In 1939, the Electro-Motive
Corporation completed a revolutionary railroad locomotive powered by
a diesel prime mover and using an electric transmission. While this
combination had been used for years in some switching and passenger
locomotives, EMC was determined that their new locomotive, the FT,
would replace steam locomotives in freight service. Western Pacific
was an eager early buyer of this model and later its improved
successors. F3 and later FP7 models were acquired for the
California Zephyr, while the F7 model helped retire many of the
railroad’s steam engines.
was the last unit delivered in WP’s first order for the F7 model.
These carbody type locomotives served until newer models with higher
horsepower and better visibility rendered them obsolete. The WP,
however, was slow to retire them, the railroad always being too
short of money to completely replace those older locomotives which
could still earn a profit. By 1977, when most railroads had long
since replaced their full carbody style locomotives, the WP still
rostered four. That year, two of the survivors, including the
921-D, were sent to Morrison-Knudsen in Boise, ID for rebuilding,
while one of the others was rebuilt by WP in Stockton. One of the
locomotives, WP 913, now in the California State Railroad Museum in
Sacramento, was repainted into a new version of the classic orange
and silver Zephyr paint, while the other three, including WP 921-D
and 917-D, both here in Portola, were given WP’s then standard green
and orange colors. For the next three years, the newly christened
“Fab 4” continued to earn their keep while generating great
publicity for the WP. After the Union Pacific merger, the 921-D was
retired and donated to the FRRS. Sister 917-D came to the museum in
2005 as part of a trade with another museum.
921-D working on Altamont Pass.
Western Pacific's "Fab-4"
F7's were the subject of several articles in the rail press.
At right is an article by Ken Meeker on the WP's venerable fleet of
F7's on the "San Jose Turn" in the May 1978 issue of "Pacific Rail
News", courtesy of
Western Pacific 921-D poses
shortly after donation with several charter members of the FRRS at
the new Portola Railroad Museum in 1984.
Western Pacific 921-D,
preserved by the Feather River Rail Society at the Western Pacific
Railroad Museum in Portola, California, in service on the Western
Pacific with locomotives 3002, 3360, & 913 on a general manifest
train seen here passing a stopped westbound train on 3rd Street in
Oakland California in the early 1980's. Video by Larry Goss, used by
FRRS with permission.
Western Pacific 921-D enjoys
retirement at the Western Pacific Railroad Museum.