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Southern Pacific Railroad History Center

Dave Houston

Project Advisor

Dave’s interest in trains came from hearing action in Santa Fe’s Houston, Texas yard as a toddler.  He could hear, but not see what was behind all that noise, and it instilled a life-long desire to be around railroads.  His parents would recall how Dave would make them wait at grade crossings if there was a headlight showing, and they did.  At the same time, Dave’s model railroading passion began with his first Marx set when he was less than four.  Lionel sets then came quickly, and filled his room and time with arcing and sparking ozone smells.  


Dave’s interest in trains never faded through the teenage years, and once he was able to drive, he spent “Friday Night Date Nights” at his high school, (where mom thought he was out with the girls) going to Burbank Junction instead.  Little did Dave’s parents know he was “hooping up orders” to Trains 365, 57, 75, 805, or any extra that rolled through on those balmy nights in beautiful Downtown Burbank.


Always being partial to the Southern Pacific, Dave actually worked several summers for the Santa Fe pulling pins at Hobart Yard in Los Angeles.  Always wanting to have a business car of his own as a railroad executive, he finished college with a degree in Industrial Relations, applied to all, but was accepted by none.


In 1974, Dave found out that his friend’s father-in-law was golfing buddies with the vice president of SP Pipelines.  He got an interview at One Market Street in San Francisco, and was sent to Roseville yard to spend a week of orientation with the Trainmaster, Terry Byrd.  Dave thought he had died and gone to heaven, walking the ballast, listening to what it took to keep the yard moving, and spending time with real railroaders.  However, when he reported for assignment, SP informed that the entire trainee program had been abolished due to a downturn in the economy.  As quickly as a door had opened, it closed, and that was that.


Dave’s interest in trains never faltered and he owned a home near the Antelope departure yard, and remembers vividly the day Roseville Yard blew up.  It damaged his home, and was the only railroad catastrophe he decided not to photograph.  Dave’s photo collection, however, covers the late 60s through the 90s, with a heavy emphasis on SP.  If it wrecked, he was there.  If it had an F unit on it, ditto.  GPs, SD9s, Es, you bet!  


His involvement with model railroad clubs has been since the mid-60s, serving a one year stint as President of the Sacramento Model Railroad Club before moving to Washington State.  Club membership continued in Seattle, where Dave witnessed and photographed the end of first generation power on the BN, and then back to Walnut Creek, California where he was active with that club for over 20 years.  When Dave moved to Rocklin in 2005, he searched with his understanding wife Rosemary for a home that would allow a fulfillment of every modeler’s life goal of having a well-built model railroad.  Search for the “Rocklin Sub” on YouTube to see what the SP looks like in Dave’s man cave, circa 1957.  


Involvement with the Golden Gate Railroad Museum brought Dave into the train clothing business in 1992, and after several years of running their concession department, launched Daylight Sales in 1995.  In 2002, he published the 5th edition of Southern Pacific Volume 1, Daylight Trains 98-99, by the late Richard Wright.  Also available from Daylight Sales is the Mobile Fidelity and Arkay Record lines of high quality sound recordings, including SP sounds.  After 22 years in business, Daylight Sales has become a million dollar company with a global presence through hard work and a little luck.  The business has allowed Dave to work with many steam groups in the country.  As a member of the 4449 Steam Crew, they call Dave “Daylight” and it seems to have stuck.  Through Daylight Sales, Dave has been able to help fundraise for the Friends of the SP 4449, SP&S 700, SBRHS Santa Fe 3751, Union Pacific Steam, New Mexico R&LHS Santa Fe 2926, N&W 611, NKP 765, Friends of the Milwaukee 261, Strasburg, Heber Valley and a host of museums.  Although Dave claims he can’t draw a stick, he is an art director, and his designs have delighted millions of railfans, young and old.


Dave hopes to bring his marketing and design expertise to the new History Center dedicated to the Southern Pacific, and help fundraise for the climate control and more.  Dave is excited to help use his model railroading expertise to build our railroad diorama featuring operations between Roseville and Ogden!

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