The SP GS-4 steam locomotives were used on SP passenger and freight trains between 1941 and 1958. Passenger trains were extremely popular in the Southwestern US during that time, and most interstates and airports weren't very popular, nor were most built during that time either. Hence, railroads such as the SP, UP, ATSF, and WP operated high-speed steam and diesel-powered passenger trains throughout Arizona, Texas, Nevada, California, New Mexico, and parts of Wyoming in the Southwestern United States on the vast emptiness between population centers.In the late 1950's, they were replaced by EMD E Series and ALCO PA Series diesel locomotives, while the F Series units were used as "spare units" when they were all first ordered. In 1956 nearly all GS-4 engines had their streamlining removed and were repainted black for commuter service, mainly in California. The last revenue passenger train hauled by a GS-4 ran in January 1957. However, 4443 pulled some of the last excursion specials for SP.
The only surviving locomotive of this class is the SP 4449. It (she) is arguably one of the most recognizable, famous, and iconic locomotives of all time.
4449 was originally donated to Oaks Park in Portland, Oregon, in 1958; which is where she remained for many years long before operating steam excursions. In December 1974, 4449 was eventually moved from Oaks Park to undergo restoration (overhaul) by a preservation society due to it being in poor condition, which greenlit 4449 a chance to haul steam excursions by large donations and votes from volunteers due to 4449 being in such excellent condition after being restored. From August 1975 to December 1976, 4449 began her new career by having shared duties with several other steam locomotives pulling the American Freedom Train throughout the U.S during the bicentennial anniversary celebrations.
4449 is currently preserved, and is still operational. She currently resides at the Oregon Rail Heritage Center in Portland along with many other preserved locomotives and rolling stock; aside from occasionally operating steam excursions; aside from having several doubleheader excursions with UP 844 recently in 2007 and 2008.
Their 80" driver diameter and 90 square foot firegrate area gave them a top speed of 110 miles per hour, though speed limits rarely exceeded 75 mph.
- Leslie A-200-156 Tyfon airhorns were fitted with most of SP's GS Series steam locomotives (as well as the majority of their modern steamer fleet) to be used as "spare" whistles in case pedestrians aren't able to hear the steam whistles equipped and built with the locomotives.
- A similar type of steam locomotive; the Lima (SP) class GS-6, also has a member preserved, though it isn't as famous as 4449 because it it not operational.
- 4449 was painted black with light gray lettering when it was first preserved and retired (like with most of the other members), but eventually restored to its original "Daylight" scheme after hauling the American Freedom Train during the 1970s.
- Several railroad organizations and companies (as well as historical societies) have owned and operated SP 4449. Including its original owner.
- SP 4449 hasn't visited its original birthplace in Lima, OH, in over 40 years.
- Oddly, Union Pacific (UP) briefly renumbered 4449 to 845 and 844B during a "double-header" excursion with UP 844 back in 2007.
- The tender has had the lettering changed several times while being in the Daylight scheme.
- Southern Pacific No. 4449 made and appearence in the 1986 film "Tough Guys" dressed as " the Gold Coast Flyer" No. 4449 with Doyle McCormack as the engineer in the film.
- A dummy of SP 4449 starred in some of the scenes of a film known as "Tough Guys"; a floppy, yet action-packed film from the late-1980s.
- The bell and horn (seen in the upper-right front) have been repositioned many times on 4449.
- SP 4449 has been paired-up with other steam locomotives operating special steam excursions.
- Gyralites often were equipped and mounted or built-in on later boiler covers (as opposed to the earlier boiler covers having a single headlight), which were used as a double headlight for better vision for the crews aboard GS-4's, and for car traffic to notice an oncoming train more visibly at night.
- SP 4449 also briefly wore a wood-burning smokestack.
- Although the American Freedom Train was pulled by 3 different steam engines, the 4449 logged the most miles.
- As of early-2012, SP 4449 has been in the process of undergoing an overhaul is expected to return to service sometime during late 2014.
- On November 25, 2015, SP 4449 was fired up for the first time in 2 years and returned to service.