The Southern Pacific Railroad was one of the oldest surviving companies in the United States by the late 1980s. However, it had been struggling financially for a couple of decades. Seeking relief, SP and the AT&SF Railway attempted to merge in 1984. When this merger was unexpectedly denied by the Interstate Commerce Commission, the SP system drifted until the Denver and Rio Grande Western’s owners acquired the Southern Pacific Railroad in 1988 and merged the lines– a process that required several years to implement. Just as the system began to gel and to turn a profit, the new Southern Pacific Lines was sold to Union Pacific (1996). Now, all Southern Pacific lines are part of UP (except for parts that have been spun off to shortline operators). The SP is gone, but certainly not forgotten.
The scope of this site is my collection of photographs taken at the very end of Southern Pacific’s existence, mostly during the SPL era * (1988-1996). It is not an attempt to comprehensively cover the system (this page is far more authoritative). Rather, it’s to give you a flavor of later Espee operations. Never having traveled to California during SP’s existence, I have no photos of the heart of the system. Instead, this is a sampling from Colorado, Arizona, and New Mexico. You will see equipment from SP and SSW (Cotton Belt), sometimes mixed in with D&RGW or UP.
Locomotive, rolling stock and action photos are grouped by general category– use the menu above to navigate.
* A note about nomenclature: I use the initials SPL to refer to the system that existed after the Rio Grande merger, primarily because that is how the company branded itself (especially from 1992 forward). The “meatball” herald used on bridges and the headquarters door in Denver spelled it out as “Southern Pacific Lines”, and I have photos of trackside no-trespassing signs using the SPL initials.