ATSF 2-10-4 5021


The 5011-class 2-10-4's were the last steam locomotives purchased new by the Santa Fe. They were war babies, built in 1944 at a time when freight dieselization on the Santa Fe was well underway. Due to wartime materials shortages, the War Production Board imposed strict controls on new locomotive purchases, particularly diesels. Santa Fe was awarded the lion's share of road freight diesel production in the form of EMD's FT, but it still wasn't enough to meet the railroad's needs. The 2900-class 4-8-4's and 5011-class 2-10-4's were constructed to try to make up the deficit. Had it not been for the war, these final examples of Santa Fe big steam would almost certainly never have been built.

The 5011-class were impressive machines. Resting on 74 inch drivers, the locomotives measured 123 feet, 5 inches from stem to stern, three feet longer than Santa Fe's immense 3000-class 2-10-10-2's of thirty years earlier! The length was largely due to the huge tenders the 2-10-4's were equipped with. In the interest of minimizing fuel and water stops, the 16-wheel tenders were designed to hold 24,500 gallons of water and 7,000 gallons of oil. The 5011's were nevertheless lighter than the 3000's, 538,000 lbs total compared to 616,000.

Though capable of handling passenger assignments, the 5011's were basically freight locomotives throughout their careers. The early 50's found them assigned to the New Mexico and Pecos Divisions of the railroad. The summer of 1955 was the last stand for Santa Fe steam in long distance mainline freight service. The following year, the only place active steam could be found on the railroad was on Abo Pass in New Mexico. During the produce rush in the summers of 1956 and 1957, seven steam engines saw service as helpers for diesel-powered freights on the 1.25% grade from Belen to Mountainair, NM. 5011-class engines 5019, 5021, 5027, and 5029 were among those used. The 5021 became the last of its class to see service, and the second-to-last steam engine to operate in revenue service on the railroad when it assisted a diesel-powered freight up the pass on August 27, 1957. After two or more years of inactivity, most of the 5011-class were retired and sent to scrap in April of 1959, after the railroad was confident it could do without them. In the end, none of the 5011's saw more than 13 years of service.

Jim Vicars visited New Mexico in the summer of 1957 and recorded these views of 5021 in her final months of service. In this image, 5021 completely fills the 120-foot through truss turntable at Belen, NM as it is turned prior to helping another train up Abo Pass.
The competition rears its ugly head as 5021 moves about the Belen yard. EMD F-units such as these were the standard locomotives of Santa Fe's dieselization. They were rostered by the hundreds, for both freight and passenger service.
Jim pursued the 5021 as it helped an eastbound freight out of Belen. The train slugs upgrade just east of Becker, NM. The water tank at Becker can be seen in the distance. The grade is already substantial here as the rails climb out of the Rio Grande valley. In a few miles, the train will enter Abo Canyon.
Jim caught 5021 and her charge one more time as they emerged from the east end of Abo Canyon at Scholle, NM. Except for the motive power and freight cars, the view from the US-60 overpass has changed little in the ensuing years.
After the retirement of the 5011-class in 1959, Santa Fe donated three of the engines to museums and communities along its route. In addition, the 5021 was retained by the railroad for historical purposes. It was stored in the Belen roundhouse along with 4-8-4 2925, which had also seen helper service on Abo Pass in 1956. The two huge engines completely filled their stalls in the roundhouse, as illustrated by the views at left. The engines were rolled out of the roundhouse on a regular basis to keep their bearings free, but otherwise did little except accumulate pigeon droppings for 25 years.
In the early 80's, the two big steamers were moved north to join the rest of the Santa Fe historic locomotive collection in the Albuquerque, NM roundhouse. Engine 5021 was moved by the Belen-Albuquerque local on November 9, 1982. The engine peers in the back door of one of the long stalls on the Albuquerque roundhouse in 1984.
From the front, 5021 looked a bit more faded in 1984, but all in all not that much different from its 1957 appearance. Compare this view with the topmost photo on this page.
In 1986, Santa Fe donated the entire historical collection of locomotives at Albuquerque, including 5021, 2925, and many of the diesels listed on the main page, to the California State Railroad Museum in Sacramento, CA. The collection was moved west in early April 1986. Unfortunately, the CSRM had neither the facilities nor the resources to properly house, restore, and care for the engines. The 5021 and most of the rest of the Santa Fe historical collection was stored outdoors, and mostly out of public view, at the former Southern Pacific Sacramento Shops, where it is shown in the upper view at left. Environmental remediation of the former SP facilites resulted in the engines being moved to a spur along the museum's excursion train track in 2008. The lower view shows the engine there in 2010. The museum took the precaution of removing the boiler insulation and most of the "collectable" items on the engine, but the resulting appearance is truly heartbreaking. The museum's long term plans for the locomotive are not known.


1. Farrington, Jr., S. Kip, The Santa Fe's Big Three, New York: David McKay Co., Inc., 1972.
2. Stagner, Lloyd, Santa Fe Steam: The Last Decade, David City, NB: South Platte Press, 1995.
3. Worley, E. D., Iron Horses of the Santa Fe Trail, Dallas: Southwest Railroad Historical Society, 1965.
Special thanks to Jim Vicars for the use of his historic photographs.

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