John Trail - San Pablo engine

In May 2010 John M. Trail wrote to offer use of his collection of photos taken during the transfer of the San Pablo engine from a private collector to the SS Lane Victory. My thanks to John for sharing his unique photos (the larger version can be seen by clicking on each thumbnail). His story is below.

John Trail photos Sept. 1994 Long Beach, CA (John Trail with hand on throttle) John Trail pointing to where shaft was cut. John Trail leaning on San Pablo engine Cut off thrustbox

In the early 1990's, I worked as a volunteer aboard the SS Lane Victory a restored and functioning Victory ship home ported and displayed in San Pedro, California. I was asked by the Captain of the ship at the time, John Smith, to drive down to San Diego and visit a freight yard to check on a antique marine engine that they had acquired from an estate there.

I cannot recall the name of the yard, but I arrived there and took a look at the triple expansion steam engine which they were ready to ship north to Long Beach. I was told it was originally from a Whaler built in 1926 in Vancouver (Canada or Washington, I do not know) and bought by 20th Century Fox to use in the movie "The Sand Pebbles." After the movie had been filmed and the engine removed from the set that they had built around it, I was told that a collector who liked old marine and railroad engines had purchased it from Fox and had taken it out to his estate and stored it in a barn.

I took some photographs of the engine, which was in pretty bad shape and then headed back to Long Beach. I reported to the Captain and he then told me that it was being shipped up to Long Beach and that they were going to put it in a lay-down yard near the Navy base at Terminal Island. He wanted me to check on it to see if it arrived in one piece. After it had arrived in Long Beach, I went down to the lay-down yard and immediately notice that the shippers had cut the shaft and had taken the thrust box off as the whole thing would not fit onto the short trailer bed that they had used to haul it up Long Beach. I was upset, but I figured that the people in charge knew what they were doing. I took some giant plastic sheets and covered it up as best as I could. But before I left, I had to put my hand on the throttle and say, "Hello engine, my name is John Trail."

I wish I could have stayed around to assist the SS Lane Victory association in restoring the engine, but I was transferred to Pearl Harbor, Hawaii in September of 1994.

In 2006, I had a chance to visit my old haunts when my ship stood into San Diego for the weekend. I rented a car and drove north up to San Pedro to visit the SS Lane Victory and see the "Sand Pebbles" engine display. I am very pleased and happy that she has been restored as a visual display and have a lot of respect for the men that put in the long hours to do it. But, again, when no one was looking, I crossed over the tourist barrier and put my hand on the throttle repeating "Hello engine, my name is John Trail."

Captain John M. Trail
Pokagon YTB-836
USN (ret.)

John M. Trail © 2010

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