Southern Pacific Train No. 57, the Owl, pulled by A-B-B-A set of EMD F7 diesel-electric locomotives led by 6239, at Glendale, CA in 1949.

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(Dan Pope Collection / RMP Archive)

 

Owl Drumhead.

OWL (SP)

Not to be confused with the T&NO passenger train The Owl.

The Owl was a Southern Pacific Railroad passenger train that ran an overnight route 485 miles between San Francisco and Los Angeles through California's Central Valley from 1898 to 1965. The northbound train was No. 57 and the southbound train was No. 58.

History

The Owl's first ran on December 18th 1898, as the Owl Limited, and was numbered trains 25 and 26. Around 1900, the train was renamed the Owl. From 1932 to 1936, during the Depression, the West Coast and the Owl were combined. The train was renumbered to trains 57/58 in 1946. The final run of the Owl was on April 11th 1965, which made it the Southern Pacific's longest continuously running train at nearly 67 years.

Schedule

In 1957, the southbound train would leave San Francisco at 8:40 pm and arrive in Los Angeles the next morning at 10:50 am, with the northbound train departing Los Angeles at 6 pm with arrival in San Francisco at 8:10 am. Total journey time was 14 hours and 10 minutes either direction, giving the train an average speed of 34.2 mph.

Equipment

A 1947 Consist of train No. 58:

4346 4-8-2 Mt
6064 baggage
6073 baggage
6457 baggage
1836 coach
1362 coach
1084 coach
1400 coach
2512 coach
Pullman 4246 16 section tourist
Pullman 4242 16 section tourist
10107 diner
Mission Dolores 6 single beds, 2 D.B.R, lounge
Prior Lake 10-1-1
Overcot 14 section
Mt. Breckenridge 10 sec-lounge observation

 

In 1957, train No. 57 consisted of the following:

Full Lounge Car (Los Angeles to San Francisco)

Standard Sleeping Cars: Sections, Roomettes, Bedrooms (from Los Angeles to San Francisco)

Hamburger Grill Car (Los Angeles to San Francisco)

Chair Cars (Los Angeles to San Francisco)

 

Southern Pacific's "The Owl" at Oakland, California depot (also designated as 16th Street) at 7:53 am enroute to San Francisco, 1938. This was a fast overnight train operating between Los Angeles and San Francisco. (["The Owl" at Oakland, California]photograph1938~; (https://texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth28929/m1/1/accessed August 17, 2023), University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History, https://texashistory.unt.edu; crediting Museum of the American Railroad, cropped.)

 

Route / Stops

Miles / City

0  San Francisco, CA (Ferry Bldg.)
4  Oakland Pier, CA (Ferry)
6  Oakland, CA (16th St.)
9  Berkeley, CA (University Ave.) 
15  Richmond, CA
29  Crockett, CA
31  Port Costa, CA
35  Martinez, CA (Benicia)
49  Pittsburg, CA 
62  Brentwood, CA (Diablo Valley) 
82  Tracy, CA 
107  Patterson, CA
119  Newman, CA
123  Gustine, CA
140  Los Banos, CA
143  Dos Palos, CA
166  Firebaugh, CA
174  Mendota, CA
193  Kerman, CA
208  Fresno, CA
224  Selma, CA
229  Kingsburg, CA
253  Tulare, CA
284  Delano, CA
316  Bakersfield, CA
338  Caliente, CA
363  Tehachapi, CA (The Loop)
383  Mojave, CA
408  Lancaster, CA
417  Palmdale, CA
453  Saugus, CA
464  San Fernando, CA
475  Burbank, CA
480  Glendale, CA
485  Los Angeles, CA (Union Station)

(Source: National Railway Publication Company, Copyright not renewed, Public domain, W. Lenheim Collection)

 

SP No. 2479 undergoing restoration to operating condition in early 2009. The locomotive was involved in a fatal accident in 1937.

(Grey3k, CC BY-SA 3.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0>, via Wikimedia Commons)

 

1937 accident

In February 1937, disaster struck the Owl. Led by No. 2479, a 4-6-2 P-10 class Pacific built by Baldwin in 1923, the train was steaming at 70 mph. As it approached Selma, California, the locomotive struck a car lodged on the tracks. The impact indirectly caused the locomotive, its tender and seven cars to derail. The engine's pilot was bent on impact with the automobile and caught at the next grade crossing throwing the locomotive off the rails. Sadly, both the engineer and the fireman were killed. Although No. 2479 experienced heavy damage, it was rebuilt and placed back in revenue service.

 

The Owl, otherwise known as the train heard after "Caroline, No".

(Drew Jacksich, CC BY 2.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0>, via Wikimedia Commons)

 

Legacy

The Beach Boys album Pet Sounds features a song by Brian Wilson entitled Caroline, No, which segues into sounds of his dogs barking and a passing locomotive train, which was sampled from the 1963 effects album Mister D's Machine ("Train No. 58, the Owl at Edison, California").

Wilson later stated that "Caroline, No" was his favorite Pet Sounds track, "the prettiest ballad I've ever sung. Awfully pretty song." In a 1995 interview, he viewed it as "probably the best (song) I've ever written."