Cantilever 2501 -- The Final Night (part II)
The prevailing mood of the country after WWII was one of jubilation, but also one of anxiety. The accepted belief among many was that WWII, not governmental or industrial policy, ended the Depression, and now that the war was over, the country was bound to slip into Depression once again. Instead, the country experienced the greatest creation of wealth in peacetime history. More families as a percentage of the population advanced to the middle class than at any other time. Americans, unable to buy but the bare necessities during the Depression because they couldn't afford them, and when they finally could afford them were unavailable during the war, were now after 15 years ready to spend. Armed with new vehicles of purchasing power, namely the mortgage interest deduction and revolving credit, the middle class was ready to gorge on consumer goods and have babies. America was a far different place after the War. The change in wealth and attitude not only affected the country, but also the railroads and the Santa Fe.
By the end of the war cantilever signal 2501, placed in service on 8 October 1940, had yet to feel the presence of the Diesel exhaust other than the occasional streamliner Super and El Cap. Even though the railroad had 320 FT units on the property at the end of 1945, more Diesels than any railroad at the time, they were all assigned between Winslow and Barstow. But this was soon to change as the AT&SF, under the direction of President Gurley, was aggressively replacing steam with Diesel. When the F7 was introduced in 1949, no railroad bought more than the AT&SF. They couldn't get enough of them. Overnight, signal 2501 was blasted by fewer and fewer 4-8-4s and 2-10-2s and more by the throaty growl of the re-assigned FTs, F3s and new F7s. By 1950, all through freight and nearly all passenger trains were Diesel powered. By 1953, cantilever 2501 would feel soot no more - Diesel was king.
The trains looked different, too. They were longer and faster, and the types of freight cars changed from the standard 40ft boxcar, many which were wood, to specialty cars such as grain center flows, automobile racks, etc.
As the 50s blended into the 60s, even the F7 were being replaced by second-generation locomotives with undreamed of horsepower. The railroad was hauling more tonnage with less units and far fewer people than when signal 2501 entered service. But the railroad was also carrying less people as American's love affair with the automobile continued unabated. But it would be the introduction of Boeing's 707 in 1956 that would be the real killer, siphoning away forever the lucrative business passenger.
Through all the changes in 25 years to the railroad, cantilever signal 2501 burned continuously, guarding every westward train.