California Trolley & Railroad Corporation (CTRC)
Preserving the historical heritage of railroading and trolleys in the Santa Clara Valley of California.

Little Buttercup Comes To San Jose

For years, CTRC has searched for a smaller steam locomotive. While a second Southern Pacific locomotive was desired and ultimately fulfilled with the acquisition of 0-6-0 switch engine 1215, an even smaller steam locomotive has been sought as a demonstration exhibit and/or possible use on the trolley trackage in Kelley Park. CTRC often shared its desire for such an acquisition with other preservation organizations and private individuals.

In mid-November 2007, Kyle Wyatt, Chief Curator of the California State Railroad Museum contacted me about an opportunity. Due to an imposed deadline to reduce their collection, CSRM had been actively seeking new permanent homes for selected artifacts. Included in their list of deaccession candidates was Santa Fe Railroad 0-4-0 steam locomotive number 5, the “Little Buttercup” (LBC). Acknowledging CTRC’s quest, Kyle inquired if our organization was interested in the engine. Recalling the tremendous effort required to relocate SP1215 only a few weeks before, I was initially hesitant about the CSRM’s offer.

Background on the locomotive

Little Buttercup began life in 1899 as an 0-4-0T built by Baldwin as Santa Fe Terminal #1, for operation on Santa Fe trackage in San Francisco’s China Basin. After a few years, it was renumbered into the Santa Fe system as #2419. In later years it served as the shop switcher at Needles and renumbered 9419 in 1945.

In 1948 the Santa Fe rebuilt the locomotive to an “old timey” appearance for historical display at the Chicago Railway Fair. The saddle tank was removed and a tender was added . To complete the appearance, a large smokestack, headlight, and color paint scheme were added. It was named after an early Santa Fe 4-4-0 of the early 1880s.

After the Chicago fair the Santa Fe kept the locomotive for promotional purposes and occasional special events. It last operated under steam in the mid 1950s. Most of the time, it just remained in storage. In 1986 the Santa Fe presented the locomotive as part of a large historical collection to the California State Railroad Museum, with the expectation that the Santa Fe and the Southern Pacific were about to merge.

To ensure the continuation of the locomotive’s protective care over the last 50 years, CSRM’s offer however carried a caveat…the LBC’s new owner must provide indoor storage.

The engine provide a CTRC acquisition quandary as it had no historical ties to the Santa Clara Valley as it, nor its original owner, the Santa Fe Railroad, operated into our local community. While there are no remaining 0-4-0 steam locomotives with historical ties to Santa Clara County, this particular locomotive, although in the prior saddle tank configuration, originally operated in 1899 within 50 miles of San Jose. . Interestingly, CTRC has several examples within its trolley collection that have no direct historical connection and yet were acquired to support the organization’s mission and goals.

Before responding to CSRM’s offer, CTRC would give careful consideration to the acquisition opportunity.

It is Cute but where to put it?

On Friday, December 7, Gene Martin and I met with Kyle Wyatt to perform a preliminary inspection of the LBC. The impact of 50 years of protective indoor storage was readily visible. Unlike most outdoor display locomotives, this engine was intact. Other than layers of dust, grim and pigeon droppings, the locomotive and tender retained their 1948 Chicago Rail Fair appearance. Measurements were taken. Quickly it was determined that the engine’s wheel profiles would have difficulty in traversing the trolley switch work at Kelley Park.

While CTRC had a serious interest in Little Buttercup, meeting the indoor storage condition would be most challenging. Options of a rental storage facility were considered; however, such a site would limit facilitate public access and display opportunities. While the locomotive could not utilize the Kelley Park trackage, could it “fit” into the trolley barn? Bob Schneider and Gene explored the various physical constraints for the trolley barn and required additional dimensional information.

Bob, Gene and I made a second inspection trip to Sacramento in January 2008. Careful measurements were taken of the height, width, length and underside of the locomotive. During this trip, we were informed that CSRM needed a near term formal response to their offer and a commitment to move the LBC by April to facilitate its own planning.

Upon returning, Bob and Gene determined that, with modifications, LBC could “fit” into the barn however ONLY on Track 1. Track 1 is the only through-track in the barn and continues into the backyard curving 90 degrees to the west and ending adjacent to the History San Jose’s blacksmith’s shop . This concept would enable a roll-off unloading and avoid the need to traverse any switchwork. However, the use of track one for LBC would require repositioning stored/displayed equipment in the trolley barn, most of which were owned by History San Jose. Several chess-like moves and permission would be required. Due to track space, only the locomotive and not the tender could be accommodated in the barn.

For CTRC’s quarterly board meeting in February, an acquisition report was created and acceptance letter was drafted. Soon thereafter, CSRM was informed of CTRC’s acceptance of the LBC offer and intent to move the engine by April.

Careful planning was required

Jack Young and Steve Raby provided needed logistical support to determine ‘how” to move Buttercup into the trolley barn. Several items, including the headlight, smokestack, whistle and safeties, would be removed to facilitate transportation and, more importantly, the ability to fit into the trolley barn door. Ironically once inside the barn, most of these items will be reinstalled. The crew raised concerns over the condition of track 1 in the backyard. Unlike SP1215’s transportation requiring a special basket type trailer, LBC size would enable use of a standard heavy equipment trailer. Could such a trailer be unloaded in the backyard?

Larry Murchison was enlisted to create a scale dimensional drawing of the backyard. The site and locomotive dimensions was shared with Taylor Heavy Hauling of Roseville who responded with a favorable quotation and confidence of unloading in the backyard. A move date of April 2 was scheduled with loading and unloading done on the same day.

Access to the backyard required the temporary relocation of History San Jose’s Port Huron Steam Tractor, which is displayed adjacent to the blacksmith’s shop. Piping directly into the tractor’s steam cylinder and experimenting with a small garage air compressor, Steve determined that the tractor could be moved by compressed air. This was preferential over requiring a heavy lift and trailer; however, a larger compressor would be required. Utilizing a mobile compressor provided by Larry Pedersen of A-Tool Shed, the steam tractor was relocated on March 23.

Bob and Gene coordinated the automobile shuffle in the trolley barn to free up space on track 3. With the space available, Portugal trolley car 168 was relocated from track 1 to track 3. In the process, the car derailed, requiring an additional manpower and time to rerail.

On Saturday March 29, six CTRC volunteers, John Ezvoski, Tom Anderson, Jack Young, Larry and Denis Murchison, and Ken Middlebrook. went to Sacramento to prep LBC for the move. Upon arrival, John Ezovski commented “Little Buttercup is NOT that little!” In a few hours, the crew accomplished the planned tasks and headed back home. The stack, headlights and other removed items were unloaded by 6 pm at the fairgrounds.

Because of the condition of track 1 going into the barn, a new ramp was designed to cross the threshold. With the assistance of John Ezovski and others, CTRC’s resident welder John Blaine built a custom ramp. Additionally, the ramp would eliminate the need for any concrete cutting to accommodate LBC’s wheel profile. However, the ramp would reduce the calculated 7” height clearance to less than 2 inches. The crew discussed a potential need for a chain saw! Nonetheless, it would be tight.

Within a six month span, CTRC moves a second steam locomotive to San Jose!

Saving a second trip within a week for someone from the San Jose, CTRC volunteers Hugh Crawford and Terry Johnson offered to witness Buttercup’s loading in Sacramento on Wednesday, April 2, 2008. (Both Hugh and Terry and families had relocated to the Central Valley). Correct positioning of LBC for unloading meant backing the locomotive and tender onto Taylor’s trailers. By cell phone, Terry was able to keep the San Jose crew informed on progress. A late start and longer-than-anticipated preparations resulted in missing Caltran’s curfew for passing through Livermore. As a result, unloading at the trolley barn was rescheduled for the following day, Thursday April 3. In keeping with traditions experienced during previous CTRC equipment moves, an April rain was showering San Jose that Wednesday afternoon and evening; thus, a move delay was welcomed..

Unlike the previous day’s grey weather, Thursday was blue skied. The anticipated arrival of Buttercup was 11:00 am. To facilitate unloading, John E, John B, Jack Y, Gene . and Bob S, had spent the previous days gathering tools and materials at the historical museum. Larry Pedersen and A-Tool Shed provided two large forklifts which would prove invaluable. Weeks of discussions, calculation, and preparation would soon be tested.

As the anticipated arrival time approached, inquiries were made, “Where was Buttercup?” A confirmed sighting was made on Tully Road, yet after 15 minutes…nothing. After various phone calls and search missions, the trucks were found at the county fairgrounds near locomotive 2479…the wrong CTRC location. Soon thereafter, the trucks were correctly on their last lap down 7th Street toward the trolley barn.

A school group attending History San Jose’s Transportation Experience received an unexpected bonus as the trucks stopped outside the museum’s gates carrying a 109 year old steam locomotive and tender. It became obvious that Buttercup will be an instant attraction.

Moving slowly, the first truck with the engine cautiously backed into the unloaded area. The truck handling abilities of Taylor’s driver was simply amazing as he passed the blacksmith’s shop and through a gate without any difficulty. Rolling off the trailer meant disconnecting the truck and positioning a panel track for the straight shot into the trolley barn. Time was taken to ensure rails were aligned and ties were properly supported. At the last moment, additional threaded rod were placed to keep the rails from spreading.

Using Taylor’s truck for braking, Buttercup was rolled off the trailer. A forklift was used to gain additional momentum. For the final positioning in the trolley barn, a special extended reaching forklift from A-Tool Shed was utilized. The special ramp constructed by John Blaine performed flawlessly as the height clearance at the barn door was near zero!

With the engine in the trolley barn, attention was focused on the tender. Since the tender would remain in the barn backyard unloading area, the tender posed logistical problems for the trucker who needed every inch of the empty yard to move in and out.. After the tender was unloaded onto its new storage track, the trucker’s quandary became apparent. Would this truck and trailer become permanent display fixtures for the museum? Once again, a solution would be developed…both heavy duty A-tool shed forklifts would be used to lift and rotate the trailer approximately 45 degrees. Taxed at their lifting capabilities, the forklifts were able to save the day. By 4:00, Taylor’s trucks were on their way home.

It had been a long day. All the careful preparations had paid off as the unloading of both engine and tender in a tight area was uneventful. On Monday April 7, John E, Gene and Bob were able to reinstall Buttercup’s smokestack and headlight. Buttercup has received her initial cleaning of several years of dust, grime and pigeon droppings. Plans are underway for additional cleaning and polishing to rekindle the sparkle she displayed 60 years ago at the Chicago Rail fair.

A special thanks to everyone involved in relocating the engine to San Jose and special recognition to Kyle Wyatt and Ellen Halteman of the California State Railroad Museum for providing this unique opportunity. Lastly, acquisition of this unique artifact would not have been possible without the cooperation of trolley barn volunteers and History San Jose. Thanks to all.