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Railroaders' Nostalgia > Crashing the gates at Algodones

Date: 11/05/19 07:12
Crashing the gates at Algodones
Author: Cabhop

At one time SP used their Inter-California railway that detoured off  the Sunset Main between Nyland and Araiz Jct. to relieve the congestion on the Sunset Main.  In addition to a few freights, the 'Imperial', trains 39/40 would use this detour also.   After a stop at El Centro seen in the attached, No. 40 would run briefly through Mexico on the Inter-Cal.  These Mexico routed trains led to an expression that all the old heads who worked this run knew well: "crash the gates at Algodones".

This expression came from the fact that if an SP train hit a car or pedestrian in Mexico, under Mexican law, the crew was guilty and had to prove their innocents, despite who was at fault. So the crew would be taken to jail and the SP would have to send an official down with a sack of cash to post bail. This could take some time as you can imagine. So if there was an incident, the standard practice was to open the throttle and run for the border at Algodones and not stop for the Border Patrol to open the gates. Once back in the US of A the crew would be safe from incarceration in a Mexican hoosegow.

In case you are wondering, No. 39 or 40 did not make any station stops in Mexico so the passengers were not subject to immigration issues returning back into the USA.

Date: 11/05/19 10:46
Re: Crashing the gates at Algodones
Author: spider1319

Interesting.Thanks for posting.Bill Webb

Date: 11/05/19 12:32
Re: Crashing the gates at Algodones
Author: cewherry

Judging from the shadows across the platform at El Centro and the 'vintage' autos it looks like the photo was 
taken in the late 1940's. Nos. 40-39 stopped running through Mexico after September 26, 1953.

Yes, stories abound about SP railroad operations south the border including one I posted a while back recounting
my time on the SD&AE.  Another, possible "urban legend" supposedly occurred on one of SP's 'Roustabout'
jobs operating out of El Centro, down close to the border. The story has it that one of these jobs was hiding out
one night around Holtville, soaking up as much overtime as possible before heading back to town and tieing-up.
To pass the time, the entire crew was involved in a card game, aboard the crummy.

The local trainmaster; 'on-to' these shenanigans, crept up the steps and burst in on the party.
"Yer' all fired!, out-of-service, right now!" he sputtered. The crew grabbed their grips, descended the steps and 
disappeared into the night. Someone on the crew knew a 'local' who picked them up and deposited them back at
the depot in El Centro where they retrieved their cars and high-tailed it across the border to Old Mexico where
they remained.....for weeks until SP officials could contact each of them and ask them to please return to work. 

Just when the trainmaster realized his error is not told. The story goes on to add that ultimately each of the card players
was paid handsomely for the entire time they had been held-from service without benefit of their due-process of
a 'formal investigation'. Legend or no, it does make for interesting conjecture.

Lots of memories stirred up by this photo, Pat, even though I wasn't around to witness the 'Yellow Belly' days.


(For the younger crowd: "Yellow Belly's" = what some old heads called SP's 4400 class 'Daylight' engines; as in the photo above.) 


Edited 2 time(s). Last edit at 11/05/19 18:25 by cewherry.

Date: 11/05/19 14:52
Re: Crashing the gates at Algodones
Author: spider1319

Good story Charlie.Our neighbor years ago was dismissed and promptly went on a long trip to Alaska.They were begging him to come home but the details of the episode is lost from my memory.But,it does happen.Bill Webb

Date: 11/05/19 22:39
Re: Crashing the gates at Algodones
Author: E25

Great tales!

Greg Stadter
Phoenix, AZ

Date: 11/06/19 04:36
Re: Crashing the gates at Algodones
Author: Drknow

I’d say maybe WWII or early 46. No post war cars in pic. I think the Chevy business coup is a 39 or 40.

Posted from iPhone

Date: 11/06/19 12:00
Re: Crashing the gates at Algodones
Author: cewherry

Drknow Wrote:
> I’d say maybe WWII or early 46. No post war cars
> in pic. I think the Chevy business coup is a 39 or
> 40.

Your guess is closer than mine. 

I knew I'd seen this photo, somewhere. Finally found it in John Signor's Beaumont Hill. The caption says it
was taken "....shortly after...October 6, 1946" when the Imperial was reinstated following WW II.

I based my guess on the 'Febero 20 De 1949' employee timetable of the Inter-Cal which shows No. 40 stopping
at Mexicali at 16:15 (using the 24 hour clock), 4:15PM for the rest of us. It's bi-lingual, keep paging down for the English pages.

That timetable, along with a whole world of railroad interest 'stuff' is available to us courtesy Ed Gibson's site:



Edited 2 time(s). Last edit at 11/06/19 12:31 by cewherry.

Date: 11/06/19 13:02
Re: Crashing the gates at Algodones
Author: mundo

I rode #40,   February 1953,  LA-Yuma, as a "last " ride before being drafted in the Army in March.


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