History of Car 2901 The Ferroequinologist
by Ken Rattenne
With Information supplied by Ed Graham and Daryl Bramlett
The Ferroequinologist parked in San Jose on April 27, 1957. Notice the "Central Coast" name along the letterboard. The car will be sold in 1967 and eventually find its way to the Sierra Railroad. (click photo to enlarge)

[Car 2901 Timeline]  [Car 2901's Restoration]

During the years 1956 to 1967 Central Coast Railroad Club was the proud owner of our very own private railway car. 

Southern Pacific 2901

Car 2901, christened "The Ferroequinologist" began it's very historic life as Southern Pacific observation lounge 2901 and was built in 1910 by the Pullman Car Company for a cost of $50,000. 

The 2901 was assigned to various passenger duties during its tenure on Espee, most notably the company's most famous candy train of all, the Overland Limited, between 1910 and 1931. Interestingly, 2901 was originally built as a wooden car but in 1927 Espee upgraded 2901, spending $25,000 to add steel sheathing, a steel underframe and upgraded interior lighting. After its stint on the Overland, 2901 was transferred to the Northwestern Pacific and for the next ten years worked on the NWP between Sausalito and Eureka. 

Between 1941 and 1945, the car was transferred to the San Francisco-San Jose commute pool then found its way to the weekend-only, summer season Suntan Special between 1947 and 1956. In this service 2901 whisked beach goers and sun worshippers between Baghdad-By-The-Bay, and Santa Cruz. By this late date 2901 had outlived its usefulness to the railroad and was scheduled to be scrapped. However, at the last minute, the railroad donated the car to the Central Coast Railway Club and the next chapter of the car’s history was ready to be written. 

The Central Coast Railway Club Years

The car was donated to the club by SP in February of 1956. The club’s first trip with the car was to be the February 12, 1956 trip to Sacramento, however, delivery of the car by the railroad was delayed and SP 2902 was substituted instead. (This was written up in the February 1956 issue of the Ferroequinologist.) 
A  popular New Year's Eve excursion finds 40 Central Coast members partying hardy on December 31,1967. 

It appears that the inaugural trip under Central Coast ownership was the Inside Gateway trip to Bieber over the Western Pacific during September 1-3, 1956. Interestingly, the car did operate on at least one Central Coast trip prior to the club acquiring it, that being the Arcata & Mad River trip in 1954.) The car was well utilized by the club and many trips were made over the years, taking club members all over California and parts of Oregon. (See 2901's time line link below.)

By 1966 the car was becoming a burden to operate and maintain; the club could no longer afford the increasing maintenance and storage costs, which resulted in an inability to operate 2901 on any Class I railroad.  At the September 1967 club meeting the membership voted 48 to 5 to sell the car to members Doug Morgan and Sam Girdler for $505. 

The last trip on "The Foo Car"  by Central Coast was shortly after it's sale to Doug and Sam, and was a New Year's Eve trip from San Jose to San Francisco on December 31,1967. (Over the years many a New Year's Eve trip was made and were very popular.)

2901 Under New Ownership

Under new ownership, 2901 was used on a few more Central Coast trips but one of its most noteworthy trips was a journey to Ogden, Utah for Union Pacific's Golden Spike Centennial. Morgan and Girdler finally sold the car to the Sierra Railroad in 1971 and 2901 was promptly shipped to the Sierra’s Jamestown yard. In 1982 California State Parks acquired the Jamestown property from the Sierra Railroad, along with the all excursion train equipment. 

Now under Railtown 1897 State Historic Park ownership, 2901 became a project for the volunteer staff, receiving major interior renovations in 2000-2001 and in again 2006. Also in 2006 2901 had its historic chairs  re-upholstered and replacement stained glass windows installed in the smoking room. Helping with 2901's restoration was a generous donation of $2000 in January of 2000 by Central Coast Railway Club. Now completed, Sierra Railway 2901 is now back in excursion service and was used to provide first class service during Railtown 1897’s 2010 operating season. 

2901's 2010 Operating Season

Fast Forward to July 2010. One hundred years after entering service, it's again possible to ride the club's former The Ferroequinologist behind steam locomotives through the California Motherlode country. During the July 4th weekend, the car was part of the celebration of 1891-built Sierra No. 3's placement back in service after a 12 year hiatus. The 2901 and two coaches were coupled to the historic 4-6-0 for what could be considered by some a reunion run. (Under Central Coast ownership, 2901 made several trips to the Sierra Railroad, running behind Nos. 3 and 28 on excursions.) On July 2nd, with the extra weight of 2901 on the drawbar, the diminutive No. 3 began slipping on the 3% grade out of Rock Siding. The train had to back down the hill and get a running start in order to storm the grade. The resulting show at trackside was impressive. 

Also in 2010 the car recieved it own drumhead, created by the volunteer memebers. 

For information on Railtown 1897 or to order tickets in advance go to: http://www.railtown1897.org/railtown/ 

(Last updated November 2016)

[Car 2901 Timeline]  [Car 2901's Restoration]