The San Diego Railroad Museum has been involved with a multi-year restoration of Southern Pacific #2353, a 4-6-0 Baldwin steam locomotive. This page chronicles some portions of the effort.

Locomotive #2353

Progress reports
The most recent appearing first

(Update 9/2/96, by Lew Wolfgang)

This Labor Day Weekend saw the operation of #2353 in service for the Museum's Miller Creek excursions. The locomotive ran perfectly, thanks to the Museum's Steam Team, who have put in long hours this summer fine tuning this magnificent machine. The consist of three SD&A coaches and one baggage car was easily handled by #2353.

Photo run-bys were provided at Miller Creek for each of the four excursions this weekend. Most of the passengers disembarked at the siding to watch the train back down the hill to the west and then proceed under power past the siding. Miller Creek is in a cut and hearing the whistle and the exhaust-bark echoing off the sides was a noteworthy experience to say the least. The passengers and crew were all equally impressed.

(Note: This was the Museum's first run-by in which passengers were allowed off the train. It worked so well that it will become a regular occurrence)

(Update 3/19/96, by Gordon Buck)

March 2nd, 1996. San Diego and Arizona Eastern locomotive engineer Leonard Salisbury leaned out the cab window of Southern Pacific 10-Wheeler 2353, ready to depart with a trainload of passengers. Nothing unusual; he'd done it before, many times, in this same locomotive, by the same little yellow depot here at Campo, California. Only thing was, last time had been over 45 years ago, when passenger service had been discontinued on the San Diego and Arizona Eastern Railroad. And the 2353 had not felt fire in her belly since 1957, when left by Southern Pacific to stand lonely vigil in the fair grounds of Imperial County.

Swinging down from the cab to address the crowd gathered for the event were two men most responsible for bringing it about: business professor Larry Williams, and retired S. P. cab-forward fireman Richard Dick. Together, they had spent most of the previous four years spearheading the efforts of a dedicated volunteer group to finally bring to completion a project begun nearly nine years ago when the San Diego Railroad Museum took possession of the locomotive from the Imperial Valley state agricultural district. Williams estimated the job had required approximately thirty thousand hours of labor.

The locomotive had been an excellent candidate for restoration: its out-of-the-way location in the hot, dry, valley had resulted in almost no deterioration from vandalism or the elements. Initial estimates to restore it to operating condition were relatively modest: under $40,000. After flues were removed, however, it was discovered that replacement of the front flue sheet was required, and that there were serious cracks in the firebox. Luckily, the owner of a San Diego boiler shop was sufficiently interested in the project to negotiate an attractive time-payment arrangement for the repairs. The boiler was removed and trucked sixty miles to the shop, where it remained for nearly two years. Meanwhile, the volunteer crew took full advantage of the exposed state of the running gear, rebuilding bearings, replacing broken spring leaves, etc. Finally, in May of 1994, boiler and frame were reunited. It still required over a year's sustained effort to get everything back together a full steam-up on August 12, 1995. First self-powered movement occurred February 9th.

The locomotive has already begun earning her keep. On February 28, she performed for a CBS TV movie crew, replacing the diesel originally scheduled. After several more hands-on training weekends with Richard Dick and Leonard Salisbury, initial revenue operation will occur on May 4, when the 2353 will make two extra- fare round trips, at 10:00 am and 5:00 pm, 8 miles east to Miller Creek. This will be in addition to the two regular diesel-hauled trains. The next definitely scheduled operation will occur Saturday, June 1, when steam power will be featured on the special operation west to Tecate, Mexico.

(Update 3/19/96, by Jim Baker)

Southern Pacific 4-6-0 #2353 made its first public appearance under steam on March 2, 1996. The roll-out was attended by several hundred people, along with local TV and newspaper reporters. At about 9:30 in the morning, the locomotive backed down to the San Diego Railroad Museum's Campo depot, and coupled in to two of the museum's ex-Lackawanna coaches. Project Manager Larry Williams was at the throttle, under the close supervision of 89 year old Leonard Salisbury, retired SD&A/SD&AE/SP steam engineer. Leonard, who doesn't look a day over 70, is teaching our engineers the finer points of operating steam. Firing was Richard Dick, former SD&AE/SP steam fireman, who is the Museum's Steam Superintendent Brakemen were Bob Nickles, long time Museum engineer and steam team member, and Jim Baker, the Museum Training Officer, also a steam team member.

The opening ceremonies included introduction of the 25 or so volunteer members of the Steam Team, who have completed the almost 10-year restoration project. Also introduced were the people from Fraser's Boiler Works in San Diego, who did the technical boiler repair work for us. Former State Senator Jim Mills, who has been very supportive of the Museum, made a short speech. At 10:30, the ceremony was concluded by Larry's wife, Patty, breaking a bottle of champagne across the pilot, followed by 2353 breaking through a ribbon stretched across the track by two of the Steam Team Members.

The people were then invited aboard the train to take the 1 mile run to the East yard limits and back. This shuttle was repeated about half a dozen times throughout the day, with various Steam Team diesel-qualified engineers taking their turn at the throttle. Other Team members rotated turns at the firing valve. (We didn't go to Tecate, as reported by one TV station). Similar operations took place the next day.

Operationally, the loco ran great! As would be expected, there are numerous minor fixes and adjustments that will need to be made. No major problems were discovered.

While Mar. 2 was the first public operation, 2353 did some interesting work earlier in the week. Coincidentally, CBS had previously arranged to be using a Museum train for a TV movie, with filming on Feb. 28. We substituted 2353 for the diesel we were going to use. They lettered our coaches, "New Haven," and covered up the "Southern Pacific" on 2353's tender. Actual filming was after dark in the evening, so there were great clouds of steam. A photographer's dream! Filming was done just right in front of the depot, with the train arriving and departing. Pulled a 6 car consist; could hardly tell that the cars were there. Watch for "What Love Sees" on CBS later this spring.

Feb. 29 and Mar. 1, several test runs, pulling cars, were made several miles up the line just to start checking things out. This will continue on and off as a debugging process for the next several weeks.


First revenue runs to MILLER CREEK (8 miles) will be on Sat., May 4, at 10:00 am and 5:00 p.m. First day fares will be $35 for adults and $20 for kids 12 and under. The regular diesel-powered trains to Miller Creek will operate on their regular schedule and fare (depart 12:01 & 2:30, fares $10/$3). For reservations phone the Museum Office at (619) 595-3030, weekdays, 9 to 4. Remaining tickets will be sold on a space available basis at the Campo depot on the day of operation.

First run to TECATE will be Sat., June 1, departing Campo at 10:00. Coach fare will be $45 for adults, $30 for kids 12 and under. First Class fare in cafe/observation car 1509 will be $100. For the downhill, westbound run to Tecate, a diesel will be on the point, followed by 2353 running backwards. For the uphill return, 2353 will be on the point, followed by 1509, with its observation platform end coupled to 2353's tender. For reservations, call the office as noted above. Note that the regular diesel Tecate trips sell out early; this one will probably go fast.

(Update 2/28/96, by Lew Wolfgang)

When I joined the Museum in the summer of 1989 I made a decision not to participate in the on-going restoration of #2353. There were so many other interesting things to become involved with that I didn't think I had the time to devote myself to a multi-year project. I did follow the progress of the Steam Team and have always been in awe at their tireless dedication to a goal that must have seemed impossible at times.

Today I was witness to an event that coalesced their countless hours of labor into one shining moment that I will remember for the rest of my life. Here's the story.

The Museum made it's Campo Depot available to a movie production company for the shooting of an upcoming CBS "Movie of the Week". The production designer initially asked if the Museum had a diesel locomotive that would fit into the 1941 time frame. I said that while we have a Fairbanks Morse H20-44 from 1948, perhaps we could interest them in a live-steam locomotive. #2353 had just made its first move of about six feet, and I felt confident that Larry Williams, Richard Dick and the Steam Team would jump at the chance to show off their "iron".

The production company was interested and subsequently contracted with the Museum to provide a steam powered passenger train for their shoot on Febuary 28th. A platform was built from the Depot to the main and the facing Depot wall was painted to resemble a Depot from Bristol, Connecticut. Props were brought in and a host of movie people numbering about 100 moved into the Depot parking lot. A consist of four ex-Lackawanna "MU" cars and a baggage car lead by #2353 was spotted in front of the Depot with the locomotive on the uphill end. The grade in Campo is about 1.4 percent.

The Depot scene was to be shot at night, and various large stage lights were set up for illumination. One light, a 12,000 watt monster, was placed in front and to the side of #2353, pointing back toward the Depot.

We were all a little apprehensive about #2353's being able to pull the five-car consist uphill from a cold dead stop with the cylinder cocks open, so we decided to "rehearse" before the cameras were rolling. It was twilight, mostly dark, with a residual pink cast to the sky. We could all see our breath, it was about 40 degrees F.

After checking that everyone was clear, I gave Larry the proceed signal. There were probably 60 people clustered around the platform as #2353 proceeded to give us the most remarkable display of backlit steam and smoke I've ever seen. Steam billowed to the side through the open cylinder cocks while the blower lifted a most remarkable cloud of mostly steam straight into the chill air. All of this backlit by the 12,000 watt light rendered us speechless. #2353 then proceeded to smartly haul that 5-car consist up the hill and out of the Depot with a most assertive chug-chug.

I was so proud of the Steam Team and the Museum at that point that I almost popped! Alas, the moment snapped when Museum member Bob Nickles said in a loud voice, "Gee, that almost looks like a real train!"

Well said, Bob. And I will remember you forever too.

(Update 2/14/96)


The San Diego Railroad Museum's total restoration of Locomotive #2353 was put to the test on Saturday, February 10, 1996. The locomotive was moved under its own power for the first time in four decades.

No significant problems were encountered, leading to the announcement that there will be a "Grand Roll-Out" on March 2, 1996 at the Museum's Campo facility.

The press and general public are invited to witness the unveiling and operation of #2353, with several photo run-bys scheduled.

(Update 2/14/96, by Karla Von Huben)

I got out there Saturday morning about 9 a.m. Steam pressure was at 160 pounds at that point. Once we got to 200 lbs., we moved the locomotive out of the yard (very, very slowly--we cracked some tie plates, apparently, but we have 163.000 pounds on the drivers) and onto the East Lead. We ran it up and down the lead for a couple of hours, working out the kinks. Then we coupled Amtrak coach 5601 and one of the Lackawanna cars to it, and continued to run up and down the lead, pulling a load.

At the end of the day, we switched out onto the main line, backed down to the Depot, then ran up to the trestle. We sanded out the flues several times, and the clouds of black smoke were awesome! We backed down into the yard just around sunset.

Because there was work to be done on the locomotive, we left steam up, and I was one of the people "babysitting" the fire until we finally shut it down around 8:30 p.m. Tony wanted to work on the bell, and we are still having trouble with the injector on the fireman's side. Tony was able to get the bell ringer connected, but the injector will need further work.

Tony Neece, Rich Chiles, Jack O'Lexy, Bill Palmer and I (I think I'm forgetting somebody), went through the engine shut-down, and I finally killed the fire, as I said, at about 8:30 p.m. The locomotive worked steadily for at least ten hours, with few problems.

I was in the cab for most of the day. The locomotive performed *beautifully*. It's smooth and quiet, and the throttle valve, valves and cylinders have seated properly. The "punch list" is pretty short, and we anticipate an official "roll out" on 3/2.

Needless to say, every last member of the Steam Team burst into tears at least once during the day....

Good Iron to All,

PS Sorry, no pictures. But then, I forgot to bring a camera!

(Update 2/9/96 by Gordon Buck)

To All and Sundry,

Just (5:15pm) spoke with Jim Baker at Campo. Good news & bad news (but not too bad). Good news: for the first time since being parked by S.P. in the Imperial Valley in '55 or '56, the 2353 moved today under her own power! Bad news: moved about 6 feet, she did, and then the seal on the right main piston shaft blew out.


So the guys have the cap off and seal out; maybe they can fix it by tomorrow. Or maybe it'll require a new part. There also were the usual sort of leaks to fix. The throttle is taking its time about seating properly. And so forth.

But it MOVED!

(Update 2/8/96 by Lew Wolfgang)

Final details in preparation for firing were made today. The main reservoirs were pressurized with an external compressor to allow air brake testing. It was noticed that the brake cylinders would over-presurize when activated by the independent control. The distribution valve was swapped out to fix the problem.

The brass bell was polished and coat of red paint applied inside before mounting atop the boiler.

Finally, just as the sun was setting, the pre-fire checklist was started. The boiler was pressurized with air for a final leak test on all the recently attached appliances. At about 8:00 P.M. the fire was finally lit.

(Update 1/19/96 by Jim Baker)

On the left side; side rods, main rod, and crosshead have all been installed, as has the valve crosshead and combination lever. The only other part of the valve motion that is in place is the link and block. The bushings and pins for the rest of the motion still need to be machined to proper fit, and the eccentric crank installed. Then that side will be done.


On the right side; all jobs noted above still remain, plus the following: finish machining the newly poured babbitt on the crosshead shoes, install the crosshead and main rod (side rods are installed), install the valve crosshead.


When those jobs are done, we will be ready to adjust the timing, and, then give her a try under steam.


The following jobs still need doing, but should be completed before the valve motion: install a few more lube lines (A FEW REMAIN); install the cylinder cocks (DONE) and finish the wiring (A LITTLE REMAINS). Lights have been mounted temporarily to place the conduit, but are again stored in a safe place. The gages, water glasses, etc., that were installed for our Labor Day steam up need to be mounted again. (NOT DONE YET) The final step will be installation of the glass in the cab windows. (NOT DONE YET, BUT WHO NEEDS GLASS IN SOUTHERN CALIF?)


(Update 11/2/95)

Work is progressing on the tedious, detailed and critical job of machining valve and piston rings for a precision fit. Air brake work and lubrication system setup is well along toward completion.

Boiler insulation and jacketing has been installed and painted. The side rods are in place, the drive rods were installed and then removed to allow machining of bearings to a finer fit.

4000 gallons of #6 diesel was donated by Mobil Oil Company and transferred to the tender and other storage. Minor touchup work to the fire-bricks was accomplished by Fraser Boiler.

(Update, August 1995, by Larry Williams)

As I write this report in mid-August 1995, things are happening so fast with the locomotive #2353 project at Campo that we may be ready to run before you read it. The boiler patch bolt rivet repairs are done. Pressure tests have shown the process successful. The first fire has been lit and the boiler steam-up done on the weekend of August 12, 1995.

It was a big mile-post for the steam team. The flame was struck at noon with Richard P. Dick at the firing handle. I assure you that never was there a man more deserving of the honor. His contributions to the completion of #2353 have been unsurpassed.

The fire was kept low and slow to allow plenty of time for the steel in the boiler to regain the feel of the fire once again. However, after responding to the forces of sun, snow, and wind for nearly 40 years, the old girl awoke with the customary series of thumps and groans.

By 4:00 p.m., there was a steady blow of steam at the top vent valve and so Project Director Larry Williams closed it. The needle on the steam pressure gauge immediately lifted off the peg.

There followed four hours of opening valves to blow any debris out of the lines and pipes including the main throttle to clear the dry pipe and the superheater units. By 6:00 p.m., the boiler pressure gauges were at full working pressure of 200 psi. After two more hours of observation, testing, whistle blowing, and bell ringing, the fire was extinguished at 8:00 p.m.

With that event properly celebrated, the steam team returned to the tasks which need to be completed. Namely to install: insulation and jacket, cab windows, air pump, brake valves, and electrical system. All leading up to being able to put that steam to proper use in moving a train.

The Steam Team is planning two more weekend fire-up tests of the boiler on August 26 and Labor Day weekend. Many of the appliances attached to the boiler will then be removed in order to install the insulation and the jacket.

Last update: 9/2/96

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