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originally created by Garth Groff


By Garth G. Groff
Updated AUGUST 3, 2011

At various times, the Sacramento Northern, and earlier the Oakland Antioch & Eastern, rented surplus electric locomotives to other California electric lines. During the SN years, all lease customers were members of the Western Pacific family. The WP found the SN, with its large fleet of electric locomotives, a useful source for covering power shortages on its other electrified subsidiaries.

The earliest known lease was from the OA&E to the Tidewater Southern. OA&E's box motor 101 (later SN 601) was operated by the TS during World War I on a monthly basis. Records show the car was on the TS in November 1915, November 1917, and between January and May 1918. The car was also photographed at Modesto in 1916. Whether this was one long lease, or the car was rented for several shorter periods, is not clear from available records. Since the OA&E and TS were both 1200-volt systems using poles on trolley wire, there were few compatibility problems.

As the San Francisco-Sacramento Railroad, the line rented out some of its Hall Scott trailer coaches to the SNRR. Coaches 1021 (1st) and 1022 were rented for $2.50 per day during November 1926. In September 1927, trailer coaches 1023 and 1025 were each on the SNRY for two days. The reason for the rentals is not given in the documentation.

SF-S also rented one of their ballast cars, 0108, to the Sacramento Valley & Eastern Railway between June 20 and July 31, 1921. The rate was $2.00 per day.

Box motor 602, with sister 601, served the Tidewater Southern
during World War II. In February 1946, SN 602 was still working at
Modesto, but was soon returned to the SN when TS 106 came home.
Kenneth C. Jenkins photo; Garth G. Groff collection.

During World War II, SN box motor 601 was back on the TS, accompanied by 602. Overhead wire had been removed on the TS mainline except for two miles between Aurora and Modesto. The stubborn Modesto city fathers would not allow steam operation on trackage in their streets, so electric locomotives were coupled onto the steam trains which were "pulled" through town in a sort of grand charade. Traffic was booming in Modesto thanks to the war, and there were also several miles of industrial spurs under wire at Modesto to switch. The box motors joined TS 100, a wooden steeple cab, and were a welcome addition. Both box motors lost their Brown roller pantographs while on the TS, probably removed at the Central California Traction Company shops in Stockton where they were maintained.

In exchange, the SN received TS 106, a GE steeple cab similar to their own 650 class. The powerful steeple cab was more useful handling the heavy traffic which threatened to swamp the SN during the war than switching cars of canned fruit and pretending to pull steam trains through Modesto. No firm dates are available for when this locomotive swap took place, but TS 106 was photographed in Sacramento during August 1943. SN 601 was back on home rails by August 1945, but 602 was still in Modesto in early 1946.

The only known SN lease to the CCT was GE motor 651 in 1939.
The steeple cab helped the shortline through a power shortage
during the grape harvest. Note the under-running third rail shoes.
Wilbur C. Whittaker photo; Garth G. Groff collection.

Only one locomotive lease to the CCT is known. SN 651 served on the CCT during the grape harvest of 1939. The motor was photographed in CCT service at various times between August and October. On their mainline, the CCT used an under-running third rail, in contrast to the SN's over-running system, so special shoes were fitted to the locomotive. There was no problem with switching under wire, since both lines used similar pantographs under trolley wire within cities, and indeed shared joint trackage in Sacramento.

The SN's most extensive and longest lease program shared several locomotives with the Oakland Terminal Railway. The OTRY was formerly the Key System's freight operation in Oakland and Emeryville, serving the massive Oakland Army Base which handled millions of tons of vital military cargo during World War II and the Korean conflict. The OTRY was sold to the WP and the Santa Fe in 1942. The 600-volt line, which owned just two home-built steeple cabs and a Baldwin 2-6-2, was overwhelmed by the flood of traffic.

Home-built 404 and sister 405 were the OTRY's salvation during
World War II. They moved vital war supplies to the Oakland Army
Terminal. Both were bumped by more powerful Baldwin motors.
Kenneth C. Jenkins photo; Garth G. Groff collection.

To break the log jam, SN's 600-volt motors 404 and 405 were leased to the OTRY early in 1943. The OTRY removed their pantograph towers and mounted taller Key System pantographs at roof level so they could squeeze under a SP bridge, but still reach the Key System's high wire in other places. Too slow to keep out of the way of the Key System's speedy bridge trains, 405 was rebuilt with faster and more powerful Westinghouse 557A motors in June 1943. It is not known when 404 received this treatment. Motor 405 served on the OTRY only until 1945, and 404 was returned to the SN in 1947. The SN squeezed a few more years service from the pair at Oroville and Chico, then set them aside as North End operations were dieselized.

With diesels running on the SN mainline north of Sacramento, 600-volt Baldwin motors 440 and 442 were available for OTRY service. SN 440 was on the OTRY by late 1943, with 441 following in 1945. They too were fitted with the large Key pantographs at roof level. The two Baldwins remained with the OTRY until 1955, when that line was dieselized. No longer needed by the SN, the two motors were then scrapped.

Baldwin motor 440 was found switching cars on the Shafter Avenue
lead in the late 1940s. The motor's pantograph tower was removed
and replaced by a huge Key System pantograph mounted at roof level.
Wilbur C. Whittaker photo; Garth G. Groff collection.

Surprisingly, there is no record of any SN passenger motors being leased to other lines. The only off-line passenger operations with powered equipment of which your editor could find were excursions. One such excursion was run to Clyde on April 2, 1939, and then over they Bay Point & Clayton Railroad to Cowell behind their Baldwin 0-6-0. The grandest off-line excursion was a June 4, 1939 trip sponsored by the California-Nevada Railroad Historical Society. SN 1009, 1025 and Bidwell ran from San Francisco to Sacramento over the SN, then via the CCT to Stockton. On the CCT, the train was pulled by their electric freight motor 7.

On April 2, 1939, SN motor 1010 led an excursion to Clyde, then
over the BP&C to Cowell behind their 0-6-0. Two powered Hall
Scott coaches and parlor car Moraga filled out the train.
Kenneth C. Jenkins photo; Garth G. Groff collection.

Some of the information in this story came from Ira Swett's CARS OF SACRAMENTO NORTHERN, and SACRAMENTO NORTHERN. Full citations may be found in our bibliography section. Information about 601 and 602 on the TS came from dated photographs, and from Joseph A. Strapac's article "Tidewater Southern Railway, the Story of a One-time Interurban", PACIFIC NEWS, Vol. 14, No. 1 (Burlingame, Calif.: Chatham Publishing Co., January 1974). Information on the 651 lease and CCT excursion was found in David G. Stanley and Jeffrey J. Moreau's CENTRAL CALIFORNIA TRACTION, CALIFORNIA'S LAST INTERURBAN (Berkeley and Wilton, Calif.: Signature Press, 2003).