The GS-4s were designed for high-speed passenger service and capable of 110 mph (180 km/h). (Timetable speed limit never exceeded 75 mph.) Southern Pacific's premier passenger trains were pulled by GS-4s, the Coast Daylight, San Joaquin Daylight, Lark, Cascade, Golden State and Sunset Limited, as well as many other Southern Pacific name trains. During wartime and in the first years after the war some of the GS-4 locomotives were painted entirely black; by 1948 all had been repainted into Daylight colors. Starting in March 1950 they were painted black again and had their side skirts removed for easier maintenance, and were re-assigned to the San Jose-San Francisco commute trains, freight service and the occasional San Joaquin Daylight (the GS-4 locomotives remained on that train as late as 1956 which made the San Joaquin Daylight the last streamliner train to be pulled by steam on the Southern Pacific) until new diesels arrived and they were retired. The last GS-4 engines were deskirted and painted black in 1956, and after a GS-4 pulled its passenger train in 1957 the GS-4s spent the last year on freight trains on the coast and valley routes and finally were retired in 1958. GS-4 number 4443 pulled one of the final movements of steam on the Southern Pacific Railroad in 1957.
PreservationEditSouthern Pacific 4449 is the only surviving GS-4 locomotive. Arguably, it is one of the most recognizable locomotives of all time. 4449 was donated to the City of Portland (in Oregon), in 1958 and moved to Oaks Amusement Park for static display. In December 1974, the locomotive was removed from Oaks Park to undergo restoration. From August 1975 to December 1976, 4449 shared duties with several other steam locomotives pulling the American Freedom Train throughout the U.S. The 4449 is still operational, and since mid-2012 it resides at the Oregon Rail Heritage Center in Portland along with other preserved locomotives and rolling stock.
The tender of SP 4444 (the last GS-4 to be scrapped) was kept and rebuilt by SP and was used as a "hammer car" to test impacts on hydracushion boxcars, but was scrapped in the early 1970s.