Engine No. 3751 at Fullerton, Calif. station

Now isn’t that gorgeous? You’re looking at Engine No. 3751 (right there on the top, Ace), a working 4-8-4 type that makes its home in Vernon, California, and is loved and supported by the San Bernardino Railroad Historical Society.

As part of what made our summer of 2010 special, we were standing trackside when 3751 pulled into Fullerton, CA station on its way to San Diego on a commercial run.

Some guys have all the luck.

Too true. Amtrak fired up this beauty and pulled several hundred paying passengers from Los Angeles Union Station down to SD, and then returned those lucky people to LA three days later.

Number 3751 has been at this since its construction in 1927, though less now than in its first decades when it pulled freights and passenger trains up and down the state. The 4-8-4 designation means four sets of wheels — before and after — eight sets of drive wheels. By reputation, they could power the huge engine to speeds approaching 120 mph. Imagine waiting a crossing gate when this bad boy roared by.

There were probably 400 to 500 foamers (“foamers” is a name given to guys like me who go a little nuts in the presence of working steam engines) who greeted 3751 when she rolled up to the station, and shed a tear 20 minutes later when she passed out of sight to the south.

Yeah, right. If Kris and I had been on our game, we’d have ponied up for tickets about three months earlier so we could have climbed on board.

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