Home Rails
Robert J. Zenk

When the PLA next operates a Krauss-Maffei over the rails of the Niles Canyon, it won't be the first time.

K-M's were regular visitors through the Canyon, working Oakland-Tracy.  Joe Ward and Jim Evans captured SP 9120 on one such trip.

Joe Ward Photo
Jim Evans Collection

Jim Evans Photo

In the spring of 1967, members of the PLA wanted to sponsor a passenger fan trip behind a Krauss-Maffei before it was too late. The preference was for one of the Prototypes (cab units), but SP wasn't confident that the remaining operational unit -- SP 9101, the former 9001 -- would be reliable. This same unit, part of the "Final Four" Series units, was chosen instead.

SP 9120 was basically an identical sibling to the PLA's 9010, operating as 9113 at that time. And on April 30, 1967 you could ride behind 9120 in an open-door baggage car for the smoke-smell-and-spectacle, or multiple sets of articulated chair cars, two "Overland"-style coffee shops bracketing a "Sunset Limited" lounge, and a heavyweight observation bringing up the markers.

SP 9120 had some help on the rear drawbar that day: trailing units FP7 6450 and F7B 541 couldn't add as much horsepower together as the single K-M was capable of delivering by itself. But the help was for train steam heat -- and in case something Teutonic happened to break.

It didn't. The trip operated successfully from Oakland to Sacramento, thence to Tracy and over Altamont through Niles Canyon, and on to a return to Oakland 16th Street, with several photo runbys.

W.C.Whittaker Photo
Dave Maffei Collection

Our friends Jim Evans, Joe Ward, and Will Whittaker were among the lucky photographers bagging K-Ms in the Canyon, even though the sign in Jim's photo clearly states "No Shooting."

Wonder how many will be taking photos of the second PLA-sponsored Krauss-Maffei excursion, snaking under the Farwell Bridge telltale just like in these pictures -- but in the 21st Century?

Bob Zenk,  2009

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