Atchison, Topeka & Santa Fe (AT&SF) #2912 was built in January 1944 by Baldwin Locomotive Works. This engine is one of the “Santa Fe 2900 Class”, a series of 30 engines numbered 2900 through 2929. These engines are an example of a “4-8-4” design, with four small leading wheels, eight driver wheels, and four small trailing wheels. The first engines to use this 4-8-4 design were purchased by the Northern Pacific Railway in 1926, and so the design came to be known as the “Northern”. Some earlier versions of the 4-8-4 “Northerns” originally ran on coal, and were later converted to use fuel oil. In contrast, the 2900 Class never used coal, only fuel oil – 7000 gallons of it.
Slideshow: ATSF #2912 running the rails, 1946-1956
This particular engine, #2912 was purchased by Atchison, Topeka & Santa Fe on January 12, 1944 for $252,335.71. Wartime shortages of light weight materials resulted in ordinary metals being used for their construction. As a result, the 2900 Class of engines were the heaviest Northerns ever built. The engine and tender weighed 974,850 pounds fully loaded, more than a ton more than its nearest rivals. The pair are 16 feet high, 11 feet 9-1/2 inches wide, and more than 121 feet long.
AT&SF #2912 was used on troop trains and other work critical to the war effort in 1944 and 1945. After WWII, while other engines of the 2900 Class were assigned to passenger and mail service between Kansas City and Los Angeles, #2912 remained in freight service. These engines were designed to run long distances with little maintenance except to add water and fuel. #2912 was retired from regular service on August 5, 1954, but remained on standby for peak demand until 1958. After logging 905,874 miles, #2912 was finally retired and written off of the AT&SF books in April 1959.
On July 20, 1959, AT&SF donated the engine to the City of Pueblo, where it was displayed near City Hall for 35 years. As a result of construction of the Historic Arkansas River Project (HARP), the City donated the engine to the Pueblo Locomotive & Rail Historical Society (the “PL&RHS”). The locomotive was moved to its present location behind the Pueblo Union Depot on September 10, 1994. AT&SF #2912 was added to the State Register of Historic Properties on September 13, 1995. In 2003, the Pueblo Railway Foundation assumed control of the PL&RHS assets, including engine #2912.
Even before the City of Pueblo donated the engine in 1994, the weather was already starting to take its toll on the fading paint. The Pueblo Railway Foundation launched a fundraising effort to restore the engine to its former appearance. The main part of the physical restoration took place over three years, from the Spring of 2013 to November 2016. The finishing touches were applied in July 2019, with the repainting and relettering of the tender.
Slideshow: Cosmetic restoration of ATSF #2912, 2013-2016
AT&SF #2912 is one of six engines of the 2900 Class which still survive:
- #2903, Illinois Railway Museum, Union, IL
- #2912, Pueblo Railway Museum, Pueblo, CO
- #2913, Fort Madison Community Park, Fort Madison, IA
- #2921, Amtrak Station, Modesto, CA
- #2925, California State Railroad Museum, Sacramento, CA
- #2926, Albuquerque, NM, restored to operating condition July 24, 2021
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