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As It Was: Three Shasta Daylight Engines Jump Boulder on Track

The Shasta Daylight was Southern Pacific's streamlined train that ran between San Francisco and Portland in the 1950s. It had top priority on the tracks and promised maximum speed and comfort for the passengers.

One day in the summer of 1953, the Daylight left Dunsmuir, Calif., and was climbing up the canyon at 30 mph toward Mount Shasta City. As the lead engine rounded a curve, a huge boulder loomed on the track ahead.  The engineer, Carl Creeson, set the emergency brake, called "swiping the clock” in train parlance, but the locomotive plowed into the rock at full speed.

The three engines jumped so high that they flew over the now shattered stone and amazingly landed back on the rails with a large piece of rock stuck under the cab of the third engine.

A quick call to Dunsmuir brought the round-house crew swarming up the tracks to inspect the engines and remove the last pieces of boulder.

Amazingly, the Daylight resumed its trip in 30 minutes and reached Portland the next morning on time.

Source: Church, Robert, "Steam Days in Dunsmuir featuring Dick Murdock's Smoke in the Canyon." Signature Press, Berkeley Calif., 2011, pp.123-4

Alice Mullaly is a graduate of Oregon State and Stanford University, and taught mathematics for 42 years in high schools in Nyack, New York; Mill Valley, California; and Hedrick Junior High School in Medford. Alice has been an Southern Oregon Historical Society volunteer for nearly 30 years, the source of many of her “As It Was” stories.