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The Historic Vintage Photos of

Ed Von Nordeck 1945-1955

Commentary by Evan Werkema

Corona's Water Column

A single Sheffield-patent water column built by Fairbanks-Morse stood in front of Santa Fe's Corona depot in the waning days of steam.  Ed Von Nordeck took the following photos of it in the late 1940's and early 1950's: 

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1. Looking railroad west straight down the main line toward the Main St. crossing, the depot is to the left and the water column is just to the right of the main. 

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2. A roster shot of the column looking north. 

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3. The "builders plate" cast into the base.  I tried looking up the patents associated with the dates but came up empty.  The manufacturer's shop number stamped at the lower right appears to be 13228. 

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4. Former Valley Flyer 4-6-2 #1376, now returned to more standard decorations, stops for water at Corona with westbound local train 55 from San Bernardino in 1948. 

5. A bit of speed blur suggests

4-8-4 #2903 has no intention of stopping for water as it rolls through westbound with what is probably a section of the Grand Canyon.  The raw water tanks feeding the column are visible in the background.  Following retirement, this locomotive was displayed at the Museum of Science and Industry in Chicago for over three decades before going to the Illinois Railway Musuem at Union, IL in 1995. 

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6. Santa Fe-type 3891 takes water at Corona on an eastbound extra freight in this 1951 color view. 

Pictures Without Trains

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1. One of Ed's photos posted several months back included a glimpse of an old wooden 3M boxcar behind a pair of zebra striped GP7's.  The car was used to serve the 3M facility on the Elsinore Branch. Ed's description from that thread: "Yes, it was a 3M car. They would store them on a unused industry track in front of the station. Wood truss car for some of them. Not in interchange service, but to haul roof granules to the Los Angeles area, prior to using 60 ft. mill gons and later covered hoppers." Here is a full broadside of one of those cars, MINX 1039. Lettering on the side shows the car was built in 1910, and that Santa Fe had repainted it at the San Bernardino Shops in April 1949. Lettering just to the left of the door says, "Please unload and return this car promptly to the owner at Corona, Cal." 

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2. Santa Fe all-steel waycar 1680 in the house track in front of the Corona depot in 1950. The car was built by AC&F in 1927, rebuilt into Ce-2 class road pool caboose 999411 in 1969, and wrecked at Clovis, NM on April 14, 1983 when a yard job making an unprotected shove collided with a standing cut of cars on an adjacent track. 

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3. The westbound Fast Mail Train 7 is about to grab the mail sack off the stand at Corona. Santa Fe RPO 72 only served a few more years in this role; it became maintenance-of-way bunk car 199022 in 1954.

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4. We've seen the engine pocket with its associated fuel and water tanks in the background of several of Ed's views; here's one where it is the main focus. A paired setup of water tanks like that frequently meant the taller tank was a treatment tank and the shorter one stored the treated water, but a 1920 inventory of Santa Fe water tanks shows both of these to be raw water tanks. They were 24x60 and 16x64, both erected in 1909. The horizontal tank was steam locomotive fuel oil, and the pumphouse and section tool house (motorcar shed) are easy to identify, but I don't know the function of that boarded-up structure to the right. Also interesting to see a relatively modern-looking metal signal bungalow to the far right in this January 1953 scene. 

5. In January 1952, the Main St. grade crossing in Corona just east of the depot was protected by two upper-quadrant Magnetic Signal Co. wigwags mounted in the median and a pair of crossbucks mounted on posts made of old boiler tubes to the sides. Today this crossing is an overpass.

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6.  Tootsie, the station cat

Riverside Junction

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2. Still looking west but from a bit further east, the junction with the SP swings in from the right, 1977 

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3. Looking down the SP with the tower hiding in the trees to the right, 1977. 

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4. It's now December 1979 and the tower has been closed for three months. Note the signal changes relative to mp345's 1968 photo, and if you could look the other direction you would see that UP had moved its junction a bit further west, thus vacating the street running on Vine St. through Riverside.  

Already the second-floor windows on the tower are broken, and while the tower would stand until 1982 before finally being demolished, that piece of yellow equipment in the foreground sure looks ominous.  

AT&SF 3121 & 3153 at Corona

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The first photo in the thread from yesterday featuring Ed Von Nordeck's photos of Santa Fe "catwhisker" FT's also included a glimpse of 2-8-2 #3121 in the engine spur at Corona, CA: 

Here are some closer views Ed took of 3121 the same day, April 23, 1950. The note on the negatives' envelope says, "Went to Elsinore sand plant on Sunday because strike was to be called the next Wednesday. Strike was put off for two weeks." 

The thing I'm curious about is the class Tk-J tank car tied to 3121's tender. Was this a "water bottle" carrying extra water for the locomotive, or was it merely filled at Corona and was to be spotted at some location down the branch that didn't have a water supply of its own? 

AT&SF 3121 was taken out of service pending disposition in September 1951, retired in March 1952, and sold for scrap on September 2, 1952.

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Warbonnet at Corona

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Pacific Electric at Corona

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Santa Fe FT's-many roles, many schemes

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Santa Fe had the largest fleet of what David P. Morgan, in the February 1960 issue of Trains Magazine, termed "The Diesel That Did It."  The "it" Morgan was referring to was proving that diesels could successfully perform as heavy road freight locomotives, the last task for which steam still held a virtual monopoly on the railroads.  By the FT's 1939 debut, earlier diesel types had already shown themselves up to the tasks of switching and pulling passenger trains, but now EMD had fielded a 4-unit, 5400 hp "locomotive" that could move freight over the road efficiently and relatively inexpensively. 

Santa Fe's FT's, decked out in the blue and yellow "catwhisker" scheme with a red separation stripe that EMD had designed for them, were initially deployed in long distance freight service as EMD had intended.  After the end of World War II, though, as newer types of F's began to join the roster and before the widespread adoption of hood units, Santa Fe started trying their FT's in other roles, and in other paint schemes.  Below are some photos Ed Von Nordeck took of Santa Fe FT's during this period of experimentation in Southern California. 


1, 2) A tour of the Barstow, CA diesel shop around 1949 produced these portraits of ATSF 106.  The units may look brand new, but are probably just freshly painted.  The paint scheme has been simplified from the as-delivered version, with the red separation stripe ending at the far end of the cab door rather than extending all the way down the carbody. 

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3) Looking and working as EMD intended, an 5400hp ABBA set of FT's powers a westbound freight through Corona, CA on April 30, 1950

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4) Santa Fe liked the FT but didn't like the business of drawbar-connected units and insisted that all of their FT's come with couplers on each end of each unit.  This eastbound extra at Corona, CA illustrates the point - note that the cab and booster are "elephant style," with the booster turned around relative to how it would have to be in a semi-permanently coupled set.   

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5) Full couplers meant the railroad could break up their as-delivered ABBA sets however they chose to create sets of three, two, or even a single cab.  After the war, it became more common to see something other than a full ABBA set of FT's powering a train.  Here's a westbound freight at Corona with a ABA set. 

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6) A westbound at Corona with full ABBA set behind 141 on April 2, 1950, but notice that both boosters are facing aft and all four units clearly hadn't been painted and/or cleaned as a set.  ATSF 3155 in the engine spur on the left is a 2-8-2.

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7-8) Those 2-8-2's occasionally locked knuckles with FT's as well - witness 4027 and an unidentified AB set of FT's easing past a bridge replacement project just east of Corona in December 1949.

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9) The War Production Board greatly restricted the purchase of new passenger locomotives during WWII, but Santa Fe did manage to acquire one set of steam generator-equipped FT's near the end of the war (see:,3886770 ).  In 1946, the railroad equipped ten additional sets with steam generators, painted them in red and silver warbonnet, and put them to work as passenger units.  Here's 162LABC on Tr.24, the eastbound Grand Canyon stopped at Corona in July 1949. 

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10) The same month, 163LABC is westbound with the Fast Mail Tr.7 about to grab the mail sack at Corona (the shot of the actual grab by the RPO is in this old thread:,4385723 ).  The sets proved the point that F-units were suitable for passenger duties, and Santa Fe began buying dedicated passenger F's starting with the 16-class F3's.  The passenger FT's were returned to freight service beginning in 1948, with the last units going back to blue and yellow in 1954.    




11) A repost of the 164 in color with the first section of Tr.4, the eastbound California Limited, at Flagstaff, AZ on August 30, 1949.  It would go back to freight duties and blue and yellow paint the following year. 

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12) An ABB set of FT's lead by a cab unit numbered 137 at Corona on April 2, 1950.  It's impossible to tell from the photo if this is the "lead" cab (137L) or the "C" cab (13




13) By 1952, and assuming this is the same 137 cab, something new had been added.   In the early 1950's, Santa Fe began assigning FT's to secondary and local work, essentially "road switcher" duties, and tried to outfit the units to better suit their new task with footboards on the cabs and backup headlights on the boosters.  What is probably 137C and an unidentified booster help 2-10-2 #3808 on a westbound freight on Cajon Pass at Summit, CA.  Note also that the red separation stripe has now been abandoned entirely. 



14) Santa Fe renumbered its FT's a lot as it reconfigured sets for different roles and assignments, and most notably, many of the "roadswitcher FT's" were eventually renumbered into the 400-series.  The 400's occupied numbers 400-430, but each "set" could be from one to three units.  Single cab unit 414 is on a westbound at Corona.  For some reason, most footboard-equipped FT's had "Keep Off" stenciled above the boards, but 414 here does not. 






15) On March 12, 1950, Ed caught a cab unit numbered 170 and a booster moving westbound through the crossovers at Corona.  The cab appears to still have its red separation stripe. 

16) About a year later, Ed caught 170 westbound at Corona again.  Not only is the red separation stripe gone, but also the catwhisker noseband and nearly all the yellow.  In 1951, Santa Fe started repainting FT's in this oversimplified blue and yellow scheme, incorporating the "cigar band" emblem from the passenger scheme and precious little else.  The Santa Fe Railway Diesel Locomotive Painting and Lettering Guide for Model Railroaders gives the following list of units known from photographic evidence to have gotten this scheme: 102LAB, 106L, 108LAB, 120LA, 125LAC, 130LA, 133LAC, 140LAC, 142LA, 149LAC, 151LAB, 155LA, 158LAB, 159LAC, 170LABC, 185LAB, 194L, 195L, 199LAC, 401L, 405L, 408L, 419L. 

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12. Footboard-equipped 194 and a booster roll west through Corona past the soon-to-be-obsolete water column.  This "blue dip" scheme was mercifully short-lived, and would be gone from the railroad by 1954. 

13. As for the FT's, locomotive assignment lists show them essentially gone from the Coast Lines by 1953, replaced by newer F's and hood units.  The "roadswitcher" FT's would eventually lose their footboards and return to straightforward road locomotive configuration with an improved version of the "cigar band" scheme that brought back the yellow frame stripe and yellow band across the windshield and radiator openings.  The ABBBBA set powering this westbound at Riverside, CA consists of F7's of course and not FT's, but I'm including it to illustrate the standard freight scheme applied to Santa Fe freight F's including the FT's after 1953.  If the June 1966 processing date on this slide is correct, finding a solid set of Santa Fe freight F's of any type working in California would have been something of an event, as by that date, second-generation hood units had largely pushed all remaining carbody freight units further east.  The last Santa Fe FT had been retired just three months earlier, and sadly none were preserved. 

Thanks as always to Ed for sharing his photos with us! 

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Corona Station

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Ed Von Nordeck took the following photos of the 1937-vintage Santa Fe depot at Corona, CA circa 1950. The depot's architecture is of the simple Mission Style stucco motif common on Santa Fe's Los Angeles Division, a style erected at "significant" towns that might have warranted a red brick "county seat" style depot had they been located on the Western or Eastern Lines.  

While no two of these Mission Style stations were exactly alike, Corona's depot resembled those at Upland, Orange, and Santa Ana in overall shape and size. Of those four, all but Santa Ana are still with us in one form or another.  

Corona's depot today houses the Corona Depot Bar & Grill ( ). Not surprisingly, the trackside wall and the surrounding landscape is considerably different from when Ed took his photos nearly 70 years ago. 

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Here's how it looked 25 years later in July 1975.-BMT

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Thanks for the additional photos. According to Gustafson & Serpico's Santa Fe Coast Line Depots - Los Angeles Division, the agency closed in 1981, and crews stopped using it in 1982.

Santa Fe's First and Last 4-8-4's at Corona


An undated roll of black and white film shot by Ed Von Nordeck in the early 1950's includes this interesting pair of images at Corona, CA.  

Frame #8 on the roll shows the first 4-8-4 Santa Fe purchased, 1927-built #3751 (albeit in its final form, much rebuilt and updated). It appears to be powering (or overpowering) train 51, a westbound passenger local between San Bernardino and Los Angeles, CA that generally drew smaller motive power such as 4-6-2's and boiler-equipped GP7's. 

The very next frame of film on the roll, frame #9, shows the last 4-8-4 Santa Fe purchased, 1944-built #2929. It is probably powering train 23, the westbound Grand Canyon, whose 13 cars seem like a much better match to the capabilities of a 4-8-4.

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“Check back soon for more images from Ed along with side by side HO scale comparisons from our 1949 era Corona railroad.”

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