The "Flying F3"

The incident which made Santa Fe F3A #19-L a celebrity, and luckily no one was seriously injured. At approximately 8:45 AM on the morning of January 25, 1948 train #17, the combined westbound "El Capitan"/"Super Chief" had just arrived at Los Angeles Union Passenger Terminal (author Joe Lesser notes that four trains were scheduled to arrive at LAUPT that morning; Train #19 - "The Chief," Train #3 - "The California Limited," Train #1 - "The Scout," and Train #17 - listed only as "streamliner" on the timetable. As it turns out Train #21, "The El Capitan," and Train #17, "The Super Chief," were combined as Train #17 at that time into LAUPT). Upon cutting off from his train, engineer Fred Hurst was following instructions from the herder (a trackman assigned to work station jobs) with his A-B-B-A set of F3's to ease towards the bumping post, prepare to reverse through the crossover, head to the release track, and finally make his way to the roundhouse at nearby Redondo Junction. As an investigation later discovered, Hurst accidentally turned the F3's MU2A valve, which released air-brake control from the engines. At this point the locomotives effectively had no brakes and they slowly rolled forward, clipped through the bumper, passed over a 12-foot wide paved road, jumped the curb and sidewalk, and finally smashed through a one-foot thick concrete wall.

Lead locomotive #19-L finally came to rest on its battery case and fuel tank although its front truck dangled over Aliso Street with the unit's nose having snapped a utility pole. Hurst had remained at the controls the entire time and gingerly made his way out of the back of the locomotive once it came to a stop. However, his fireman, Frank Rittenhouse, had bailed out as soon as he realized something was amiss. Ultimately, Hurst was found at fault and permanently removed from service. Interestingly, #19-L's adventures did not end here. It was later involved in a derailment on October 30, 1949; while leading train #22, the eastbound "El Capitan" it struck a broken rail at-speed (60-70 mph) near Azusa, California, rolled over and caught fire. Thankfully, only one crew member and seventeen passengers were slightly injured. The locomotive was later repaired and returned to service. It was then rebuilt during the CF7 program in the early 1970s and became #2622. In the 1980s it was sold to short line Louisiana & Delta and finally retired in June of 1987. Photo by Fletcher Swan, AT&SF employee at the time. Many thanks to Joe Lesser's article, "The Case Of Santa Fe's Flying F3" from the March, 2000 issue of Trains Magazine for the historical background concerning this incident.