History of ATSF 3463

On July 6, 1948, locomotive 3463 stands ready to haul its next train out of Dearborn station in Chicago. Already the locomotive has been modified by the ATSF: the boiler check valves have been moved to the top of the boiler and the whistle has been moved to the front of the locomotive. Image from the collection of Warren M. Scholl, photographer unknown.

Locomotive 3463 was delivered to the ATSF by the Baldwin Locomotive Works on October 30, 1937, and it went through a similar set of testing and trials as locomotive 3461, which had been received earlier that month.

Initially all six 3460-class locomotive were assigned to the Chicago, Illinois, to La Junta, Colorado, route hauling lightweight passenger trains such as the Chief. Given their prodigious power, management at the ATSF quickly reassigned the locomotives to heavier trains on the Chicago – La Junta run. 

After its initial break-in period, locomotive 3463 was assigned to the Chicago-Kansas City passenger pool in November 1937. By the end of January 1938, locomotive 3463 and its fellow locomotives were assigned to the aforementioned Chicago-LaJunta pool, and was often responsible for hauling Trains 7-8, the Fast Mail Express. This assignment lasted through WWII until dieselization of Trains 7-8 in late 1946.

Locomotive 3463 remained assigned to service on the Illinois Division, though it was transferred to the Chicago – Newton, Kansas, passenger pool in 1947. Continual influx of additional diesel-electric locomotives through the late 1940’s resulted in engine 3463 being assigned to the Pecos Division, operating passenger trains between Albuquerque, New Mexico, and Newton, Kansas, in January of 1950. By April of that year, locomotive 3463 was transferred to the Eastern Division, which stretched from Oklahoma City to Kansas City via Newton. While on this division, locomotive 3463 handled trains such as the Oil Flyer (Kansas City – Oklahoma City) and The Scout, which operated between Kansas City and Belen, New Mexico (via Albuquerque, New Mexico). 

The last regular passenger service locomotive 3463 was assigned to was ATSF Trains 27-28, the Antelope, which operated between Kansas City and Oklahoma City. This route was dieselized on March 18, 1953, causing 3463 to be bumped from regular passenger service. 

The locomotive was then held at Newton, Kansas, for emergency protection. It hauled a variety of special assignments between March 1953, and December 1953, when it was last placed into the roundhouse at Emporia. The locomotive was kept in steam until March 25, 1954, at which point its fire was dropped. Records indicate locomotive 3463 was kept filled with warm water, in case it needed to be fired up, until November 15, 1954, when it was placed in Group 6 – Locomotives Held Out of Service. 

Thanks to the detailed research of Larry Brasher, as outlined in his book Santa Fe Locomotive Development, we have a detailed account of the maintenance records of engine 3463 in its last decade of operation. He states:

Number 3463 had received her last Class 3 general overhaul at Albuquerque October 18, 1951, after making 378,909 miles since her previous Class 3. Cost of the overhaul was $27,248. She received a Class 5-H (heavy) overhaul at Albuquerque in November 1952 at 99,793 miles. She had accumulated a total of 122,493 miles since her last Class 3 when “laid up good” at Emporia on December 3, 1953. The total mileage of 3463 when she was retired was 1,850,476.

Brasher also provides exquisite detail as to the monthly mileage in operation of locomotive 3463 during that same timeline. It is interesting to note that, even toward the end of steam, the locomotive had a peak monthly mileage of 13,404 in May 1952, while assigned to operating the Oil Flyer between Kansas City and Tulsa, Oklahoma. Given that length of haul, that would mean the locomotive would have hauled approximately 56 one-way journeys between the two cities in one month, or approximately 28 days’ worth of round trips.

By November 1955, all remaining 3460-class of locomotives had been designated as Form 531-A Special, Locomotives Held for Disposition, or for Sale or Scrap.

On February 9, 1956, a group of Topeka civic leaders and businessmen incorporated a not for profit corporation known as the Topeka Children and Santa Fe Railroad (TCSFR) to assist in acquisition of a locomotive from the ATSF and to place it in a park. By May 19 of that year, the ATSF ordered crews to paint locomotive 3463 and prepare it for donation to the City of Topeka.

As of June 30, 1956, locomotive 3463 had been repainted, the ATSF had stripped off all automatic train control equipment (most likely for use on a diesel-electric locomotive), and main rods had been placed onto the running board so that the engine could be towed from Emporia to Topeka. 

Blocking the road for only 90 minutes the ATSF shoved locomotive 3463 into the Kansas Free Fair grounds using an idler flat car (visible in front of the steam engine) and a diesel-electric switch engine. Image courtesy of Kalmbach Publishing Co.

On August 9, 1956, a section crew from the ATSF laid temporary tracks across Topeka Avenue on which locomotive 3463 could be pushed from a nearby branch line. The main thoroughfare through Topeka was blocked from 10:00 to 11:30 AM on that Thursday morning as a switch engine shoved the locomotive tender first into the park. The Santa Fe crews who performed the move did the work voluntarily.

The locomotive was placed onto a steel and concrete base that was paid for by the TCSFR. Quickly after 3463 was placed into the park, however, it encountered damage.  According to the local paper: 

Because of several incidents of vandalism, the locomotive is now protected by a high wire fence. However, it is open for children and adults to inspect on special occasions. They may obtain keys upon request from the Fair Grounds office, the police department, park department, and several other sources.

On November 3, 1956, J.N. Landreth, General Manager of the Santa Fe Railway’s eastern lines, presented a bill of sale for the locomotive to Frank Rice, a representative of Mayor George Schnellbacher. The Topeka Daily Capital describes the ceremony in great detail, noting:

The engine was given to the City of Topeka by the Santa Fe Railway. Representatives of several civic and business organizations, incorporating as the Topeka Children and Santa Fe Railway [sic],  was in charge of collecting funds to mount the locomotive on a concrete base at the Fair Grounds.

The locomotive sat on the steel and concrete plinth adjacent to Topeka Boulevard from its move there in August 1956, until the 1980’s when, due to conversion of the Kansas Free Fairgrounds into the Kansas Expocentre, the locomotive was moved about 500 feet downhill and away from the road. By that time, the TCSFR was not around to assist with that move or maintenance on the locomotive. A decade earlier, in 1973, the charter of TCSFR had been forfeited and cancelled by the Kansas Secretary of State.  Instead, the City of Topeka and Shawnee County paid for both the move and an abatement of all of the asbestos on the locomotive.  

Around this time, Shawnee County, who owns the land underlying the locomotive, and the City of Topeka exchanged correspondence as to who owned the locomotive. The County Counselor investigated ownership and determined that the locomotive had been given to the City of Topeka.

Having helped pay for a costly move and asbestos abatement, the City of Topeka began to consider alternatives to ownership of the locomotive. On January 12, 1990, Articles of Incorporation of a new railroad not for profit were filed with the Kansas Secretary of State – Topeka Railroad Days, Inc. (TRD). The City of Topeka and TRD worked out a transfer of ownership of the locomotive soon thereafter.

Once under ownership of TRD, a small group of dedicated volunteers began to fix up the locomotive cosmetically. The TRD group performed rivet work and painting on the tender, separated the engine from the tender, fixed up the bell ringer and power reverse, and were slowly working toward possible future operation of the locomotive.