Southern Pacific 745 is a Mikado-type (2-8-2) steam locomotive that has been restored to operating condition. 745 is regarded as a classic among steam locomotives, and for its significance, it was placed on the U.S. National Register of Historic Places.
SP 745 is a classic for several reasons.
The Mikado-type locomotive is considered by many to be the classic American freight locomotive from the golden age of steam locomotives. Despite well over 10,000 Mikados being built for American use, only 12 remain capable of operating on standard railroad tracks SP 745 is a “Harriman Standard Mikado”.
Railroad tycoon E. H. Harriman obtained control of the Southern Pacific and several other major railroads and then insisted that all of them have their new locomotives built to more-or-less standard designs for each type, based on the best features known at the time. The Harriman standard Mikados, including SP 745 and the other members of Southern Pacific’s Mk-5 class designed in 1913, was the first great attempt at standardizing the main freight locomotive.
745 is one of a small batch of locomotives built by Southern Pacific at its Algiers shops just outside of New Orleans. Number 745 was built in 1921, based on the 1913 Mk-5 class design and is the last surviving steam locomotive built-in Louisiana.
Power Type: Steam
Builder: Algiers Shops of Southern Pacific Railroad
Build Date: 1921
Gauge: 4ft 8 1/2 in
Leading Wheel: 33″
Drive Wheel: 63″
Weight: 280,960 lbs
Tender Capacity: 3,800 US gallon of oil; 10,000 US gallon of water
Boiler Pressure: 200 PSI
Cylinder Size: 26 x 28 in
Tractive Effort: 51,076 lbs
Southern Pacific steam locomotive 745 has an interesting history. In 1919 the Dough Boys came home from the “war to end all wars.” They swelled the workforce of America. Here in New Orleans, the Southern Pacific (SP) found that its massive Algiers Shops had an overabundant supply of workers. It employed almost 5,000 skilled laborers, who could repair and rebuild freight and passenger cars. They kept the SP steam locomotive fleet in running order; however, there was just not enough work to go around. Today corporate America might solve the problem by “right-sizing” the company. But this was 1919, and the Algiers Shops were one BIG family. Work would be found!
The Southern Pacific owned and operated numerous class Mk-5 locomotives. These 2-8-2 locos were built to the Harriman standard, so that full, half and near sisters of these SP Lines locomotives could be found on rival Union Pacific and the Illinois Central railroads (both roads were at onetime part of the Harriman empire.) Various nicknames have been ascribed to these locomotives, the most widely accepted name being “Mikados”, as some of the first locos of this wheel arrangement were sent to Japan. (Note: during WW II, patriotic railroaders renamed these locos “MacArthurs”, for obvious reasons.) Locomotives always needed repairs, so the Southern Pacific worked up a large order of spare parts from the original builder, the famous Baldwin Locomotive Works. In came the parts…boilers, fireboxes, driving wheels, pony trucks, tubes, flues… all the parts needed to keep the SP fleet of Mk-5’s running…..except…. the SP had no intention of repairing locomotives.
The SP consigned most of the parts to New Orleans, and a smaller order to the SP shop at Houston, Texas, ostensibly for repairs. The two shops put their boiler makers to work. Over the next two years, the two shops turned out more than a dozen “built in Algiers ” ( or Houston) Mk-5 steam locomotives. For two years, Algiers was in the steam motive power manufacturing business.
The “Mikes”, as they were called, were classic standard motive power. Designed primarily for freight service, the engines served as power for extra passenger and military moves. A quick look under the cab’ s foot plate reveals an extra steam line connection for providing steam to passenger cars. Mikes were working class engines, able to handle main and branch line freight with equal skill. They did not strike the mystic chords of Big Boys, Challengers, Daylights, Southern P’s Pacifics, NYC Hudsons, and Mohawks. Their world was the fifty car manifest freight train, the troop train extra to an Army base, and the cross-town transfer.
Of the mikes built in Algiers, they received road numbers 738-750. One of Dixon’ s books has a “builder’ s photo” of a long string of newly built mikes at the Algiers Shops. As part of the SP’ s Texas and New Orleans subsidiary ( a direct descendant of Morgan’ s Texas & Louisiana, and itself a post War Between the States orphan of the original New Orleans, Opelousas & Great Western), the mikes found most of their working lives east of El Paso and west of the Sabine. Because of Texas railroad law requirements, 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 head end brakeman.
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, 745, 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.
In 1984, a group calling itself the Old Kenner Railroad Association (OKRA) managed to get the engine donated to its care and subsequently removed it from the park in hopes of an eventual restoration. Breathing new life into a neglected 70-year-old steam engine is not an easy task, but by 1997 some dedicated volunteers formed the Louisiana Steam Train Association to restore 745 and period passenger train cars. Along with some professional help, private and public grants, they finally got the wheels turning. SP 745 conducted its first main-line operations in 48 years, running to Reserve, LA and back over the Kansas City Southern Railway. Since then SP 745 has toured Louisiana and southwest Mississippi as well a long trip to Kansas City.
The volunteers at the Louisiana Steam Train Association are dedicated to never letting SP 745 become a run-down, static display again. Meanwhile, LASTA’s volunteers are working to find a new permanent home for its operations; a place where 745 can be publicly displayed with dignity and pride.