TOOLS of the TRADE

One of the most fascinating aspects of railroading are the actual machines and devices needed to do the job. Ranging from the small and mundane to the large and spectacular, these "tools" are often the most popular and recognized part of a railroad's history and image.

The Tidewater was never a large road. It did not boast giant trestles or flashy steam engines. Like many "children" of bigger railroads, the TS locomotive and caboose rosters were populated with items handed down from its parent, the Western Pacific, as well as second-hand equipment from other sources. TS cabooses in later years, for example, were all WP's signature wood hacks, rebuilt from boxcars in the Feather River Route's early years. Former WP equipment also included Alco switchers and MOW items. By the end, the company had owned equipment once used by the Central Pacific, Union Pacific, Sierra Railroad, Missouri Pacific, Spokane International, and Central California Traction, among others.

While conceived as an interurban railroad, the TS owned only a handful of electric cars and freight motors. In contrast to much of its roster, only the first of its freight motors was second-hand, while all four interurban cars were brand new from Jewett. All of the road's steam locomotives were either "pre-owned" or borrowed. And only four small GE diesels were purchased new. Tidewater diesels after the GE's left in the late 1960's were all used. All power after 1976 was lettered Western Pacific (or, rarely, Sacramento Northern) until the UP took over.

Boxcars dominated the freight roster, the most distinctive being a series of 50' cars bearing the colorful "Cornucopia" logo, shown at the top of the page. Most TS freight equipment was gone or in MOW service by the UP merger in 1983. The road's cabooses disappeared before the end of the 1970's.

Despite the near total loss of identity after the mid-1970's, the Tidewater's equipment provides a highly varied and fascinating portrait, even when compared to WP's other former interurban, the well-loved and documented Sacramento Northern.

The sections in this chapter provide overviews of the tools used to get the job done. Most cover the road's rolling stock and motive power. Individual sub-pages provide detailed information on specific locomotives and interurbans, and on classes of freight and company service equipment. In the locomotive sections, the first link leads to a timeline which shows the chronology of all the Tidewater's locomotives and interurbans. One section is devoted to the small items of railroading, the lanterns, locks, signals, and other miscellaneous items as vital to the job as any locomotive.