A historic 150-ton steam locomotive and several artifacts that failed to find a permanent spot in Silicon Valley now have a new home at Niles Canyon Railway, the Pacific Locomotive Association (PLA) announced on Tuesday, also marking the organization's 60th anniversary.
The nearly century-old former Southern Pacific Railroad steam locomotive No. 2479 -- along with a 122-year old roundhouse, turntable and water tower -- is relocating from San Jose to Niles Station, where it will run through Niles Canyon.
In a statement, PLA President Henry Baum (no relation to the writer of this story) said, “Both the roundhouse and locomotive are natural additions to our historic railroad collection."
Locomotive No. 2479 was built in 1923, and had an "active career pulling commuter trains between San Jose and San Francisco for the Southern Pacific Railroad" until being retired from service in 1956, according to officials. The rail vehicle was donated to Santa Clara County two years later and has undergone more than 5,000 volunteer hours of restoration work per year since 1989, with approximately 80% of the effort to date completed.
The roundhouse was constructed in San Jose at the turn of the century (1899) and used for housing and maintaining steam locomotives. A large water tower and 80-foot turntable used to rotate locomotives is also included with the roundhouse.
Together, all three structures served as maintenance facilities for Southern Pacific trains and locomotives until the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake, when the roundhouse was declared structurally unsound. In 1994, Southern Pacific donated the roundhouse for a proposed museum
San Jose-based California Trolley and Railroad Corporation (CTRC), which has maintained the locomotive and structures for several decades, said “moving these important historical artifacts to the Niles Canyon Railway enables our organizations to better preserve the rail history of the Bay Area and to honor the thousands of hours donated by our volunteers."
"This partnership is an ideal opportunity to preserve these irreplaceable resources for future generations,” said CTRC president Ken Middlebrook.
According to Baum, PLA's master plan "has always included a roundhouse facility in Niles."
“Both the roundhouse and locomotive are natural additions to our historic railroad collection," Baum said. "We will immediately begin to develop our Niles site focused around these incredible assets."
A topological survey of the Niles site will be conducted before starting design work, and the PLA will "aggressively search for the necessary grants and corporate sponsorships necessary to get this development project completed," Baum added.
The monumental task of dismantling, moving and reassembling the giant locomotive will be managed by Steam Services of America, with moving costs funded by Santa Clara County over a three-year period. Once received, all of the historical assets will be transferred to the PLA. The transfer also includes a 65-ton diesel locomotive acquired from Kaiser Permanente Cement, and necessary tools and equipment to restore and maintain Locomotive No. 2479.