University of California

The Great Flood of 1932 and Engine No. 3834

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In September 1932a tropical cyclone tracked north northwestward across the Gulf of California. The remnants generated rainfall of up to 7 inches in the mountains and deserts of southern California over a 4 day period ending on October 1st. Rainfall of 4.38 inches at Tehachapi in 7 hours on the 30th caused flash floods on Agua Caliente and Tehachapi Creeks resulting in 15 deaths. This occurred during the El Niño year of 1932-33.

The flash flood in Tehachapi Creek, undermined the tressle and tracks under Santa Fe Engine No. 3834 which was waiting out the storm about 1/2 mile East of Woodford Station.  The engine remained lost for two weeks, hidden under 10 feed of mud.  It took one month to free the severley damaged engine.  Its bell was never found.  Almost three years after the flood the newly refurbished engine was returned to service with people lining the tracts in Tehachapi and Keene waving and cheering as No. 3834 rolled by its new bell proudly ringing.

In 2009 the site of the train derailment was re-photographed.  Note that the vegetation is little changed from 1932.

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