Research Packet and Narrative by: Joe Carlos, Jerry Hernandez,Dr. George D. Torok
Honors Project -- Spring 2004 -- National Endowment for the Humanities Historical Markers Project
Old Locomotive Number One is El Paso, Texas’s legendary and thoroughly-restored steam locomotive dating from the early era of American railroads before the Civil War. Of less than thirty surviving engines from this period, it is the most original and complete. Old Number One has been cherished as an historic relic since its retirement in 1909 and has been on display at several sites around El Paso for more than ninety years. It has recently undergone a thorough cosmetic restoration and has been moved to a new home in downtown El Paso[i].
El Paso & Southwestern Locomotive Number One. Image provided by El Paso County Historical Society Collections
Old Number One was manufactured in 1857 by Breese, Kneeland, and Company of Jersey City, New Jersey which also operated under the name of the New York Locomotive Works. It bears the builder’s No. 73" and was constructed for the Milwaukee & Mississippi Railroad Company which later became the Milwaukee & Prairie du Chien Railway Company.[ii] The locomotive served the upper midwest for more than thirty years but by 1889 it had been acquired by the Arizona and Southeastern Railroad Company, which later became the El Paso and Southwestern Railroad. It was the El Paso and Southwestern Railroad’s Locomotive Number One, the first locomotive engine to be used in the development of Bisbee, Arizona during its great mining boom of the late 19th century.[iii]
Old Number One is a 4-4-0 locomotive, commonly called the American design. This style was patented by Henry Roe Campbell in 1836 and became a standard for the New York Locomotive Works. The 4-4-0 designation refers to the wheel arrangement. The first set of numbers refers to the small wheels that lead the locomotive; the second set refers to the number of drive wheels; and the third set refers to the wheels that trail the locomotive. The engine has a slab-rail frame, a unique design of the New York Locomotive Works. [iv]
After more than fifty years of service Old Number One was overhauled and placed in a quiet park at Stanton and Franklins streets in El Paso in June 1909. In 1924 the El Paso and Southwestern became part of the Southern Pacific Railroad who acquired the engine and the offices adjacent to the park. For fifty years, from 1909 to 1960, Old Locomotive Number One remained a prominent historic piece of Western American history and was moved only briefly by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Studios who featured it in the 1938 film Let Freedom Ring. [v] It was then returned to the park and remained there until the 1960 when it was transferred to the University of Texas at El Paso’s Centennial Museum. By the early 1960s, Old Locomotive Number One was resting quietly at the museum but was in need of repair. The Smithsonian Institution expressed an interest in the engine believing that it was the last of its kind in the country. In 1968 Old Locomotive Number One was placed in a large glass-paned structure was built to protect its exposed, rusting exterior. [vi]
For the next forty years Old Locomotive Number One was on display at the UTEP campus and received only occasional cleaning and maintenance. By the 1990s, Old Locomotive Number One was in need of extensive repair and restoration. In October 1999, the engine was officially recognized as a National Trust for Historic Preservation Save America’s Treasures project. [vii] In 2001 more than 1.1 million dollars of Texas State Transportation Commission and local matching funds were allocated for the removal and restoration of the locomotive. During 2002, steam engine restoration specialist J. David Conrad of the Valley Railroad of Essex, Connecticut oversaw the removal and full cosmetic restoration of the engine and tender box. The woodwork, metal, and exterior trim were stripped, treated and painted to most closely match the original 1909 color and condition, [viii] In fall 2003, Old Locomotive Number, cosmetically restored to its once great splendor, was moved to its present site at the Union Plaza Transit Terminal in downtown El Paso [ix].
[i] John H. White, Jr., retired Curator Emeritus of the National Museum of American History (Smithsonian Institute), comments on Old Number One quoted in University of Texas at El Paso, A National Historic Trust Preservation Services Fund Grant Application,@ (El Paso, TX 2000), 2, Sec. 12.
[ii] Adolph A. Stoy, “The Centennial of a Locomotive,” Password II (Aug. 1957), 78; Adolph A. Stoy, AThe Centennial of Locomotive: EP&SW No. 1: Its Owners - Its Antecedents, expanded unpublished manuscript, MS 174, University of Texas at El Paso Special Collections, El Paso, TX; Edward A. Leonard, Rails at the Pass (El Paso, TX, 1981), illustrations.
Books and Articles:
Leonard, Edward A. Rails at the Pass. El Paso, TX: Texas Western Press, 1981.
Stoy, Adolph A. “The Centennial of a Locomotive.” Password II: August 1957: 78-80.
Timmons, W.H. El Paso: A Borderland History. El Paso, TX: Texas Western Press, 1990.
White, John H., Jr. A History of the American Locomotive, Its Development 1830-1880. New York: Dover Publications, 1968.
(Bisbee, AZ) Brewery Gulch Gazette
May 14, 1981
(Bisbee, AZ) Daily Review
Feb. 12, 1992
(El Paso, TX) Times:
Aug. 26, 2001
July 24, 2003
(Manassas, VA) Southwest Railroad Notes 30 (March 2000), 3.
Bob Miles, “First El Paso Engine Rusts in Resting Place.” undated newspaper clipping, c. 1965,
El Paso Library Collections, El Paso, TX.
Stoy, Adolph A. “The Centennial of a Locomotive: EP&SW No.1: Its Owners - Its Antecedents.” Unpublished manuscript MS 174. Special Collections, University of Texas at El Paso, El Paso, TX.
University of Texas at El Paso. “National Historic Trust Preservation Services Fund Grant Application.” unpublished manuscript, El Paso, TX. 2000.