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Texas steam locomotive left memories along way

Incredulous readers ask: Exactly how wide was it?


A Texas Sketch about the historic 600-series steam locomotives built for and used by the Texas & Pacific Railway (now Union Pacific) has brought a good bit of commentary.

Earle V. Brown of Mineola said he worked for the Lima Locomotive works in Ohio, where the 600s were built. He worked on the last steam locomotive Lima built in 1952.

On the stationary test track "it ran smooth as a sewing machine," he wrote.

Wayne C. Sellers, of Palestine, writes: "T&P 600 locomotives were wonders to me. I grew up in Rising Star [Eastland County] where my dad published the Rising Star Record . From time to time we would go to Cisco to see the giants roaring through town."

John Allen Templeton, chairman of the Cherokee County Historical Commission, reminds us that the last surviving 600 (Texas)-class locomotive, the #610, is stored in the engine house of the Texas State Railroad Historic Park outside Palestine. The 610 Organization, which restored the locomotive, gave it to the TSR so it could be protected.

It is in beautiful operating condition, kept out of the weather except when pulled out for rail-fan viewing. Ironically, it is too heavy to operate on the Texas State Railroad's roadbed.

The T&P's 600-series steam locomotives were the largest engines ever scheduled on Texas rails, but an amusing typographical error in a recent Sketch made them even more formidable. The technical description of the locomotive was "99 feet long and 10 feet wide," but an errant zero wandered in so that the 600 engine became "99 feet long and 100 feet wide."

Ol' Jim Lowe, the venerable Dallas radio personality and railroad fan, writes, "I can almost imagine - almost - that 600 T&P engine being 99 feet long. But I cannot - cannot - buy 100 feet wide . . . how wide were the tracks?"

Another steam fan wrote, "It must have been a terrifying sight: a multi-ton steam engine, 100 feet wide, roaring along the rails at 60 miles per hour!"

Several readers suggested that such an engine must have cut "quite a swath" through the right of way, and a wag asked, "How many towns did it destroy?"

One woman thought such a locomotive could have paid for itself over in East Texas because "a train that wide would have automatically harvested a whole lot of pine trees along the T&P right of way."

A.C. Greene is an author and Texas historian who lives in Salado.

The Dallas Morning News
A.C. Greene