Southern Pacific 745: a working class engines designed to handle main and branch line freight with equal skill

Southern Pacific 745 (SP 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, a unique and iconic freight locomotive from the golden age of steam, has a rich history in American railroads. Its distinctive wheel arrangement was first seen in a group of Japanese type 9700 2-8-2 locomotives, built in 1897 by Baldwin Locomotive Works for Nippon Railway of Japan (3 ft 6 in gauge.)
  • In the early 19th century, the Emperor of Japan was often referred to as ‘the Mikado’ in English. This name continued to be used until the attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941, when it was replaced with the name ‘MacArthur’ during the war to describe the locomotive type.
  • This locomotive, one of the more prevalent configurations in the first half of the 20th century, was a testament to the era of steam locomotives. Locomotives of this wheel arrangement saw service around the world.
  • Built by renowned companies such as Baldwin, American Locomotive Company(ALCO), and Lima Locomotive Works, these locomotives were a common sight on the tracks. Today, only a handful of these locomotives have been preserved, serving as static display pieces or steam excursion stars, a testament to their enduring legacy.
  • The influence of railroad tycoon E. H. Harriman on the standardization of locomotive designs is a fascinating chapter in the history of American railroads. After gaining control of the Southern Pacific, Harriman implemented a revolutionary mandate-all new locomotives were to be built to standard designs, incorporating the best features of the time. This move, known as the Harriman standard Mikados, was a groundbreaking step towards standardizing the main freight locomotive.


  • Power Type: Steam
  • Builder: Algiers Shops of Southern Pacific Railroad
  • Build Date: 1921
  • Configuration: 2-8-2
  • Class: Mk-5
  • 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
  • Cylinders: 2
  • Cylinder Size: 26 x 28 in
  • Tractive Effort: 51,076 lbs

History of SP 745

Shortly after the end of World War I, the Southern Pacific found itself with an overabundant supply of workers in its Algiers Shops in New Orleans. The workforce, mostly consisting of returning American soldiers known as the ‘Dough Boys,’ was almost 5,000 strong and could repair and rebuild freight and passenger cars, keeping the SP steam locomotive fleet in running order; however, there was just not enough work. 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!

Southern Pacific Algiers
Southern Pacific Algiers

Soon the SP began to order a large quantity of spare parts from the original builder, the famous Baldwin Locomotive Works, but instead of repairing locomotives, they consigned most parts to New Orleans and placed a smaller order for the SP shop in Houston, Texas.

Over the next two years, the two shops at Algiers and Houston produced more than a dozen locomotives. These engines were primarily designed for freight service but occasionally served as power for extra passenger and military moves. The mikes were working-class engines, handling main and branch line freight with equal skill.

Southern Pacific Algiers
Southern Pacific Algiers

These engines were designed primarily for freight service but occasionally served as power for extra passenger and military moves. A quick look under the cab’s footplate 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.

SP 745 in Houston

The mikes built in Algiers received road numbers 738-750 and were mostly used 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. This unique feature provided a safe and comfortable space for the brakeman to perform their duties during the journey.