departed before 4 a.m. with two, sometimes three, Alcos. They were the 2112, 2113, 2114, 2115, 2116, 2119, sometimes complicated by the 3011 or 3017. The setout for Salina at Abilene was substantial- sometimes most of the train, but usually not more than the one engine could take up the river grade to Salina. If needed one unit could be taken from the Superior train to be added to the Salina train.

As the Superior train departed for Superior, the Salina train would depart for Salina and Osborne. This train would usually be ready to leave Salina by noon and head up the bucolic Salina Northern to Osborne. It was almost more of a retreat than I needed - but there were pretty girls in Osborne too.

In November 1955 I was finally able to return to Emporia and hold the Emporia - Ellinwood job with the legendary Pete Schreck. Our power was Fairbanks Morse 3017 consistently. I think Pete liked her and knew how to keep her. In January I departed for Kansas State University,

On Memorial Day, 1956, I returned to Emporia to spend the summer working off the extra board. My road switcher assignments included:

  • Four days on Fairbanks Morse 3011 on a work train replacing rail on the double track Winfield to Arkansas City.
  • Engine Messenger the dead FM 3013 McPherson to Emporia.
  • Emporia - Eldorado - Emporia on FMs 3013 - 3017 (went dead on the 16 hour law at Ellinor).
  • July 25 - August 18 vacation relief on 79-80 Abilene - Osborne, Alcos 2112, 2113, 2114, 2118, 2119.
  • August 20 - September 7 vacation relief 69-70 Wellington - Wichita, GP-7s 2793, 2795, 2808, 2809, 2816, 2817, 2819, 2837, 2845.

In September I returned to Kansas state.

In the summer of 1957 I was able to stay on the Wellington job. It paid better than the Extra Board and had regular hours. It was easier to schedule around girl friends! 1957 was pretty much a replay of 1956 at Wellington with the same 2800 GP-7s for the most part. Although Worley shows some of these with dynamics, I don't believe they had them in 1957 (retrofits?)

We usually had GP-7s, but on one day we had a heavier train with a 3 unit FT. Jack Haggard was the Engineer. His favorite on the job pastime was reading books, so I ran the engine a lot - while Jack read books. On this day Jack had a new book, so I rook the train out of Wellington. By that time most FTs had radios in their cabs.

Our engine this day was so equipped and as we pulled out we heard a west bound calling the yardmaster for a track, so I knew that this guy was coming. The first three miles of so out of Wellington was double track which ended just beyond a curve restricting visibility. It sounded like we would meet the westbound there. After the short curving climb out of Wellington yard our three units quickly brought the train up to 50 per. Then I got to thinking about the dynamic brake (Wrong!). Our Geeps were not equipped with dynamic brakes, and I'd had little experience with them - I was curious. The speed limit at the end of the double track was 30 mph. I started wondering if the dynamics would slow us that much. I slowly pulled the handle around until I got maximum amps. I had completely forgotten about the westbound. The distant signal was yellow - as always - not unusual. The home signal at the end of double track was out of sight. Going into the curse we were still at 40 per - too fast, gotta set some air. As I grabbed the air and looked up I was looking into the face of a red board and the westbound, terrified! I went all the way to the big hole - We'll never stop. The train brakes were good. We stopped just in the clear as the westbound roared by on our left. There was a strange odor in the cab.

On August 27 at Wellington I made my last trip for John Santa Fe. That same day in Belen, New Mexico, John Santa Fe kill his last iron horse, the 3780.


Society Info Society Convention On-Line Resources Company StoreThe WarbonnetSanta Fe Links
Society Info | Society Calendar | Online Resources | Company Store | The Warbonnet | Santa Fe Links