History of the SP-10

SP-10 is a self-propelled Rail Diesel Car, model RDC-1, built in 1954 by the Budd Company. This single car was acquired by the Southern Pacific Railroad and placed into local service on money-losing local service routes between Sacramento and the Oakland Pier, replacing more expensive-to-operate locomotive-hauled trains. 

In 1959, the car was reassigned to replace another traditional locomotive-hauled train, this time on the Northwestern Pacific Railroad’s “Redwood” service to Eureka, California. It operated on that route as Trains 3 and 4 until the advent of Amtrak in 1971, traversing the scenic, spectacular, and often treacherous Eel River Canyon. 

One control cab was heavily damaged in a grade crossing collision while on the NWP, and that end was rebuilt using parts from a retired ex-St. Louis Southwestern Osgood-Bradley coach, by Sacramento General Shops. It remained in this altered configuration when retired by SP, and was placed into operation on the Oregon, Pacific & Eastern at Cottage Grove, Oregon. It was subsequently acquired by the Galveston Railroad Museum.

It has been significantly affected by floodwater immersion during Hurricane Ike, and does not currently run. But the car is complete, and restorable to non-operating display status. In the second half of 2016 a successful grassroots effort was mounted to purchase the car for scrap value from the Galveston Museum, and transport it back home to California for eventual cosmetic restoration, display, and historical interpretation. It is intended to serve as a centerpiece for the planned Southern Pacific Railroad History Center in Rocklin, California.

The Budd Car is Born

  • June 1953: Budd B/N #5917 built for stock
  • February 25, 1954: GMO #56996 approves purchase of one RDC-1
  • April 4, 1954: Start of Service, Trains 229 and 246 between Oakland and Sacramento
Budd Company Builder's Photo - SP-10 in 1954, Philadelphia, PA

First Service

  • April 4, 1954: Start of Service, Trains 229 and 246 between Oakland and Sacramento
  • Called “The Pocket”
  • Commonly referred to as “The Doodlebug”

Early Changes

  • Fall, 1954: Original dark underframe paint replaced with Simulated Stainless Steel (silver)
  • Fall, 1954: Nathan M3 horns applied to both ends, replacing single-note
  • May, 1955: SP petitions Cal PUC for discontinuance
  • May, 1955: SP plans to assign car to NWP; Redwood loads increase instead

Malaise and Resurgence

  • October 7, 1956: Trains 229 and 246 discontinued; car presumably stored in Sacramento
  • February 19, 1957: Service on Train 241 begins between Sacramento and Oakland
  • February 20, 1957: Service on Train 226 begins between Oakland and Sacramento

The End of Capital Service

  • 1958: Car tows heavyweight baggage-mail car trailers between Sacramento and Davis

  • November 8, 1958: SP receives permission to discontinue San Rafael-Willits NWP service

  • March 28, 1959: Trains 226 and 241 discontinued

  • May 4 to 26, 1959: Baggage section added, Nathan P3 horns applied; seats reduced to 68

The Redwood Star

  • May 25, 1959: Car leased to NWP, service begins Willits to Eureka

  • October 7, 1960: Car strikes truck at Fort Seward, destroying one control cab

  • February 26, 1961: Car returned to service single-ended; “CHAIR” lettering eliminated


  • Summer 1964: Temporary mounting of white Gyralite

  • 1964: Scarlet paint applied to control cab face (pre-South Bay accident)

  • September 1964: Car strikes truck at South Bay; rebuild changes front door, Gyralite is inset

  • December 21, 1964 to June 16, 1965: NWP closed account flooding and severe line disruptions

  • April 22, 1966: Tri-weekly service resumes

Lend Me Your Rear

  • 1968: Checked baggage service discontinued; baggage section replaced with 8 walkover seats

  • September 15, 1970: Service reduced to bi-weekly

  • April 30, 1971: Final run, NWP Redwood


  • July 15, 1971: Sold to Yreka Western; assigned to Oregon, Pacific & Eastern at Cottage Grove

  • 1973 to 1978: Storage in Oregon

The Briny Gulf Coast

  • May 1978: Sold to Moody Foundation in Galveston, Texas. Car placed on display

  • September, 2008: Hurricane Ike floods display location, car is immersed above floor line

Stainless Salvation and California-cation

  • November 2016: Purchased by the SPRHC and relocated to Woodland, California
  • October 2017: Restoration work begins

Photo Captions, in Order of Appearance:

  1. Philadelphia, PA – 1954 – Budd Company Builder’s Photo/SPRHC Collection
  2. Berkeley, CA – 1954 – Arnold Menke Collection
  3. Oakland Pier, CA – 1956 – Richard Kampa/WRM Collection
  4. Sacramento, CA – 1955 – Arnold Menke Collection
  5. Near Port Costa, CA – ca 1956 – Robert Hanft/WRM Collection
  6. Eureka, CA –  1960 – Richard Kampa/WRM Collection
  7. Willits, CA – 1964 – J. Brent Macgregor Collection
  8. Eureka, CA – 1969 – WRM Collection
  9. Cottage Grove, OR – 1975 – Richard Kampa/WRM Collection
  10. Galveston, TX – 1994 – Gary Perazzo
  11. Sacramento Weir, CA – 2016 – Kelly Huston