This collection of archival footage documents the trauma that Mother Nature and Murphy’s Law inflicted upon Southern Pacific and how the railroad coped with these setbacks. Southern Pacific’s own film crews created most of this material to display the railroad’s efficiency and resourcefulness in times of great stress. Now you can experience these challenges, from an earthquake on the San Joaquin Division in 1952 to the Roseville Yard bomb explosions of 1973. Flood, fire, derailments, and worse — here’s what you’ll see in Tough Times on the Southern Pacific:
Eel River Canyon
“The Christmas Flood of 1964” was a deluge that wiped out entire towns along the South Fork of the Eel River and either swept away nearly 100 miles of rails or left them dangling along the cliffs like giant garlands. It took 177 days to repair what nature did in hours.
Recovery of the 8946
In 1971, a derailed train crashed down the mountainside on Donner Pass. You’ll see how 3 bulldozers and a pair of locomotives hauled the damaged engine uphill and back onto the rails.
Trestle Fire on the Great Salt Lake
In 1956, a fire burned 645 feet of trestle, putting the Lucin Cutoff out of service. SP and Morrison-Knudsen cooperated in rebuilding the trestle, and SP crews laid 650 feet of new track in just one week.
Earthquake on the San Joaquin Division
In 1952, the second most severe earthquake in California’s recorded history damaged tunnels and destroyed tracks. Yet 25 days later, the tunnels were daylighted or by-passed and the tracks were restored.
Flooding along the Rio Grande
In 1954, one of the worst floods in Texas history stripped away tracks and soil, trapping the Sunset Limited. But within two days, 559 men and 88 pieces of equipment were at work putting back what nature had washed away.
Explosion in Roseville Yard
In 1973, a train carrying over 7,200 bombs caught fire and soon the bombs began to explode. Shrapnel flew for miles around. The town of Antelope was destroyed. Unexploded bombs were found up to a mile away. Remarkably, no one was killed and six days later SP’s yard was rebuilt enough to resume service. You’ll see the explosions and the remarkable aftermath.