SP Freight Train Wreck

Late 1940s

Photography by Ralph Wilson
Copyright 2004 by James E. Lancaster

My uncle, Ralph Wilson (1912-1958), was a professional photographer and lived in Deming, New Mexico in the late 1940s. These photos of an SP freight train wreck were in his collection when he passed away. The exact date and location are unknown but the vehicles indicate the late '40s and the location appears to be somewhere along the Sunset-Golden State Route.


There are at least 25 wrecked freight cars in this aerial view. Most appear to be PFE wood and steel reefers. There is also at least one Fruit Growers Express wood reefer and an Atlantic Coast Line 50-foot automobile box car. Note that a shoo-fly has already been built around the wreck site.

The scene is classic 1940s. Look at the motor court in the lower right corner. Here's a close-up of the Sundown Court Cabins with gas station and an adjacent Cafe.


They look like they'd be perfectly at home in an old Alfred Hitchcock movie.

Next is a close-up of the highway with the parked Bekins moving van.


Note the SP sedan in Daylight colors across the highway from the moving van and the black 1930s-era automobile with the load on the roof. Is someone headed for California?

Finally, here's a close-up of the two SP tractor-trailer rigs parked nearby.


There are bags of something stacked behind the closer trailer.


This is a closer, ground-level view of the wreck. This is the left end of the wreck in the aerial view.


This is a view of the wreck from across the highway.


Another photographer appears to be getting a close-up photo.


The wood FGEX reefer number 36081 is in the center of this photo. Note the SP pickup truck.


This view shows the ACL auto-box car. This is the right end of the wreck in the aerial view.


The final view shows railroad crews at work cleaning up the mess.

If anyone can identify the location of these photos please contact me at LJAMES1@ix.netcom.com.