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Norm Holmes

1927 - 2023


Norm Holmes passed away peacefully at home with his family on Sunday, November 12, 2023.

Norm began his year-round employment with the Western Pacific Railroad in 1953. He worked switching and locals in the San Francisco Bay Area. He made 90 round trips on the California Zephyr, being promoted to engineer in 1959.

Norm decided to move to Portola with his family in 1970. They bought 15 acres of pine forested land and built a home in 1971. He lived there until it became necessary to move to Carson City, Nevada for health care.

The Western Pacific was absorbed into the Union Pacific System on December 22, 1982. In an attempt to preserve some of the equipment from the WP, Norm Holmes organized the Feather River Rail Society. He arranged for UP to donate a “covered wagon", WP 921D streamline diesel locomotive, for preservation at Portola. The unit was formally presented to the Greater Portola (now Eastern Plumas) Chamber of Commerce at the Feather River Railroad Days in August 1983.

Norm was elected to the Board of Directors and became FRRS President in February 1984.

Shortly thereafter, the FRRS became a nonprofit corporation. A new museum was created, the Portola Railroad Museum. Under Norm’s leadership the museum grew from literally an empty building to what it is today, the Western Pacific Railroad Museum at Portola.

In the last few years, several FRRS members were able to work with him to create articles for the WESTERN PACIFIC Headlight magazine, the society's journal of WP history. It includes articles of interest for modelers and those wishing to know more of the historical aspects of the Western Pacific and subsidiary roads.

One of Norm’s greatest adventures was when he returned to the museum in 2022 during the WP convention, and was an engineer on the restored WP 165 steam locomotive.

We will all miss the founding father of the Feather River Rail Society.

There will be a Celebration of Life for Norm and Barbara after museum closing on May 25, 2024, at the museum.

FRRS Founder Norm Holmes ready to run WP 165 - Photo by Kerry Cochran 5/15/2022



Updated - 12/10/23