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170 Ton Transcontinental Record of 1905

Carl Reese TDA contributor

I’ve long said “Transcontinental records are stitched into the fabric of America”.  Americans strive to prove we can do it better, faster, safer than anyone else. Well folks, lets not forget about those that set a record with 170 ton locomotive!Train Transcontinental Record

In Los Angeles, CA on July 9th, 1905 Walter and Ella Scott charted a Santa Fe train, with the sole purpose to set the fastest transcontinental train record. They both stepped aboard a Santa Fe train Engine 442, in Los Angeles station  headed to Chicago.

East Bound to San Bernardino the engine roared, pausing only long enough to pick up a helper from the climb over Cajon Pass.

Once over the pass, the team was setting a blinding pace. Nearly a mile a minute. It was clear these men were on a mission. Once over the pass the “helper-engine” was uncoupled on the fly, darted ahead onto a spur, then closing the switch to the mainline the locomotive was able to continue without loosing momentum.

Frank Holman, a reporter on the train was quoted as saying “it’s not how fast we can run, it’s how fast we dare to run”.

Scotty sent a telegram (tweeted) President Roosevelt “An American Cowboy is coming East on a special train faster than any cowpuncher ever rode before; how much shall I break transcontinental record?”

East of Doge City, through the darkness of the second night. Josiah Gossard, a 20 year Santa Fe veteran took the throttle. Despite four slow down orders he still managed to cover 124 miles in 130 minutes, the fastest time yet recorded between Emporia and Argentine.

At 11:54 am on Tuesday, July 11th, 1905 Scotty’s special came to halt outside the Chicago station. The train had covered 2265 miles in just 44 hours and 54 minutes- an average, including all delays of 50.4 miles per hour. 11 hours and 56 minutes faster than the eastbound run has ever been made.


Of course this article can not be written without mentioning the controversy that surrounded Walter Scott AKA “Death Valley Scotty”.   Reports are plentiful that Scotty had convinced investors in mines that didn’t exist. Bilking investors of their cash, with reportedly no results. Though his Transcontinental run is well documented and witnessed by reporters onboard the train.  However, his stories of mining success were not.

Below is a list from Wiki of the brave men that “rung out” everything those locomotives had, to beat the previous time. Screen Shot 2015-11-18 at 5.37.00 PM

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