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Nostalgia & History > Tehachapi water tanks thread - revisited.

Date: 12/16/05 01:14
Tehachapi water tanks thread - revisited.
Author: alan jacobson

John Sweetser, are you there?
I've been spending some time on your earlier thread devoted to SP water tanks on the Tehachapi grade and after comparing some of the information that you presented in that thread with various entries in John Signor's "Tehachapi", I've come to the conclusion that you must have been referencing some other source in addition to Signor's volume.

Example #1: Regarding the water tanks at Woodford - you stated:
"Woodford had four water tanks to replenish the locomotives on trains going up the grade - three standard SP 50,000-gallon WOOD TANKS and a 350,000-gallon STEEL TANK. Starting from the downhill end of the siding, the wood tanks were opposite water columns Nos. 1, 2 and 3, while the steel tank was opposite water column No. 4."

The above statement is at variance with the diagram of Woodford (circa 1935) on pages 80 and 81 of Signor's "Tehachapi", which illustrates 3 STEEL tanks of 50,000 gallons each, (serving water columns 1, 2, and 4 and only one tank of WOOD (serving water-column 3) with no capacity listed. So........I'm thinking that you had to have been referencing some other source that presented MORE UP-TO-DATE information. Looking at the photo of water tank #1,(taken July 27th, 1952) there is no question that it is, indeed, a wooden tank. The hoop and stave construction is unmistakable. This can only mean that some time between 1935 and 1952, the SP must have replaced the #1 steel tank (west end of Woodford) with one of wood.

Example #2: Regarding the WATER COLUMNS at Woodford, you stated:
"One thing I find interesting about Woodford is that the four water columns there were of three different designs."

The only photos that I have been able to find showing any of the water columns at Woodford are on pages 96 and 136 of Signor's "Tehachapi" and in the 3 photos presented on those two pages, it is completely impossible to see any detail of the columns. Of decided interest in the photos on those pages, however, is that tank #3 (page 136) is, most definitely, wood and tank #4 (in the distance on page 96) appears to be large and constructed of steel (as you stated).

So.........is there some other reasonably authoritative source for historical SP Tehachapi railroading? If there is, I'd certainly like to try and latch on to a copy for myself just as I did with the "Kern County 1952 Earthquake" volume and the SP Trainline Volume 68 (both of which I now have). Thanks.

Alan Jacobson
Phoenix, Arizona

Date: 12/16/05 09:41
Re: Tehachapi water tanks thread - revisited.
Author: BarstowRick

I watched with some interest the topic on the 1952 earthquake and the rebuilding and closing of several tunnels. I thought about throwing in on the topic but left it alone.

I am always amazed at the need to have a resource. Not picking on anyone here, as our friend Alan, made a good point. However, over the years I have noted errors in periodicals that are supposed to document certain events, places, times, various kinds of train equipment and the list goes on. I've never known a newspaper article or any news program to get the facts 100% correct. Some of that is true with the 1952 earthquake newspaper reports and etc.

Back to the water tanks at Woodford. From the recollections of family members who worked and operated steam over Tehachapi Pass, John Sweester is correct.

The problem here is those wooden tanks had a tendency to go bad in the dry climate and were frequently replaced or relocated. They would be filled either from a well or water cars delivered to the location. Sometimes they would go dry and remain that way until water could be delivered. Not good for the wood, as the water would leak out, threw the seams, just about as fast as they could fill it. The recollection is; changes in water tanks and locations, happened twice, during the last ten year of steam operations over the pass. My dad noted in one of my train videos that the water tanks had been moved or removed at the time of the steam passenger excursion, Bankers Special. All the drawings and photos of the time may not have kept up with the evolutionistic changes of operations, over Tehachapi Pass. Even the bolt counters and nut sorters may have missed some of the details and action.

Point is, just about the time you're sure you have the correct information, it may be outdated, incorrect and as I always point out there may be an exception.

My two cents.

RickH - but I love doing the research and following others work here on Trainorders!

Oh and by the way; the Bankers Special did diss of some SP officials. Especially, when they found out the train was loaded with those darn foaming railfans and not bankers. Might explain why they were let out at Caliente to wait for the train home. That news boomeranged around the then known world of rail bosses. Determined, to never allow that to happen again. Or so the rumor goes (got to have a disclaimer).

I did hear one ATSF rail official in Barstow, refer to the Bankers Special, sharing said information.

Date: 12/16/05 15:42
Re: Tehachapi water tanks thread - revisited.
Author: alan jacobson

BarstowRick Wrote:
>"However, over the years I have
noted errors in periodicals that are supposed to
document certain events, places, times, various
kinds of train equipment and the list goes on.
I've never known a newspaper article or any news
program to get the facts 100% correct. Some of
that is true with the 1952 earthquake newspaper
reports and etc."<

Truth indeed - and that is, PRECISELY, why I like to try and obtain information from several sources on a subject in which I have a particular interest - certain aspects of Tehachapi railroading history being one of them. John Signor's "Tehachapi", in my opinion, is an excellent work but, as you emphasized, just about any "authoritative" document on any subject contains factual errors or ambiguities to one degree or another. It's a simple fact that one needs to take into account when making anything but the most superficial observations. If I become aware of some bit of information that appears to be vague or ambiguous it seems to be nothing but a "no-brainer" to try and research the facts by utilizing multiple sources. In the case of John's information on the Tehachapi water tanks, I am certainly not disputing anything that he said but, rather, only wanting to broaden my own resouces for my own edification and future use on this subject.

Intersting comment you made about the water tanks being changed, probably, 2 times in the last 10 years of steam operations over the mountain. What is your source for that statement? :) :) :)

Thanks for the input.


Date: 12/16/05 16:39
Re: Tehachapi water tanks thread - revisited.
Author: BarstowRick

Alan and all tuned in,

No problem glad to share it. Details may not be right on the money...disclaimer. >:-)

Family, is my resource. Particularly the stories my step great granddad and grandad, engineers for Santa Fe. Also, a good friend who used to maintain the steamers for SP.

Here's what they had to share with regard to the water storage tanks. The 1952 earthquake shook a few of them off their foundations and they were either replaced temporarily with old water cars or new upright tanks (Santa Fe style) were deliverd and located across the tracks from or next to the condemned water tanks.

Going further back in history: About 1948 or 1949, efficiency experts determined that a number of them could be removed and they were. Leaving some crews stranded and water less at a number of former watering holes. New ones were eventually put in to take their place.

I wish I could be more specific as to the factual, actual locations. The stories were generalized when I heard them. Fun to share and thanks for asking.

About the 1952 earthquake my dad was located in Mojave operating the O'Donnels Ambulance. Not sure why he felt he compelled to go to Tehachapi. He inidicated that only one person was killed the direct result of the earthquake and 11 were injured. Then he hesitates and says no, no one was killed as a result of the earthquake. The one that died had a heart attack. This counters the newspaper report. Sorry, Not sure who to believe at this point. >;-)

RickH - to be human is to err. Oh, and this isn't copyrighted just because..... I say it is. :) :) :'0

Date: 12/17/05 12:17
Re: Tehachapi water tanks thread - revisited.
Author: JohnSweetser

I've concluded that there are some big errors in John Signor's map on pages 80-81 of his "Tehachapi" book in regards to the construction materials of the Woodford water tanks and the size of the tank serving water column No. 4.

On the map, the tanks for water columns 1 and 2 are described as 50,000-gallon steel tanks. Here are the reasons I believe otherwise:

I haven't come across anything that indicates the SP ever had 50,000-gallon water tanks that were constructed of steel, at least not standard tanks. The 50,000-gallon water tanks on the SP were invariably wooden.

It seems highly unlikely that the SP would replace steel tanks with wooden tanks. This is backwards in the railroad order of things.

The 1952 photo in the collection of the Earthquake Engineering Research Center at U.C. Berkeley of the tank for water column No. 1 shows it to be wood. A photo of this tank can also be found on pg. 83 of the Robert Hale photo book, "Railroad Photography, Western States" plus it shows up in the video, "Railfanning Southern California in the 1950s."

While Signor's circa-1935 map indicates the tank for water column No. 3 is steel, photos taken in 1932 and 1946 show this tank to be wood. The 1932 photo is a postcard-type view I have that was taken after the 1932 Tehachapi Creek flood and the metal hoops and characteristic tapered sides can be seen on the tank, which establish it was wood (another photo taken after the flood that shows the tank is on the bottom of pg. 99 of "Tehachapi"). The 1946 photo is on pg. 166 of "Santa Fe's Early Diesel Daze" and shows the hoops at the top of the tank. By the way, this tank was the only one at Woodford that was on the west side of Tehachapi-Woodford Road. Its foundations can still be seen next to the road.

As for the tank opposite water column No. 4, I've only seen photos of it in the background, taken in the late 1940s or after. A 1952 tabulation of Tehachapi water tanks (more on this tabulation later) states it held 350,000 gallons of water. While it is possible that there was a smaller tank in 1935, it could not have been a "50,000 gallon steel water tank" as indicated on the Signor map since I contend there was no such type of tank used on the SP.

Regarding the water columns at Woodford, I'll describe them starting from the west (downhill side):

Water column No. 1 - As I stated in my previous posting about Tehachapi water tanks, the only view I've seen of this column is in the video "Railfanning Southern California in the 1950s." It is of the same style as the one at the east end of Caliente seen on pg. 130 of "Tehachapi."

Water column No. 2 - This is a Poage water column (an article in the Aug. 1986 Mainline Modeler calls the type a Poage Style H). The characteristic feature of this type is the bell-shaped valve on the top of the column. Photos of this column can be seen on page 166 of "Santa Fe's Early Diesel Daze" and bottom of pg. 136 of "Tehachapi." Water column No. 1 at Tehachapi (photo on pg. 71 of March 1991 Mainline Modeler) is the same type.

Water column No. 3 - Same type as water column No. 1. The best photo I've seen of column 3 is on page 116 of "Santa Fe in the Mountains," but its type can also be determined from the top photo on pg. 136 of "Tehachapi."

Water column No. 4 - This is the type with a large wheel (maybe about 3 feet in diameter) to control the water flow, a kind widely used on the SP. I verified the type from a 1938 F.C. Smith photo of a cab-foward-led freight train at Woodford that I purchased from Stan Kistler. In an ad I saw for model railroad water columns, this type of column was referred to as a "Rigid Column," but I don't know if that was a brand name or simply a generic description. This type of column may have possibly been manufactured by Fairbanks-Morse but I could be wrong (besides locomotives, Fairbanks-Morse also built things like coaling towers for railroads).

Getting back to Tehachapi water tanks, here is a tabulation of them and how they were affected by the 1952 earthquake, derived from pg. 289 of "An Engineering Sudy of the Southern California Earthquake of July 21, 1952, and Its Aftershocks" by Steinbrugge and Moran:

Bena - 50,000-gallon wood tank on wood tower. Totally demolished. I have never seen a photo of this tank.

Caliente - 65,000-gallon steel tank. Collapsed.

Caliente - 470,000 gallon steel tank. Some damage - roof broken, piping broke, tank moved.

Bealville - 20,000-gallon wood tank. Additional bracing added after earthquake.

Woodford - Three 50,000-gallon wood tanks. No damage.

Woodford - 350,000-gallon steel tank. Collapsed roof, pipe connections broke off.

In addition, the main resevoir for Woodford was a 1,260,000-gallon tank located about halfway between Woodford and the Loop, away from the tracks (it was painted black). It lasted up to around the late 1960s as I recall. Has anyone taken a good photo of this tank?

Tehachapi - 470,000-gallon elevated steel tank. Collapsed.

As perhaps can be surmized, there is no one reference source for all of the above information. It was pieced together from a wide variety of sources.

John Sweetser

Date: 12/17/05 14:00
Re: Tehachapi water tanks thread - revisited.
Author: alan jacobson

Your detailed answer is greatly appreciated. In fact, I have printed it out so as to be able to include a hard-copy in my collection of "Tehachapi" information, for future reference. As with the earlier threads on both the Tehachapi earthquake and the tanks, the information exchanged here is, definitely, interesting from a historical standpoint - and, at the same time, it would seem to be a sensible policy, as BarstowRick pointed out, to view all such information with "fluidity" since all things human-created tend to change in relatively short order. Thanks.

Alan Jacobson

Date: 12/18/05 01:32
Re: Tehachapi water tanks thread - revisited.
Author: JohnSweetser

The number of people killed in the 1952 Tehachapi earthquake and its aftershock is pretty well documented - there is no ambiguity about whatsoever.

The July 21, 1952 earthquake killed 12 people - 10 in the city of Tehachapi, one in the Cummings Valley west of Tehachapi and one near Arvin.

The August 22, 1952 aftershock killed two people in Bakersfield.

Date: 12/18/05 01:44
Re: Tehachapi water tanks thread - revisited.
Author: JohnSweetser

Correction. Change the first sentence to read:

"The number of people killed in the 1952 Tehachapi earthquake is pretty well documented - there is no ambiguity about this whatsoever." (I had left off "this")

Date: 12/18/05 09:25
Re: Tehachapi water tanks thread - revisited.
Author: BarstowRick

John Sweester and all,

Regarding numbers of individuals hurt or killed. No problem John. The health department and corners office would be able to affirm this. Records of this nature are usually permanent.

In a previous discussion here on TO I heard from a family that lived in Tehachapi, at the time of the 1952 earthquake. They indicated there were others who died later, either the direct result of... or due to complications brought on by the earthquake.

Lot's of confusion at the time would lead to mis-informed persons such as my dad. Most of the available fire response and ambulance's were very active at the time. My dad ended up on stand-by in Tehachapi and allegedly assisted in rescuing someone out of a partially collapsed building somewhere down town near the railroad station. Or so goes the story.

I am not a detail person, as such, so I will leave you to gather the facts as they are documented. Having all ready chimed in on the subject. However, John many of your details support stories that I've heard, rings a bell of sorts. This, is why I felt free to sound off...indicating you were right.

In review of John Signor's work, I mentioned Santa Fe style water tanks, steel in construction. I was under the impression that one was used at Woodford, either across the road from the tracks or between the road and tracks. And several went into the west end of the Tehachapi yard including one, across the tracks from the Tehachapi SP station. Memory if it serves me correctly, has one placed at Caliente. Most were temporarily placed and later taken out. Something, about Santa Fe needing them elsewhere and SP didn't want to pay for them.

I was also under the impression that the ones that went into Tehcachapi, may still be there. SP it was rumored didn't like these tanks and preferred the wooden ones, as you indicated. This despite the on going maintenance headaches and the need to replace them.

Alan, thanks for bringing the subject back here to NH on TO. Stimulating discussion. I was going to say "Tanks" for bringing it back, one more time but decided not to. >:-)

Edited add on: Unless you were there during the 1952 earthquake it's unlikely you will know all the facts. Remembering, that first reports out of an earthquake by newsapaers, rumnors and etc., are seldom correct...!

Edited add on: Seems I remember one or two of the steel tanks at the west bound end of the Mojave SP yard...also.

My two cents.


Date: 12/19/05 01:57
Re: Tehachapi water tanks thread - revisited.
Author: JohnSweetser

A few more comments on Tehachapi water tanks.

Due to a long-standing dispute between the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and the Southern Pacific about the excessively-long hours on duty for freight crews between Bakersfield and Los Angeles, the SP sought to reduce over-the-road running times in 1947. One way this was accomplished was by replacing the AC-5 and AC-6 cab-fowards used with locomotives of class AC-7 and higher. The higher classes had tenders of greater water capacity, making it possible to reduce the number of water stops along the way. I don't know what the specific affect this had on the water stop at Caliente but my guess is that the stopping at Caliente by eastward freight trains was greatly reduced. I also don't know what the affect was on the Woodford water stop by use of the AC-7 and higher engines.

A 1942 San Joaquin Division employee timetable indicates that Marcel and Cameron had water "for emergency use only" for trains. In a 1949 San Joaquin Division timetable, there is no indication of water at Marcel and Cameron. I don't know when tanks at these two places were eliminated, but I wonder if the introduction of the higher-class ACs in 1947 had any influence. It would take further research of timetables between 1942 and 1947 to determine a possible relationship.

There is a new book available in Tehachapi at the museum there called "Tehachapi Pass" by Melvin McAllister that has a very interesting photo taken circa 1909 at Cameron that shows the original water tank with its rectangular housing next to a newer steel tank (probably of 65,000 gallons). This is the first time I have seen a photo of the steel tank at Cameron and probably the first time I've ever seen these two types of tanks together on the SP in one photo (another photo showing the tank with the rectangular housing is on pg. 94 of "Tehachapi"). By the way, the SP started putting rectangular housings around its water tanks in 1876. This wasn't done due to cold temperatures, so I don't really know why (a word of warning: there are numerous errors in McAllister's "Tehachapi Pass").

According to John Signor in "Tehachapi," after the 1952 earthquake, water was supplied to the town of Tehachapi and the railroad there by water cars until a new water tank was installed (the one from Lang). The photo on the top of pg. 185 of "Tehachapi" was taken from these cars. I can't imagine any "Santa Fe style" upright tanks would ever have been necessary for use at Tehachapi.

As for the possibility of Santa Fe-style upright tanks being used temporarily at Caliente and Woodford after the earthquake, this seems unlikely. The main 470,000-gallon tank at Caliente was not heavily damaged, the three wooden tanks at Woodford weren't damaged at all and the two steel tanks that served Woodford (i.e., the main reservoir east of town and the tank opposite water column 4)were not heavily damaged. Any repairs these tanks needed no doubt were done during the 25 days the line was closed.

Woodford did eventually get an upright tank (or tanks, I haven't been there in awhile) that is painted silver and serves domestic customers in Keene, but this didn't happen until the early 1970s. In 1971, I took a photo of the location (which was east of where the siding originally started) and no tanks were there at that time.

As for Mojave, there were two steel tanks standing side by side in the northern part of the yard that lasted until sometime in the '60s, one a 65,000-gallon tank and the other a 350,000-gallon tank. Mojave also had another 65,000-gallon water tank north of those two that was removed in the 1950s.

John Sweetser

(it is unlikely I will be able to make any more posts to this thread)

Date: 12/19/05 09:17
Re: Tehachapi water tanks thread - revisited.
Author: BarstowRick

John and all,

Interesting research. Thanks for the come back.
Keep us informed.

Alan, how about all this great info?


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