If you grew up in the 80’s then you probably remember all the hype that was generated for the final installment of Robert Zamackis’s epic series, “Back To The Future, part III” You have not lived until you see the series! However, the real stars for the railfans are the Historic Baldwin S-12 Diesel Locomotives that destroy the Time Traveling DeLorean and the steam locomotive used to shove the car to 88 miles per hour. Lets take a look at those locomotives
Sierra #3 is a 4-6-0 ten-wheeler, was built by the Rogers Locomotive and Machine Works of Patterson, NJ, and was given construction number 4493. She was completed on March 26, 1891. She was built for the Prescott & Arizona Central Railway as their locomotive #3. That railroad went bankrupt in 1893, and its owner, Thomas S. Bullock, relocated to California, bringing much of his railroad equipment, including the 4-6-0 built by Rogers. He then entered into a partnership with Prince André Poniatowski, and together they incorporated the Sierra Railway Company of California in 1897, to connect Oakdale, California with the timber producing foothills of Tuolumme County and Calaveras County.
The locomotive was then relettered Sierra No. 3, and played a key role of the construction of the railroad to Jamestown, California in 1897, to Sonora, California in 1898 and finally to Toulumme, California in 1900. #3 was the backbone of the railroad until 1906, when the Sierra Railway purchased a heavier, more powerful 2-8-0 Consolidation type locomotive. She was originally a woodburner, but between 1900 and 1902, she was converted to burn oil, witch produced less sparks to start trackside brush fires.
During the Great Depression, the Sierra Railway went into bankruptcy starting in 1932, and was reorganized as the Sierra Railroad Company in 1937. Sierra No. 3 was taken out of service in 1932, and sat on the turntable lead siding for 14 years. She managed to avoid being scrapped during WWII scrap metal drives, and received attention from Hollywood in 1946, when David Selznick, the producer of Duel in the Sun being filmed on the Sierra Railroad, proposed to destroy her in a train wreck scene for the movie. Instead, the railroad’s owners decided to restore the locomotive and return her to service. A boiler check resulted in a reduction of operational boiler pressure from 160 psi to 150 psi. The rebuild was completed in May 1948, when she pulled a Railway and Locomotive Historical Society sponsored excursion train on Memorial Day. Over the next five decades, Sierra No. 3 pulled tourist excursion trains, and appeared in many movies, TV shows and commercials. Among them were Gary Coopers High Noon in 1952, for which he won the Academy Award for Best Actor, and Clint Eastwood’s Unforgiven, for which he also won the Academy Award, this time for Best Picture in 1992. The locomotive was often relettered and repainted for movie and TV appearances, the most recognizable being the Hooterville Cannonball from the mid-sixties series “Petticoat Junction.” Dummy smokestacks were also often installed to change the appearance of the locomotive during many of her movie roles.
In 1995, the Federal Railway Administration issued new safety standards for steam locomotive boilers. As a result, Sierra No. 3 was taken out of service in 1996 because of the need for a major rebuild from the ground up to comply with these revised regulations.
Preliminary repairs were completed in 2000-2001 with deferred maintenance funding from the State of California. This included dismantling the locomotive.The project progressed very slowly until 2007, when a major fundraising campaign began. At that time, the budget for the project was estimated at $600,000, based on the assumption that the existing boiler could be saved.
In a fundraising appeal, Clint Eastwood, who worked with #3 in several movies, described Sierra No. 3 as “like a treasured old friend.”Eastwood had ridden the locomotive early in his career on the TV series Rawhide, and later used the locomotive in his own movie productions of Pale Rider and The Unforgiven. In his appeal, Mr. Eastwood wrote, “Sierra No. 3 resides at Railtown 1897 State Historic Park. It is housed in the original roundhouse which is still in use. Together these two assets provide a rare opportunity to experience history just as it was 109 years ago. His appeal drew many donors and saw an increased interest in rail preservation in Major Corporations and the film industry, who in the past, always destroyed old railroad equipment, without a second thought. Today, the locomotives configuration represents her appearance during the year 1929, when the movie “The Virgnian” was filmed and provided the first known evidence of the presence of “3-spot’s” steel cab. Final cost of the rebuild was US$1.5 million, and the locomotive officially returned to service on July 3rd, 2010.
Today, she is used for the Daily “Railtown 1897” tourist train on the Sierra Northern Railway. The Sierra Northern is the modern day successor to the Sierra Railway.
The Diesel locomotives used in the destruction of the DeLorean belonged to the Ventura County Railway in California. The locomotives are VCRY #9 leading with VCRY #7 trailing. VCRY #9 is an ALCo S6 built for the Southern Pacific Railroad as their #1059. The unit was constructed in June 1956, and carries Serial #81730. She came to the Ventura County Railway from locomotive Dealer Chrome Crankshaft in Silvis, Illinois. Chrome Crankshaft purchased the unit upon retirement from the SP roster sometime in 1976. She became VCRY #9 when she arrived on the property.
Today, #9 is on the Fillmore and Western Railroad, stored and has not been used in a few years.
Here is a photo of the Ventura County #9 as she looks today on the Fillmore and Western Railroad. http://www.rrpicturearchives.net/showPicture.aspx?id=2837333
The Second locomotive is also an ALCo S6. She was also built for the Southern Pacific railroad and also came from locomotive dealer Chrome Crankshaft. She was built by ALCo in July 1956 with Serial #82286 as Southern Pacific #1084. The locomotive was renumbered in 1965 to SP 1251. Like sister VCRY#9, the locomotive was later sold in the 1990’s to the Fillmore and Western Railway. However, unlike #9, she suffered a major Mechanical failure and has been stored, being stripped of usable parts to keep F&W’s two other ALCo S6 locomotives running. There are no current photos of the locomotive, if you have one of her in her current state, please message me or send it along. You will be credited!
I hope you enjoyed this look into the locomotives of Back to the Future, part 3! I hope you look at my other blogs and tell me what you think! If you have any leads, message me and I will do my best to dig up the information! Happy Railfanning!
Special Thanks to David Lemke of Chicago for the correction, I had previously listed the two Diesels as Sierra railway Baldwin S-6’s #40 and 44, both of witch have been scrapped. Someone gave me the wrong information, so I won’t trust that person with information anymore.