From the Archives: Santa Fe locomotive goes through wall


The locomotive had just been unhooked from the El Capitan passenger train from Chicago at 8:45 a.m. on Jan. 25, 1948, when the accident occurred.

This image of the unlucky locomotive became the lead art on the front page of the next morning’s Los Angeles Times. A non-byline story accompanying the photo reported:

A gleaming 600,000-pound four-unit Santa Fe Diesel passenger train locomotive “overshot the field” at Union Station yesterday and stopped just short of making a crash landing in Aliso St. 20 feet below.


It halted with a third of the 150,000-pound leading power unit hanging in the air, leaning on a Pacific Electric pole it pushed to a drunken angle. …

No one was hurt, but an Army motor pool car driver for McCornack General Hospital, Pasadena, escaped probable death only by a bit of quick driving action. Pfc. Wayne A. Schmidt, 19, of 2200 Wilma Ave., East Los Angeles, the Army man, had driven to the station to pick up some patients.

Schmidt was directly in front of the locomotive when it ran out of track, ran over the steel bumper and started for him. The locomotive, moving at what trainmen said was “two or three miles an hour,” struck the light car in the side. Schmidt jammed it into low gear and, as he said, “gunned her out of there.”

A moment later the ponderous engine had rumbled across the 12-foot-wide concrete roadway and ground throughout the foot-wide concrete barrier. …

Five hours later, with the help of a 250-ton crane, the locomotive had pulled itself back on the tracks and was taken to the roundhouse for inspection and repairs.

The cause of the crash is unknown. A search of the L.A. Times for two weeks after the accident failed turn up any additional information.


This post was originally published on Nov. 14, 2011.

See more from the Los Angeles Times archives here