Monday, April 04, 2005

Napa Valley Flea vs. San Gabriel

From: "Larry Mullaly"

When evaluating the worth of the LA and SP in a letter to Huntington dated June 21, 1872 , William Hyde listed the motive power as:

2 Engines $24,000
1 Engine (San Gabriel) $6000.

I wonder if the format suggests that for practical purposes, the San Gabriel even then was somewhat of an oddity, primarily useful for construction purposes.

The San Gabriel was fatally damaged on January 18, 1875 on a test run after having been shopped when it slid off a rain-soaked roadbed and erupted in a cloud of steam. [Los Angeles Daily Star, January 19 and 21, 1875]. Later that year the Central Pacific reported to its stockholders, that on its leased Southern Pacific road, “a small... engine (no. 30) unfit for service has been broken up.” [Annual report of the Board of Directors of the CPRR to the Stockholders, 1875, p. 22].


Re: Napa Valley Flea vs. San Gabriel

In a message dated 4/3/2005 10:10:23 A.M. Pacific Standard Time, writes:

Kyle, thanks for the info on the Vacaville rebuilding, which was very helpful. The Stevens rebuild explains a number of details.

When Dave and I looked through LA&SP materials on the San Gabriel, we found that the photograph depicts the engine very late in life, perhaps around 1875-76 just prior to scrapping, and not as it appeared during its 1869-74 service life on the road. Its missing the wrapper and insulation on the dome, the paint is worn and the varnish crazed, a simple, unpainted cab suggests a late replacement, and the stack looks like a locally made version of the Stevens stack imposed on LA&SP engines after 1872.

San Gabriel was overhauled and repainted by the LA&SP in 1870-71 (I would have to check the notes) and reported to look very well as a result. The photo shows this paint scheme, complete with the name San Gabriel in cursive on the tender, which copies the style of the Schenectady engines Los Angeles and San Pedro, whose names were in cursive on the tender sides (cursive lettering on a tender panel was a Schenectady style; the two engines were otherwise painted identically to Jupiter, in terms of striping, panels, etc., and may have had the same color scheme).

I think that in 1870-71 the LA&SP was consolidating its independent position and brought the little Vulcan into the same stylistic paint scheme or design as the road engines. It may well have had a much finer appearance when in service building and supporting the LA&SP.

The lettering style of the label looks to be about 1900, when pioneer fever reflected a moment when LA County had finally become assured of success, and could relax - looking back to the "old days." If Kimball monkeyed with it, he got lucky, because I see no clear errors in the style, but also no clear indicators that it was beyond him.


I'd suspect that the San Gabriel received a quicky relettering when delivered in 1869 - and rushed into construction work. An 1870-71 (8/11/1870 per Dave Eggleston write-ups sent to me in 1993) shopping and repaint makes sense as a general thing, and I'd expect a repaint to reflect what the LA&SP considered their prevailing style.

As to the skill of Ward Kimball at doctoring photos, take a look at his reletter job of the supposed SLO&SMV "Avila" on page 16 of Best's "Ships and Narrow Gauge Rails - The Pacific Coast Company". It's not until you look closely that you start seeing the artifacts of Kimball's hand lettering.

Has anyone seen an original print of the "San Gabriel" photo? Who is the photographer? Watkins' trip south to LA and on to Yuma appears to have been around 1877-78, rather too late for the "San Gabriel", which seems to have been scrapped around 1876. ...

Kyle K. Wyatt
Curator of History & Technology
California State Railroad Museum

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