the Wanderling

As a very young boy growing up, not unlike almost any other kid, I was hit with a series of events that were for me, both fortunate and unfortunate, with the unfortunate side encompassing both the death of my mother and the breakup of my family. During that same period I was left off alone and totally unannounced at my grandmother's on my father's side in Pennsylvania --- a grandmother I had never met nor ever even heard of. I am not sure how long I was there, but from her place I was eventually returned to the west coast to be with my grandmother on my mother's side. It was during the return trip to California that the first of several interesting train related aspects in my young life unfolded, especially so my own life specifically, and almost loss of life, intertwined with the fate of the #3774.

Sometime around the very last day of June or so 1944, I was put on a passenger train in Pennsylvania headed toward Chicago, traveling with who I do not know. If it was or was not the same couple described in The Last American Darshan who took me to India without approval of my family and then, upon their return to the U.S., just dumping me off in Pennsylvania has never been determined.

In Chicago I boarded the premier all Pullman first class passenger train to Los Angeles, the Number 19 Santa Fe Chief. Toward midnight of July 3, 1944, between Flagstaff, Arizona and Williams, on a high speed downhill run and behind schedule, the Chief's locomotive, a powerful Baldwin built 4-8-4 Northern with 80 inch drive wheels and clocking out at over 90 miles per hour, hit a marked 55 mph speed limit curve, with the locomotive, bearing the Santa Fe identification #3774, derailing and sliding in the dirt on it's side off the tracks for nearly the length of two football fields before coming to a stop. The rest of the 14 car train ended up in various stages of derailment and wreckage on and off the track, some cars remaining upright with two actually staying on the tracks undamaged. The fireman and three passengers were killed. 113 passengers along with 13 train employees injured, among them the severely injured engineer.[1]

(to see a larger map size please click graphic, then click again for even larger)

Although I was unhurt, the person or people I was traveling with was among the injured and taken, with me along with them, to either Williams or Flagstaff. Because of the nature of their injuries, whoever I was traveling with was held-up under doctors care for several days, leaving me without direct adult supervision. My grandmother, who had been contacted by the railroad, called my uncle in Santa Fe. He inturn contacted a nearby Native American tribal spiritual elder he knew to oversee me until he could catch up with me.[2]

Afterwards, before I delved deeply into the research, history, and fate of the #3774 --- research that shows up quite readily below and of which I am sure a majority of you railroad buffs are truly interested in --- several years rolled by. Some of those years I stayed with my grandmother, some not. During that period of time, as I slowly ground my way toward ten years of age or so, my dad, the widower that he was, remarried. In turn he called the family back together. My brothers and I along with a few other kids, all who had been basically raised at the beach or in the city, moved to a ranch in the Mojave Desert that had only just been purchased by my Stepmother. In those days most of the ranch was surrounded by either empty desert land and/or other ranches. However, what we found most interesting was that the far end of the property edged right up against the railroad tracks of the Southern Pacific mainline.

A short distance north along the tracks from the property line, standing high up on timber stilts was a huge wooden watering tower. In those days most if not all of the Southern Pacific locomotives were steam powered. All the long haul freights traveling up and down the mainline stopped at the tower to take on water, northbound trains heading toward the Tehachapi Loop and beyond, southbound trains on their way to the main switch yards in Los Angeles, their motive power invariably provided by single or multiple units of giant 4-8-8-2 Cab Forwards --- which meant a lot of water being taken on and a long time doing it. Not very many days had elapsed after moving on to the ranch than we discovered how cool it was to hang out around the watering tower and watch the goings on of the train crews as they filled up the boilers, lubricated all the drive wheel stuff and did whatever else train crews did that needed to be done before moving on.

Nearly as quick as we discovered hanging around the watering tower was cool than my older brother and our same-age-as-him first cousin decided it would be even cooler if we hopped one of the freights and rode it to the next watering stop. And that's what we did ending up in the switch yards in Mojave. That one trip was enough for me, but my older brother and cousin continued to ride the freights north to Mojave and back on a regular basis and in the process got pretty good at it. As dangerous as it was all went well until one day they didn't return. What happened was, when they got to Mojave they hopped a freight that took them through the Tehachapi Loop into Bakersfield and up the Central Valley clear through to Sacramento, about 500 miles north of the ranch and just to the west of the foothills of the High Sierras. In the Sacramento yards their pre-adolescent train riding skills came to an abrupt halt after being caught up in the clutches of a not so friendly railroad bull.

When my Uncle, whose job it was to oversee us boys, noticed the two of them weren't around and not out on the ranch goofing off someplace and got out of me what they had been up to, he flipped out. In the process of trying to figure out what to do next my cousin called from Sacramento explaining their plight. My uncle talked to the bull and convinced him it could be worth his while if he just sat on them for awhile until something could be worked out. The bull agreed if it was indeed worth his while and didn't take forever. My uncle contacted my stepmother, who lived in Los Angeles and not on the ranch, and she made arrangements for a civilian pilot in a private plane to fly us to Sacramento to take care of things. Eventually, except for some minor discipline levied on my brother and cousin, everything worked out pretty much in everybody's favor.

During the flight from the ranch to Sacramento I overheard the pilot tell my uncle that in World War II he flew P-47s, both in the European and Pacific theaters and, even though he never claimed to be an Ace, he did say he had a number of kills under his belt --- both German and Japanese. Later, in a lull while we were hanging out waiting for time to pass I asked him about the P-47. He had both praise and fault, but mainly lauded their armament and power. He told me P-47s had eight .50 caliber wing mounted machine guns and if all were fired at the same time they could even slow the planes forward momentum. Some he said, even though the Army Air Force would never confirm it, had even broken the sound barrier in steep dives.

I told him my favorite fighter plane was the P-40 Warhawk and that I especially loved the Flying Tigers. His response about the P-40 devastated me for years. The pilot said, and this is a quote, "A crappy plane, son, but it had merit." Of course, at the time, as a ten year old, and only a few years after the war, I didn't know the evolution of the planes. I just sort of lumped them altogether as existing all at one time, not realizing that the P-40, as one of the best we had at the start of the war, was totally outdated by the end when P-38s and P-51s dominated the skies.[3]

My uncle's age precluded him from having served in World War II and, even if he had been approached to do so, he was sort of a conscientious objector type and most likely wouldn't have gone anyway, at least in a full military capacity. Because of his age, too young for the first world war, too old for the second, the question of why he hadn't been in the military typically didn't come up. For those who did serve, if inklings of his CO leanings came out, it wasn't always well received. In the process, especially so during those early years following the war, he pretty much learned not to discuss the matter much with people he didn't know.(see)

Potential differences notwithstanding, he and the former P-47 fighter pilot hit it off really well from the very beginning. Since so much of what we were doing circulated around trains and it came up in small talk and introductions that my uncle was an artist, they discovered almost immediately they had a mutual acquaintance, an artist and master watercolorist by the name of Howard Fogg. Fogg, whose art work invariably circulated around railroad imagery, and my uncle were friends. So too, Howard Fogg P-47 Thunderbolt fighter pilot that he was during World War II, our pilot knew, the two of them having flown together many times.

(for larger size, click image then click again)

As the young boy that I was and with the conversation not directed toward me specifically anyway, any remembrance of Howard Fogg would have, except for one thing many years later, slipped into oblivion. That one thing revolved around the results of a phone call I received at least 20 years after the above events.

My uncle phoned from Santa Fe in the fall of 1971 and asked if I would meet him in Denver, Colorado. Apparently sometime the day before the phone call, as found in Buddhism In America Before Columbus, he had been sitting in a cafe in Taos, New Mexico when a Native American spiritual elder and peyote road man by the name of Little Joe Gomez along with two other men stepped up to his table. Gomez, who my uncle knew, introduced the two men then left. According to my uncle the two men said they were emissaries of a supposedly highly regarded Buddhist monk then residing in Boulder, Colorado and of which, at the time of the call, my uncle couldn't remember his name let alone pronounce it. The two men said the highly regarded monk, who turned out to be Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche, wanted to meet with my uncle and were there to escort him back to Boulder.

My uncle was not comfortable meeting Trungpa on his own and, because of my semi-Zen background and knowledge of Buddhism, expressed an overwhelming desire for me to be with him. In the process of our travels throughout the desert southwest in my early years, we had gone to, among other things, a variety of historical western sites such as the gravesite of Billy the Kid and the 'town to tough to die,' Tombstone, Arizona. While there I saw a reenactment of the shootout at the OK Corral. The narrator said that one of the participants in the real shootout, Doc Holliday, had tuberculosis and since he was going to die anyway he was 'fearless in the face of death.' For some reason, as the kid I was, I loved that 'fearless in the face of death' comment and never forgot Holliday. My uncle chummed the water for me joining him by enticing me with the suggestion that after leaving Boulder we would make an excursion to Holliday's grave site. It was during the unfolding of those events I re-instigated my knowledge of Howard Fogg. In Buddhism In America Before Columbus, previously cited, I write without fanfare, the following:

"The next morning after having breakfast with a friend of my uncle, an artist named Howard Fogg, we headed toward Glenwood Springs and Holliday's grave site."

In a stunning set of coincidental events, the Howard Fogg my uncle and I had breakfast with that morning in Boulder was the same Howard Fogg aforementioned as the P-47 pilot as well as the exact same artist and watercolorist who created the watercolor of the #3774 Northern shown a few paragraphs back. The #3774 Fogg painted being, of course, the exact same locomotive that years earlier was pulling the train that figured so prominently in my life when, as a young boy riding as a passenger, it derailed in a high speed crash outside Williams, Arizona killing four and injuring over 100 --- which brings us now, back around to the #3774.


What most people want to know about, at least the train buffs and historians is, after the crash of #3774, what happened to it? Was it taken out of service? Was it a rusting hulk hidden away in some train boneyard? Was it scrapped or taken apart for the pieces to be used on another locomotive headed toward obsolescence? Lets find out:

First of all, even though in July of 1944 the #3774, after hitting a 55 MPH marked curve at 90 MPH derailed and slid on it's right side through the raw desert land for some 585 feet from the derailment point, for all practical purposes the giant 4-8-4 behemoth, except for a few scrapes and a bunch of sand and rocks in places they shouldn't be, was not totally damaged beyond repair. However, except for the 3774's number bracketed between Class numbers here-and-there as well as a few innuendos no specific use of the 3774 following the accident in an official capacity has surfaced.

In an extraordinarily well researched eleven page article by Lloyd E. Stagner (1923-2008) titled "Thirty Years of 4-8-4's" that is sometimes retitled "Santa Fe Steam Power" on the internet, that appeared in the February, 1987 issue of Trains Magazine, an article that dealt with Santa Fe 4-8-4s exclusively, Stagner writes:

"Engines in good condition were available for 1958's peak movements, but slow traffic saw even some diesels in storage that summer. Purchase of 69 new 2400 h.p. SD24's and DL60OB's in 1959 precluded the use of steam.

"The remaining 3 3751's, 10 3765's, 9 3776's, and 29 2900's on the property were written from the accounts in April 1959. AT&SF donated Nos. 3751, 3759, 3768, 2903, 2912, 2913, 2921, and 2926 for display to various communities from Fort Madison, Ia., to Merced, Calif. Nos. 2925 and 5021 were saved for the company's historical collection, and finally in 1986 were among the steam and diesel power donated to the California State Railroad Museum in Sacramento and moved there."

The #3774 was a Baldwin built Class 3765 of which 11 were ordered by Santa Fe starting in 1938, with all 11 eventually being put into service. Notice in the above quote Stagner writes that the remaining 4-8-4s on the property (i.e., owned by Santa Fe) were written from the accounts in April 1959. Of those remaining 4-8-4s he specifically states there were 10 Class 3765s that were so dealt with --- and of which only one, #3768, was donated for display. The other nine Class 3765s went to the scrap heap being totally dismantled and destroyed. However, Santa Fe had originally ordered and eventually put into service 11 Class 3765s. Stagner and Santa Fe are accounting for only 10. The question is, by 1959 and with 10 Class 3764s being written off with nine of them eventually being scrapped at some point in time, what happened to the 11th locomotive --- where had it gone, had it already been scrapped and if so, was it #3774?

The answer is, most likely no and no. Searching through the indepth research provided by Stagner as found in his 11 page article and taking what I have written about #3774 --- especially as found later on in Footnote [3] --- and Stagner not addressing #3774 specifically by number, but bracketed between numbers, along with numerous innuendos as to its existence, it can be extrapolated that #3774 stayed in service and fully operable right up to the end. On the fifth page of his article Stanger writes:

"Some evidence of how the 4-8-4's were helping to win the war is gleaned from locomotive mileage and repair costs for September 1944. The 30 2900's averaged 9056 miles per engine and cost 15.08 cents per mile to maintain. This was very good mileage for predominately freight service at a time of slow schedules and maximum tonnage. The 14 3751's assigned between Kansas City and Los Angeles, via Amarillo, averaged 15,033 miles and cost 28 cents a mile to maintain. Eleven 3765's in the K.C.-L.A. passenger pool, two of which were assigned via Amarillo, averaged 17,652 miles and had a repair cost of 29.43 cents per mile, and the 10 3776's assigned between La Junta and Los Angeles, but frequently operating to Kansas City, ran an average of 14,185 miles at a cost of 33.12 cents per mile."

We need to take note of three things here. First, the date; second the total number of Class 3765s referred to; and third, the total overall number of 4-8-4 Stanger cites and what they add up to. The wreck of #3774 occurred in July 1944. The date Stanger cites is September 1944, two months AFTER the wreck. He goes on to say, "Eleven 3765's in the K.C.-L.A. passenger pool...," eleven 3765s accounts for ALL of the Class 3765s --- which must then include #3774 in the count as being in service --- because that is how many total Class 3765s Santa Fe purchased and put into service. Last is the total count number of 4-8-4s: 65. That too, accounts for the total overall number of 4-8-4s they had. All three, taken individually or each one on its own, without ever citing the number specifically, accounts for #3774 being up and running and in operation. Moving on, on the sixth page Stanger writes:

"Before the spring-summer 1946 conversion of 10 FT diesels to passenger work, the 4-8-4's were assigned as follows on April 1: 2900-2916, Clovis-Argentine freight; 2917-2929 and 3765-3775, K.C.-L.A. passenger trains; 3776-3785, La Junta-Los Angeles passenger. Six 3751's were assigned to Argentine-Clovis freight, and the other 8 were in the K.C.L.A. passenger pool, usually handling the second sections of Nos. 3-4 and 23-24, which had been operated since 1943."

The above paragraph is an example of the 3774's number bracketed between numbers but not specifically cited. If you notice on the K.C.-L.A. passenger trains that Stanger is talking about he puts it down as "3765-3775" which accounts, because of the dash between numbers, for ALL numbered locomotives from 3765 to 3775 inclusive, with none being left out, meaning again, albeit by innuendo, that #3774 was included. So too, he cites the date as being April 1946, two years AFTER the 1944 wreck indicating that the #3774 was in service as part of the group of locomotives participating in the K.C.-L.A. passenger trains runs. Finally on the tenth page he writes:

"June,July 1953 was the last big 4-8-4 show, indeed the last for all AT&SF steam. Sixty-four 4-8-4's made mileages of 350,343 in June and 343,627 in July. The 3785 was at Albuquerque waiting delivery of a new welded boiler shell that was never applied. A bumper California potato crop, summer fruit traffic, and the Oklahoma-Kansas wheat harvest kept the 4-8-4 fleet busy between Argentine and Waynoka, and more often between Waynoka and Clovis, as 2-10-4's replaced 6000 h.p. F7 sets between Clovis and Belen. Argentine-Belen freight service was almost 100 per cent steam from early June to mid-July. During June, 12,299 reefers of perishables moved east through Wellington, with a peak of 654 cars June 15 and 615 cars June 22. On peak days, 15 through freights were dispatched in each direction through Wellington. The movement of 23 special Boy Scout trains to and from their jamboree in Santa Ana, Calif, in July put 4-8-4's on the point of about one-third of these specials. Several National Guard and other special trains also operated during July.

"After July, the number of 4-8-4's decreased to 56 in August, to 37 in September and October (engine mileage increased from 102,790 miles in September to 113,403 in October) to 34 in November and 27 in December. A 10 per cent drop in freight tonnage in December from 1952 hastened the withdrawl of steam. Several 4-8-4's handled military holiday furlough trains and mail-express specials before Christmas. After the holiday, the 2926 and 2929 were laid up at Belen off helper assignments December 26; the 2912 handled a special train from Newton to Kansas City Christmas night and worked from Argentine to Albuquerque December 27-29 for shopping. No. 2903 moved from Argentine to Newton December 30 for protection, and No. 3776 was the last 4-8-4 on the Slaton Division, coming into Clovis December 30 on the GCF to wind up steam operations."

In the first pagagraph, citing the date June, July 1953, Stanger writes about the mileage run up by sixty-four 4-8-4's, then goes on to mention one, #3785 being in Albuquerque waiting delivery of a new welded boiler shell that it never got --- taken together, that is, accounting for the one 4-8-4 in Albuquerque awaiting service, and adding it to the 64 previously mentioned, we come of with 65 total, or ALL of the 4-8-4s Santa Fe had --- which again by innuendo must then include #3774.

The second paragraph tells about the start of the decrease in numbers of 4-8-4s, the decrease meaning not necessarily the donation of or the scrapping of, but the decrease in the use of. However, if you recall from the opening quoted paragraphs by Stanger at the top of this section he writes of the REMAINING 4-8-4s, listing 3 3751's, 10 3765's, 9 3776's, and 29 2900's on the property were written from the accounts in April 1959 for a total 51 --- out of the original 65. That means 14 4-8-4s had been scrapped between July 1953 and April 1959, of which one of the ones scrapped was a Class 3765, but not necessarily so being the #3774.

To sum it up, #3774 was put back into service and operated without incident following its July 1944 wreck to at least between July 1953 to April 1959. Somewhere during that five year span it was scrapped. Exactly when and where that happened is not known.

In 1953, during the several day period that elapsed between July 17-23, the Boy Scouts of America threw a gigantic out door get-together called a Jamboree, held on what was then the Irvine Ranch in Santa Ana, California. The get-together was attended by upwards of 45,000 scouts from all over the United States, with many of them having arrived via special trains.

Chard Walker (1922-2007), Cajon Pass telegrapher and author of several books about trains, who worked at the Cajon Summit for the AT&SF from just after WW II until February 12, 1967 when the Summit location was closed, albeit not retiring from AT&SF until June 9, 1983, in his book CAJON: Rail Passage to the Pacific (Trans-Anglo Books, 1985), about the main railway access route in and out of the Los Angeles basin from the east and west, lists 38 extra westbound AT&SF passenger movements through the pass during the period July 13 to 16, and attributes the extra traffic to the Boy Scouts.

In contrast, Walker's counterpart LLoyd Stagner, who focused only on AT&SF 4-8-4s in his book, reports the movement of 23 special Boy Scout trains to and from the jamboree in Santa Ana in July, putting 4-8-4's on the point of about one-third of them. Using the two observations and Stagner's one-third figure means roughly anywhere between 7 to 12 4-8-4s were used for the special trains. Even so, if 4-8-4s were used Walker doesn't single out any Class 3765s specifically being used through the Cajon Pass in 1953 at all, including on the Boy Scout specials.

Although in some places it had been reported all eleven of the Class 3765 4-8-4s were laid up by January 1953, such is not the case reported in all cases. So too, even though authorities such as Walker doesn't mention any of them being used in 1953, including on the Boy Scout specials, doesn't mean they weren't --- as the following will testify:


The wreck of the Chief occurred July 3, 1944. In 1947, within a day or two of the third year anniversary, found me with my uncle traveling in the desert southwest having passed through Williams, Arizona on our way to Fort Sumner, New Mexico. We stopped at the crash site to pay reverence to those that died and my survival. While my uncle sat in the truck I walked the tracks where the wreck occurred. In the three short years since the derailment barely a sign of anything having happened remained, the wind along with the heavy downfall of summer monsoons nearly erasing the 500 foot groove and other marks caused by the huge Baldwin locomotive and passenger cars. If a person was unfamiliar with what happened it would have been unobservable.

As we left the crash site my uncle told me the story about me sitting in the waiting room of some train station in Arizona with the tribal spiritual elder late at night waiting for him, my uncle, to arrive and take me to California. The spiritual elder was quite obviously Native American and I was quite obviously not. A lot of people seemed concerned with me traveling with an Indian, that is, except for an older man who seemed concerned that I might be bored.

He came over and sat next to me and asked if my dad was in the war. I told him no that he worked in the shipyards. Asking if I liked comic books he opened his suitcase and pulled out one called Blue Bolt. All the while he was thumbing through the pages like he was looking for something he was telling me he had a son in the war and that his son was a pilot. After he reached a certain spot he folded open the pages and pointed to a story about a group of American pilots that shot down 77 German planes in one outing. Then, carefully reading the story page by page and pointing to the different pictures he told me that his son was one of the pilots. My uncle told me with that I took the book from the man's hands completely fascinated, so much so I read the story over and over without stopping or setting it down. The man, seeing how much I appreciated the comic and the story, said I could have it. After that my uncle said I continued to read it again and again all the way back to California and months afterwards.[4]










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As to the subject of donations, for those who may be so interested as it applies to the gratefulness of my works, I invariably suggest any funds be directed toward THE WOUNDED WARRIOR PROJECT and/or THE AMERICAN RED CROSS.

Footnote [1]

By clicking the image below a PDF version of the AT&SF Time Tables related to the era we are talking about comes up. The schedule has, starting on page 36, the Santa Fe Chief's station arrival and departure times from Chicago to Los Angeles and vice versa. The tables clearly show when the Number 19 (listed as No. 17 because of the early date of the schedule), if running on time, should arrive and depart Flagstaff, Arizona and Williams.

Be aware that sometimes the PDF schedule doesn't come up with the first click for some reason. If that is the case either refresh the page that comes up or return to this page and reclick.

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NOTE: If for any reason you are unable to retrieve the PDF file try HERE or HERE. Be advised the sites load slowly but they do come up.

Footnote [2]

(photo from Chris Baird Collection)

The events found in the paragraph this footnote is referenced back to in the main text has been presented by me elsewhere in virtually the same manner and same form in a number of my other works. What I have not included in the above main text account or have not revealed previously up to this point is a part of the crash event that circulates around the somewhat mysterious Native American tribal spiritual elder my uncle arranged for me to be watched by until he, my uncle, could catch up with me. As you may recall, after the wreck, because the adult or adults I was traveling with had been hospitalized, I was left without adult supervision. I write about sitting in the waiting room of some train station in Arizona with the tribal spiritual elder late at night until my uncle was personally able to intercede and safely get me to Los Angeles Union Station and thus then, to my grandmother's home in California.

What I don't write about is that I recognized the spiritual elder the moment he walked into the hospital waiting area looking for me as found in the following quote:

"Mid-evening on the night of the-unknown-to-anybody at the time up-coming crash I had gone to bed in the bunk in my compartment and as far as I knew had fallen fast asleep. Sometime during that period between the time I fell asleep and the crash occurred I found myself neither asleep nor in my bunk but outside of the train standing barefoot on the desert floor in the middle of the night in my PJs some distance off from a set of railroad tracks, my hand being held by an elderly Native American man."

So, there I was, in the middle of the night in the middle of the desert, instead of being asleep in my bunk in a Pullman car being pulled by a locomotive traveling over 90 miles per hour after having boarded the train in Chicago many hours before, I was instead in my PJs, barefoot on the desert floor standing with a Native American spiritual elder some distance back from the mainline. As the train came off the tracks, of which, although seemingly being done almost in slow motion with no identifiable sounds and that I was able to see clearly, I was unable to move, as though I was paralyzed or frozen. Then everything came to a halt, the dust settled, rocks that were slowly floating in the sky fell to the ground, the flow of time seemed to return to normal and my ability to move returned. The spiritual elder walked me over to where other passengers were scrambling out of the crumpled cars or helping others and left me as though I was one of them, himself turning toward the desert only to disappear into the darkness.



If you recall from the main text above, my uncle more-or-less oversaw me in a guardianship position during a good portion of my childhood years. By the time I reached my junior high years and into to the beginning of my high school years he was basically gone from the picture being superseded in his role by either foster parents or my grandmother.(see)

A month before I finished my first year of high school my uncle called out-of-the-blue saying he had an opportunity to participate in an "adventure of a lifetime just like in the old days" and wanted me to join him. Not even thinking about the possibility of school being in session, he suggested I hop a Greyhound bus immediatedly and meet him in Kingman, Arizona. When I ran the idea past my dad he blew his stack, with the following results, as found in the source so cited:

"(My dad) got on the phone and started yelling at my uncle that he was filling my mind with all kinds of 'weird and useless shit' and to stay away from me and keep his 'cock-and-bull stories' to himself. Needless to say that was the end of it and I didn't get to go. Instead, my dad sent me to spend the summer with my stepmother on her ranch in the Mojave Desert, or actually my ex-stepmother as she had become by then, and told the hard drinking every other word was a cuss word ranch foreman Leo, who had been at one time, a World War II Pacific Fleet Navy boxing champion, to not let me 'wander off.'"(source)

Not even two months later, with my father out of the picture because of me being at my stepmother's and, even though my dad had told my uncle to keep his cock-and-bull stories to himself as well as the ranch foreman not to let me wander off, my uncle called again, only this time talking to my stepmother exclusively without anybody else's knowledge --- at least not until a couple of hours later when she brought it to my attention.

My stepmother and my uncle had a fabulous working relationship. It was she that put together the package that ensured my uncle was my guardian. It was she that picked up the tab on all of our adventures. And it was she that pulled all the strings getting us out of any misadventures we were always finding ourselves in. In any case, my uncle, who lived in Santa Fe, called my stepmother that July of 1953 to tell her he had been in Las Vegas, New Mexico, not far from Santa Fe, and a few hours before sunset saw the #3774 go through town headed west pulling a special Boy Scout train on its way to Santa Ana, California. He didn't know if it was going to be the motive power all the way through to the Los Angeles area or not, but even if not it should be going at least to Barstow and possibly down into the Cajon Pass sometime the next day --- or as my uncle said, roughly 15 hours or so from the time of his phone call. My stepmother, knowing the impact the #3774 had on my life immediately dispatched both the ranch foreman and me in a jeep out across the desert toward Barstow to try and catch it.

We reached Barstow before the train, so we headed out on Route 66 to try and intercept it as far east as we could and follow it back. Which we did. Cutting across the desert in the jeep from 66 to the AT&SF mainline, then trying to parallel the locomotive using the barely discernible rock strewn and no bridges service road into Barstow is a ride I'll never forget. The locomotive, just like my uncle said, was #3774. If it went any further west than Barstow is not clear, however, if we take Walker's word for it that no Class 3765s went through the Cajon Pass in 1953 at all, including on the Boy Scout specials, it seems that Barstow is as far as it got.


During that same summer on the ranch my stepmother and I also flew up to Searchlight, Nevada, doing so in a twin engine Beechcraft Queen Air, and of which both the plane and pilot provided us by the famed aviatrix and stunt pilot Pancho Barnes. My stepmother was on some kind of a business trip, at least that was how she referred the excursion to me. What the manner of her business was I'm not sure, however she met with a man named Willie Martello the owner of a casino in Searchlight called the El Rey Club. Since Pancho provided our air transportation I figured she must have been involved in some fashion.

While I was waiting for my stepmother and Martello to finish their discussions I was waiting in the cafe portion on the casino. While sitting there a really sharp looking dish of a babe around 25 years old or so, hard to judge the teenager I was at the time, but loving the cleavage all over, stepped up to the table and without even saying a word pulled out a chair and sat down. She lit a cigarette turning her head upwards and in profile blowing the smoke toward the ceiling then turned towards me jerking her head almost like a mechanical robot or the bride of Frankenstein, asked how it was I knew the woman I came in with. When I told her she was my stepmother she seemed surprised, blurting out a loud laugh with overtones of being almost startled than anything, saying in a mockingly-sad way, "You poor boy."

She knew my stepmother alright, plus we even had a couple of a mutual acquaintances, Brenda Allen, saying she had worked for her at one time, and Pauline Page, who used to work for Fifie Malouf. During our conversation the following happened:

"(When my stepmother) saw me chit-chatting with the lady she didn't seem very happy, asking the woman just what exactly the two of us were talking about and why. With that the woman, the two of them seemingly knowing each other in an adversarial fashion, got up and said, 'Fuck you Queenie, you don't mean shit around here!' while at the same time throwing the contents of a half empty glass of ice water in her direction, albeit totally missing. When it appeared the woman was about to lunge toward my stepmother following the water mishap, Martello, seeing my stepmother was pulling a nickel plated .25 semi-automatic Baby Browning out of her purse and with me ducking for cover, maintained the distance between the two by slightly nudging my stepmother around before she got close enough for contact, saying he would take care of it. With that, Martello hustled us both out of the club. He had a driver take the two of us and our pilot, who had been playing blackjack in the casino, back to the airport about two miles south of town. Waiting on the tarmac was the twin engine Beechcraft Queen Air we flew up in. However, instead of leaving like I thought we would, we just waited."


ClassRoad NumbersBuilderYears BuiltQuantityGone byNotes
29002900-2929Baldwin1943-443019592903, 2912-13, 2925-26 preserved
37513751-3764Baldwin1927-291419593751, 3759 preserved
37653765-3775Baldwin19381119593768 preserved
37763776-3785Baldwin19411019593780 was last ATSF steamer to operate, 8/27/57

Their Life and Times Together



Footnote [3]

P-47C-5-4E (41-6326), HAROLD E. COMSTOCK, 56th FG, 8TH AF, USAAF

The P-47C-1-RE production block differed by having an extra 8-inch section added to the fuselage forward of the firewall giving improved flight characteristics through movement of the center of gravity. The first P-47C (41-6066) was used as a prototype for the fuselage modifications. There were some detail changes to the main undercarriage and brakes. There were also some changes in the tail wheel, and steering was eliminated. There were some changes in the supercharger air ducting. Bob weights were installed in the elevator control system in order to help to overcome the compressibility problems that had made high speed dives in the earlier P-47C extremely dangerous. Latches for linking the engine throttle, propeller, and turbosupercharger were added, which made correlated operation possible by moving a single lever.

On November 13, 1942, Lts. Harold Comstock and Roger Dyar managed to reach indicated airspeeds of 725 mph during high-speed dives in their P-47Cs. This was beyond the speed of sound, which, if accurate, would have made them the first pilots to break the sound barrier.(source)


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"Prior to heading back to North American to brief the engineers, George telephoned Millie Palmer. Excitedly, Millie related that a terribly loud ba-boom had nearly blown her out of bed. The time was noted and it corresponded to George's dive."


A former World War II P-40 fighter pilot turned civilian test pilot named George S. Welch flew two possible supersonic flights in a jet-powered XP-86 before the Bell X-1 officially broke the sound barrier. The first time was on October 1, 1947 and the second on October 14th, a half an hour or so before Chuck Yeager achieved Mach 1.06.

At the time of Welch's attempt his aircraft was not equipped with instruments to determine his speed. It wasn't until November 13th, one month after Yeager's attempt, that ground stations were able to measure the speed of the XP-86 in a dive. The first attempt clocked out at Mach 1.02, the second at 1.04. Because everything in the measured attempts were exactly the same as those on his earlier flights, and the aircraft had not undergone any modifications, because it was not politically expedient to do so, most experts agreed off the record that George Welch was not only the first to fly at supersonic in a jet-powered aircraft, but also the first to break the sound barrier.


On the record, George S. Welch just happened to be one of three P-40 pilots that got off the ground during the December 7, 1941 Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, the other two being 2/Lt Kenneth M. Taylor and 2/Lt Harry W. Brown. Between the three of them on the morning of the attack they took out six to eight Japanese planes as reported in the following link, as well as linked previously in the above main text:



Footnote [4]

The comic book story that so fascinated me, of which the above graphic is the last page of the four page story, was in BLUE BOLT No. 6, January, 1944. The official history of the actual event has come to be called The P-40 Goose Shoot which the following is a historical synopsis of that event. The full story as well as the comic book version can be found by going to the link provided below the quote:

"On Sunday, April 18, 1943 the U.S. Army Air Force's 57th Fighter Group stationed at El Djem, Tunisia in North Africa, on a routine mission over Cape Bon had 46 P-40 Warhawks in the air along with 18 British Spitfires flying top cover. Low on fuel and basically returning to base they came across a 100 plane flotilla of German JU-52 troop transport planes flying just above sea level over the Mediterranean, escorted by 50 Messerschmitt fighters. Catching the Germans completely off guard, while the Spitfires drew off the Messerschmitts and kept them busy, the P-40s split into pairs diving on the enemy planes tearing the transports to shreds, with an overall kill count of 77 enemy aircraft destroyed."


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I did spend maybe three or four weeks with my uncle during the very last part of the summer just before I entered high school. Earlier I had packed up a few things and ran away from the home of the foster couple I was living with --- ending up at my stepmother's ranch totally unannounced. In that she and my father had only just divorced, she wasn't really sure if he would go for the idea of me being there. Unable to reach him she contacted my dad's brother, my uncle, who said he was willing to take me until things could be hammered out. In that my uncle lived in New Mexico and I was in the Mojave on my stepmother's ranch in the high desert of California, and she felt time was at an essence and knowing I might not stay on a bus if she put me on one, she arranged for me to be flown to Santa Fe. She had a pilot she knew fly into a close-by one-time, albeit long abandoned military airfield called Victory Field and pick me up. The pilot, a former P-47 Thunderbolt jockey was flying a two seat North American AT-6. It was the first time I had ever been off the ground and into the air in any kind of a World War II aircraft, so for me the trip to my uncle's was not only highly memorable, it was as well white-knuckle exciting. See:



In the above I mention my uncle didn't serve in World War II and was a more-or-less a conscientious objector type. Some people take that as he wasn't very patriotic. Such was not the case. As a matter of fact not long after the war started he came across some rather alarming Axis-induced fifth column activities in the desert southwest and was shot point blank by foreign operatives and left to die because of it.

The year was 1943, the war wasn't even a year old, my uncle was a civilian living in New Mexico and for sure a non-combatant, actually like I have said, falling more into a role of a conscientious objector type than anything else. He had long been established as an artist in the region, but he was as well what I call a biosearcher. Prior to his death in 1989 he had, as a biosearcher, more than a half dozen plant species named after him following years of trekking, searching, and discovering previously unknown and unnamed plants all over mostly remote and hidden areas and sections of the desert southwest.

In 1943 he was biosearching alone in the then largely uninhabited mountainous and desert-like terrain in the central section of New Mexico between the New Mexico and Arizona border on the west and the north-to-south flowing Rio Grande on the east when he came across two men, and unusually so, both Asian. One of men was flat on his back all but unconscious and visibly quite ill after apparently having been bitten by a rattlesnake with the bite being left untreated. My uncle, after using the healing properties of indigenous plants he gathered up, soon found the man up and around. One of the men who had a rudimentary use of English told my uncle they were Japanese, were testing soil samples for radioactivity, and had been left off in Mexico by submarine. By then my uncle was wanting to beat a hasty retreat but before he could one of the men shot him. They took his truck and although they left him to bleed out he survived. In 1985 a book titled The Japanese Secret War authored by Robert K. Wilcox was published. In the book Wilcox writes about the two Japanese men my uncle encountered and the U-boat they arrived in, of which I turn around and write about as found in the sourced link below the quote so cited:

"Wilcox's book that, for the first time brought to the public's attention Japanese agents having been in the desert southwest during World War II specifically tasked with testing soil samples for radiation, was published in 1985. It was in 1970, fifteen years before Wilcox's book was published that my uncle told me about his 1943 encounter with Japanese spies soil testing deep into state of New Mexico and the fact that according to their own testimony, they had initially been brought to Mexico via German U-boat from Europe. "


(P-47 photo courtesy of Peter Fogg. Please click image)