Central Pacific 173

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Central Pacific locomotive 173
Locomotive cp 173.jpg
Central Pacific #173 as the locomotive appeared in 1883, 11 years after being rebuilt
Type and origin
Power type Steam
Designer Andrew Jackson Stevens
Builder Norris-Lancaster
Serial number 13
Build date 1863
Total produced 1 (prototype for first 12 CP-built engines)
Rebuilder Central Pacific's Sacramento Shops
Rebuild date 1872
 • Whyte 4-4-0
 • UIC 2'Bn
Gauge 4 ft 8 12 in (1,435 mm)
Driver dia. 54 in (1.372 m)
Fuel type Coal
Cylinders Two, outside
Cylinder size 17 in × 24 in (432 mm × 610 mm)
Operators Western Pacific Railroad, Central Pacific Railroad, Southern Pacific Railroad
Numbers WP "H", CP #173
Official name Sonoma
First run 1863, Nov 1872 (rebuild)
Retired 1909
Disposition scrapped

The Central Pacific Railroad number 173 was a 4-4-0 steam locomotive that was an example of a modern steam locomotive of the time. It was the prototype used for the Central Pacific's Sacramento Shops when the railroad began constructing locomotives. The engine was successful, and more engines were built to 173's design.


The locomotive was originally built in 1864 by Norris-Lancaster for the Western Pacific Railroad who had it designated H (the Western Pacific had its engines lettered rather than numbered), naming it the Sonoma. The engine became Central Pacific's #173 after railroad acquired the Western Pacific in 1869. A train wreck involving CP 173 and 177 occurred at Alameda Junction on November 14, 1869, and both engines were brought to the railroad's extensive shops in Sacramento two years later. Here, master mechanic Andrew Jackson "A.J." Stevens was given the task of rebuilding the 173. Though extensive damage was sustained from the wreck, Stevens found many of the engine's parts to be reusable, and had decided to use the 173 as a test bed for the railroad's entry into the locomotive manufacturing business. The rebuild was extensive enough that the Central Pacific listed itself as the builder in subsequent records. The rebuilt 173, finished in November 1872, was well received by the railroad, and soon the shops produced twelve engines based on its design. Three of these were sold to other roads, among which was Virginia and Truckee Railroad's Dayton locomotive, which is the only preserved example of 173's design. Additionally, as the railroad's existing engines (including the Jupiter, C. P. Huntington, Gov. Stanford, among others) were serviced at the shops, the names would be removed (as it had been decided not to continue naming the engines), their stacks, domes, and other features would be replaced with ones of identical or similar design to those of 173, thus giving the railroad's engines (as well as those of the Southern Pacific) a more unified appearance, a practice which would later similarly be employed by the Pennsylvania Railroad.

As a side note, smaller engine 177 was even more extensively rebuilt in 1873, apparently with very little if any of the original engine reused, and was also listed as built by Central Pacific in the records. CP 173 was finally scrapped in 1909, while 177 was sold to an unknown buyer in 1886.

Miniature replicas

Disney's model of #173, named "Lilly Belle" after his wife

In 1950, Walt Disney began to build the Carolwood Pacific Railroad, a miniature railroad in his backyard. Walt saw a photo of 173 and decided to build a model of it for his railroad. Southern Pacific draftsman David L. Joslyn located the specifications of 173 in a warehouse of SP's old records, and recreated the 173's drawings scaled down to two inches to one foot. This engine operated for a few years in Walt's backyard railroad, and when it was shut down, the 173 model was displayed in Disneyland's Main Street station for nearly fifty years, before moving to the new Walt Disney Family Museum, dedicated to Disney's legacy.

At the Disneyland Railroad, the No. 1 C. K. Holliday locomotive is also modeled after the 173. In fact, the C. K. Holliday was modeled after the "Lilly Belle" locomotive, and thus bears a strong resemblance to that locomotive.

1:8 Scale models of the CP173 have become very popular with the people of a hobby called "live steamers" in fact most build the CP173 from castings. The most popular of which are made by Railroad Supply Co.


  • Best, Gerald M (1969). Iron Horses to Promontory. New York: Golden West. 
  • Central Pacific 1868 Roster of Locomotives
  • Central Pacific 1875 Roster of Equipment
  • Central Pacific 1878 Roster of Equipment
  • Central Pacific early 1870s record of locomotive shop work
  • 1883 Southern Pacific Railroad Annual Report

External links

  • Central Pacific Railroad Photographic History Museum
  • The Carolwood Pacific Historical Society
  • Walt Disney Exhibition, Walt's engine in the California State Railroad Museum as part of a traveling exhibit of Walt's railfan legacy.
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