OKRA 1982

The nearly forgotten engine was on what might have been her last, one way trip, to a scrap heap. Audubon was planning a major expansion to the Audubon Zoo, which would eventually become their signature Louisiana Swamp Exhibit. Word was that the steam locomotive would have to go.

The local model railroad club, the Crescent City Model Railroad Club (CCMRC) had many members who were both model railroaders as well as “railfans“. When word got out that the SP 745 might be on a one way ticket to extinction, about a dozen of the CCMRC banded together to form the Old Kenner Railway Association (OKRA).

Photos by Michael Palmieri


1956 – The post war downturn and the demand for diesel engines cut short the life of the Ladies and all of their brood. With only thirty plus years of service, they were sent to scrap, with two exceptions. One was presented to the city of Lafayette, Louisiana, in recognition of that city’s status as a division point on the SP.

The other was given to the city of New Orleans, the home of her birth. Brought from Avondale Yard on the west bank, 745 was given a spit and polish shine and photographed on the turntable of the New Orleans Public Belt Railroad, where she was turned to head into what was to be her final resting spot, a display track at Audubon Park.

SP 745 — 1921-1956

1921 – 1956 –  SP 745 hauled mostly freight, but occasionally passengers, from 1921 through 1956. Although it was always painted “Southern Pacific” or “Southern Pacific Lines”, it actually worked for SP subsidiaries. The state of Texas had a law that required railroads operating in the state to be based there. SP owned the Galveston, Harrisburg, & San Antonio, and sent 745 to work for it. Later 745 worked for another Texas-based, SP-owned line, the Texas & New Orleans. In these roles 745 operated mostly between east Texas and the east end of the SP system in New Orleans.

Southern Pacific 1919

1919 – In a burst of genius, the Southern Pacific placed an order for repair and replacement parts for their existing fleet of Mk-5’s. These 2-8-2 work horses were the backbone of SP / T&NO’s freight haulers, and were capable of helping passenger traffic on locals or special movements. Baldwin supplied the parts ordered; while some went to the Houston Texas shops, most came to New Orleans.

Rather than simply repairing existing locos, the Algiers Shops became a locomotive manufacturer. Thru 1921, the Shops turned out a dozen sister “Mike’s”; receiving road numbers 738-750. As part of the SP’s Texas and New Orleans subsidiary, the Mikes spent most of their working lives east of El Paso and west of the Sabine. Because of Texas railroad law, the distinctive Vanderbilt tenders were recipients of a “dog house”, a small metal out-house looking shed built atop the tender, to provide a station for the brakeman.