The Ballad of #2964

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On a January night in 1988, Santa Fe GP40 #2964 was part of a westbound manifest train near Pico Rivera, CA. The crew was given the all-clear indication from the signal on the outskirts of town, and the train rumbled on at 40+ mph…

In the late 1950’s and early 1960’s, the Atchison, Topeka, and Santa Fe railroad gorged itself on four axle EMD road switchers. Primary among these purchases were GP30’s and 35’s. So when 1966 rolled around, the Santa Fe pushed back from the table and said “no thanks” to the newest model, the GP40. They opted instead for six axle SD40’s and C-units from General Electric for heavy hauling duties.

In 1984, the Santa Fe fully acquired it’s eastern subsidiary, the Toledo, Peoria, and Western. Along with the purchase came GP40 #1000. The unit was an oddball to say the least. It had originally been built as a loaner unit to replace other 40’s that had cracked frames. The Penn Central ended up with the locomotive first, but decided not to purchase it. It was then passed off to the TP&W. After TP&W #1000 came to be held by Santa Fe, it was repainted into the familiar bumblebee freight scheme and renumbered to 3461. Later it was rebuilt and de-rated to 2500 horsepower, essentially making it a “GP35-2”, and given the road number 2964.

…as the train highballed into town, the crew finally saw the rear cars of a way-freight ┬átrain stopped on the tracks ahead. The brakes were applied, but there was not enough time. The crew in the lead locomotive jumped, and #2964 and the rest of the train were left to meet their destiny. One of the train crewman lost his life in the subsequent collision, and all of the locomotives were destroyed, including Santa Fe’s only GP40. And although there were no casualties on the ground, several of the town’s buildings and vehicles were destroyed as well.

The follow-up investigation into the accident revealed that the signal that had given the train an all-clear had been improperly wired.


The Los Angeles Times