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Santa Fe locomotive goes through wall

Santa Fe locomotive goes through wall

Jan. 25, 1948: A Santa Fe diesel passenger locomotive hangs over Aliso St. after running off the end of its track at Union Station. The locomotive had just been unhooked from the El Capitan passenger train from Chicago at 8:45 a.m. when the accident occurred.

This image of the unlucky locomotive became the lead art on the front page of the next morning’s Los Angeles Times. A non-byline story accompanying the photo reported:

A gleaming 600,000-pound four-unit Santa Fe Diesel passenger train locomotive “overshot the field” at Union Station yesterday and stopped just short of making a crash landing in Aliso St. 20 feet below.

It halted with a third of the 150,000-pound leading power unit hanging in the air, leaning on a Pacific Electric pole it pushed to a drunken angle. …

No one was hurt, but an Army motor pool car driver for McCornack General Hospital, Pasadena, escaped probable death only by a bit of quick driving action. Pfc. Wayne A. Schmidt, 19, … of East Los Angeles, the Army man, had driven to the station to pick up some patients.

Schmidt was directly in front of the locomotive when it ran out of track, ran over the steel bumper and started for him. The locomotive, moving at what trainmen said was “two or three miles an hour,” struck the light car in the side. Schmidt jammed it into low gear and, as hie said, “gunned her out of there.”

A moment later the ponderous engine had rumbled across the 12-foot-wide concrete roadway and ground throughout the foot-wide concrete barrier. …

Five hours later, with the help of a 250-ton crane, the locomotive had pulled itself back on the tracks and was taken to the roundhouse for inspection and repairs.

The cause of the accident was unknown. A search of the L.A. Times in the following two weeks failed turn up any additional information.


  1. November 14, 2011, 9:14 am

    My father was a cab driver and saw the commotion on Aliso Street as he was getting off work. He came home and bundled us all up and we drove down to see the locomotive hanging over the wall. I was only four uears old but it made such an impression on me I can remember it, as the old saying goes, 'as though it was yesterday'!

    By: passingthroughthemoment
  2. November 14, 2011, 10:07 am

    There was a story in one of the railfan magazines (Trains, I believe) that gave the details on how the brakes slowly released and the engine was able to move forward unmanned.

  3. February 4, 2012, 5:29 pm

    The story accompanying this dramatic photo identifies the locomotive as being from the El Capitan. However, the "19" on the F-unit's number board suggests that it is from the Chief. The numbers from the El Capitan would have been 21 and 22.

    By: JamesLJOhnston
  4. February 20, 2013, 11:15 am

    While 19 was indeed the number of the westward Chief, Santa Fe did not use train numbers like Southern Pacific did. 19 in the number board of the locomotive simply indicates the unit's road number (actually 19L or 19C, part of the fourth 16-class F3 ABBA set numbered 19LABC).


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