Monday, November 9, 2009

Mystery Engine

Northern Pacific 6500C, Stacey Street, Seattle, July 1958. When we moved temporarily to Prince Rupert in 1957, we had rented our brand new home in Seattle. Once a year we’d drive down to Seattle to visit friends and make sure the house was still there.

My Dad and I had taken an afternoon off to explore the waterfront and rail yards. My Dad was not only a tugboat engineer, but also avid marine photographer. It made for a great father/son outing, as we’d hit the tugboat tie-ups and rail yards.

While Northern Pacific’s main engine service facility was down at Auburn, there was a small engine shop at the south end of Stacey. That’s where we found this A-B-C combination awaiting assignment to the “Vista Dome North Coast Limited.”

In the background is Port of Olympia #2, in transit to the Puget Sound Railway Historical Society up at Snoqualmie Falls.
I never had reason to ride NP’s varnish, but from what I’ve read and seen in photos, the “North Coast Limited” was posh. NP hired Industrial Designer Raymond Loewy to adorn the train, from the variegated green and white motif to the fabulous interiors, designed around the theme of the Lewis & Clark Voyage of Discovery, through which she passed.

In 1954, two domed coaches, two domed sleepers and “Sue, the Stewardess-Nurse” were added to the “North Coast Limited,” becoming the “Vista Dome North Coast Limited.” The train chopped 12 hours off the transcontinental run, and along with Great Northern’s “Empire Builder,” essentially putting the Milwaukee Road’s “Hiawathan” out of the varnish race.

The “Vista Dome North Coast Limited” operated daily as Northern Pacific train Number 25 westbound and Number 26 eastbound. Train Numbers 1 and 2 were re-assigned to a secondary Chicago-Seattle service named the “Mainstreeter,” which took its name from the Northern Pacific advertising slogan "Main Street of the Northwest."

The “B” unit behind the 6500C was hard to identify. Ironically I didn’t pay attention to that fact when I shot the photos. It was only when I did a 16-pass scan of this thin 35mm b&w Tri-X ASA 400 negative, was I able to find the unit number. Can you locate the unit number?

Turns out it was in white letters, about 2” high, behind the ladder at the front of the unit, closest to the camera. I am curious as to why the numbers would be so small and hidden. It would make the unit hard to locate on a dark rainy night for sure!

Railroad Stuff: Northern Pacific 6500C, F9A. 2nd 6500C, built on Order Number 8038A by Electro Motive Division, March 1956, Serial Number: 8731:2.

This story — with new material identifying locomotives — up dated here.

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