Making of the Swanton Pacific Railroad
The 19 inch gauge Swanton Pacific Railroad was constructed in the 1980s by Albert Smith at his Swanton Pacific Ranch located near Davenport, CA. This railroad is scaled to 1/3 standard size with four steam locomotives built by Louis MacDermot for the Overfair Railway. The Overfair Railway was originally part of the Panama-Pacific International Exposition of 1915 that was a celebration of the completion of the Panama Canal. However, after the exposition, the Overfair Railway was dismantled. There were a number of attempts to commercialize the railroad without much success. Al Smith, who had previously worked for the Southern Pacific Railroad, decided to purchase the locomotives, ending up with five of the original locomotives built by MacDermot. Four of the locomotives are at the Swanton Pacific Railroad. Al donated one of the Overfair Railway locomotives to the California State Railroad Museum and that locomotive can be seen in the lobby of the museum in Sacramento.
In addition to the steam locomotives, Al Smith acquired a 1/3 scale version of a GE U25 diesel locomotive, a motor car and a variety of passenger and maintenance of way cars. Faculty and students at Cal Poly have added to rolling stock by building a 1/3 scale crane car and a car to blow and sweep debris from the tracks.
To help ensure the preservation of his ranch and railroad, in 1993 Al Smith donated both to the Cal Poly College of Agriculture, Food and Environmental Sciences. Today the railroad is maintained and run by the dedicated volunteers of the Swanton Pacific Railroad Society. The railroad attracts many visitors, especially railfans of all ages.
For a more detailed history of the locomotives that are the centerpiece of the Swanton Pacific Railroad follow this link to the history of the Overfair Railway in Virtual Museum of the City of San Francisco. To learn more about the Swanton Pacific Ranch click here.
For more information, please contact:
Swanton Pacific Railroad
College of Agriculture, Food and Environmental Sciences
California Polytechnic State University
San Luis Obispo, CA 93407