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Southern Pacific F-7's No.6378 & No.6380

GGRM Collection 

They were called F's, or covered wagons. For years they pulled every style of train, from the Zephyr, to the Super Chief, to merchandise and local freights. Newer, bigger, more powerful locomotives made them obsolete. More than 7,600 were built by General Motors between 1939 and 1960. Of the thousands that were built, only a handful still exist today. The others were traded-in or simply cut up for scrap.

The Southern Pacific Railroad owned over 770 of these workhorses at one time. For roughly two decades these Black Widows dominated the SP system and the Sierras.

The No.6378 and No.6380 are two late-model EMD F-7A locomotives built for the Southern Pacific in July, 1952. The locomotives saw service over the entire system, and still retain their classic snow plow pilots from their days of battling the harsh winters in the Sierras.

The 28 units of class DF-8, numbered 6378-6405, were delivered in A-A sets with no B-units. All were painted in the classic SP Black Widow freight scheme, as they were purchased primarily for that service. The premier passenger trains in 1953 were well in the hands of E- and PA-diesels, as well as the large stable of GS 4-8-4 Daylight locomotives. The F's had proven they were superior to the E-units in some applications, and as the steamers were retired, some F-units were given 60:17 (79 MPH) gearing and placed in the passenger pool. These A-units were built with boiler controls and steam lines, while the B-units of the class DF-4 (Nos.8086-8139) and DF-12 (Nos.8290-8303) carried the steam generator and water tanks. These F-7A units were often found at the lead of the San Joaquin Daylight, Owl, Californian, Argonaut, Klamath, system mail trains, and special movements like troop trains.

This F-7 class was delivered with Nathan M-5 five-chime air horns, nose lifting-lugs, and 1,500-gallon fuel tanks for extended range. The dynamic brake fans were enlarged to 48-inches to dissipate 700 amperes, up from 600 amperes on the F-7's equipped with 36-inch fans. Snowplow pilots were added by the Southern Pacific.

The SP Black Widow and Daylight paint schemes were time-consuming to mask, as both used four different colors. During the 1958 recession, SP experimented with some simplified two-color schemes. A Halloween paint scheme of black and orange was tried on some units, but it was not acceptable. The SP-6378 is acknowledged as being the first Southern Pacific unit to be painted in the new system-standard Lark Grey and Scarlet Red scheme in July 1958. F-7's Nos.6365, 6378, 6382 and several other units were originally lettered with the boxcar style Gothic type face on the nose and flanks. It was then decided to return to the classic SP Railroad Roman as the standard for locomotive lettering. All F-units in the passenger pool were painted gray/red, but only about 20-percent of the freight F-units were repainted, most going to scrap in their delivered colors.

The SP-6378 and SP-6380 were part of a group traded to General Electric for new units in the late 1960's. Luckily, GE did not scrap these units, as was the fate of 1000's of others. GE resold a group of these F-7's, including Nos.6378 and 6380, to the Salzberg Family who owned a number or shortline railroads. These units were sent to the Wellsville, Addison and Galeton Railroad (WAG) in Upstate New York, where they became WAG-2100 and WAG-2000, respectively. In August 1969, the locomotives were transferred to the Louisiana and North West Railroad (L&NW) and were renumbered 46 and 45, respectively.

Builder Electro-Motive Division, General Motors
Date July, 1952
Model F7A
SP Class DF-8
Construction No. 16559 and 16561
Horsepower 1500