Covered Wagons


With the upcoming introduction of the California Zephyr Western Pacific wanted the best power available. With its past experience with EMD and after testing demonstrator 754 an order was placed on August 20, 1945 for three A-B-B sets of F3’s. Of major concern to WP were the steam generators. In testing the 754 many problems were found with the generators. EMD assured WP the generators to be installed in the new units were of an updated design. Western Pacific had specified a steam generator be installed in each unit.

Link to image of WP F3 801

Delivery of the units did not occur until July 1947. Wanting to insure reliability of the units once CZ service began the units were used extensively in freight service and on the Exposition Flyer. Using the units in this way allowed for training of maintenance crews in Oakland and mechanical adjustments to ensure reliability. One item became apparent very quickly once service on the Exposition Flyer began, the steam generators were still not dependable. Breakdowns occurred on each of the runs in the first 30 days. Oakland mechanical forces accepted the challenge of correcting these deficiencies. Many changes and improvements were made to the generators until such time as they could dependably heat a 12-car train without fear of breakdown.

Delivered with the new 567B engine the main generator blower and auxiliary generator were now directly engine driven. A new electro-hydraulic speed governor replaced the electro-pneumatic governor as found on the FT’s. Automatic transition was installed at the Oakland diesel shops but blocked off by WP forces when it was found that the units tended to “hunt” on grades transition individually. It was found that manual transition allowed all units to be controlled simultaneously thereby creating less train shock. These were the first units delivered with automatic shutters to help control engine water temperature replacing the manual shutters as found on the FT’s. Windshield washers were applied in 1950 and wind deflectors/rearview mirrors in 1957. One additional F3 cab unit was brought onto the roster in 1957 when ex NYO&W, bought for subsidiary Sacramento Northern, was leased and numbered 801-D. This unit was easily identifiable as it lacked stainless steel side panels, the second nose light, and did not have a steam generator.

Although purchased for use on the CZ with the arrival of the FP7 sets two of the cab units were used to dieselize the Royal Gorge and other secondary trains. Three tenders from scrapped 171 class steam locomotives, 174, 175, and 177 were used as auxiliary water tanks. These were renumbered 853, 851, 852 and painted orange and silver to match the motive power.

October 1960 found WP with only one passenger train and excess passenger power. Subsequently the 801A and 802A traded silver passenger geared trucks for black freight trucks, their use in passenger service had come to an end. 1967 found the first F3 leaving the roster when 802B was sent to GE in trade against a new U30B. Renumbering into the freight series began in 1968 with the 801A, 802A, and 801D becoming the 925A, 925D, and 926A. By the end of 1971 these three as well as the other six had all been traded for newer power.


Purchased to supplement the F3’s in California Zephyr service the FP7’s were built and delivered as two A-B-A sets in 1950. With the addition of these locomotives two F3 A units were released from Zephyr service to dieselize the Royal Gorge, WP’s only secondary passenger train. Shortly after delivery the sets were broken up and were very rarely ever run as solid FP7 sets in the as delivered configuration. As with the freight F units the FP7 sported a 36” dynamic brake fan on the roof as well as the roof overhang at the rear. EMD’s FP7 measured out four feet longer than the F7, at 54’ 8” vs. 50’ 8” over coupler pulling faces respectively. This additional 4 feet was added to accommodate additional water capacity for steam generators (more than in F7’s and F7B’s), which several railroads specified as necessary given the modern streamline passenger trains being introduced during the late 1940’s and early ‘50’s. The difference is apparent by looking between the first porthole and first louver as you could see the added length.

Link to image of WP FP7 805

The extra four feet was added just forward of the fuel tank and battery box. On the carbody top this appears as an additional 4-foot long panel between the standard-sized dynamic brake panel and the standard-sized cooling/exhaust panel. On the carbody sides, this appears as two additional 4-foot long panels (they’re offset) below the longer Farr air filter grill and above the longer side-skirt. Even though four feet extended the side-skirt forward the battery box remained close to the fuel tank. The fuel tank as delivered was a standard-sized 1,200 gallons and the extra footage, which was thereby available forward of the fuel tank and battery box, was available for an additional water tank. When the fuel tank capacity was increased in 1954 to 1,500 gallons the side skirts at the fuel tank were moved outward or partially removed. During construction there were quite a number of additional water tank options available for the FP’s, but apparently Western Pacific chose the frame-mounted option (the largest capacity option was mutually exclusive with the dynamic brake option). Many photos show the 804 class as-delivered with no additional water tank, and later, with the additional water tank installed forward of the battery box.

A side benefit for the railroad, with the purchase of these units, was that all of the CZ motive power would now be maintained in Oroville. Another positive point was that these units were delivered with a larger capacity steam generator and a higher water capacity. Model OK-4625 steam generators delivered 2,500 pounds per hour of steam and when mixed with the 801-class which had 1,600-pound capacity model DK-4516 generators the combined steam output was considered adequate. By breaking up the sets and mixing them with the F3’s, steam generator capacity would allow sufficient output to allow heating of a 16 car train in sub-zero weather. As with other motive power shop forces added many improvements and refinements over the years.

Externally the FP7’s changed very little over the years. With the exception of 5 chime horns and additional nose grab irons most of the visible changes were due to accident repair. Such was the reason the 804D in later years had the later style vertical vents installed on both sides while sister 805A only had them on the right side. The WP F unit ends were painted silver. The orange side stripes “wrapped” around the ends approximately 6 inches. The cutoff point was the edge of the side wrap - the joining of the side sheet to the end sheet. The FP7’s and accompanying boiler-equipped F7B’s came with stainless-steel lower side panels and just as their freight cousins in later years the A units received the large 15” Claredon lettering but the B units sported the famous feather shield till the end. Gearing was the same as the earlier 800 series F3’s with 57:20 gearing for passenger duties.

With discontinuance of California Zephyr service the units were relegated to freight service. As freight F units were retired the former passenger units received the 62:15 geared trucks and 50% of the time the number of the retired unit. Of course, there were no FP7B’s ever designed or made, so the correct model designation for the cab units is simply FP7.

Only one example remains, the 805A, which is at the Western Pacific Railroad Museum in Portola, California.


Western Pacific became EMC’s fifth customer for the revolutionary new road locomotive known as the FT. On March 25, 1941 WP placed order numbers E411 and E412 for six A and six B units respectively. Delivery of the A-B-B-A sets began on November 29, 1941 with set 901 and concluded with the 903 set on January 10, 1942. Two additional orders for six A-B-B-A sets each were placed on April 30, 1941 and September 1943. Although they were ordered and delivered as A-B-B-A sets there were couplers between the B units so the sets could be separated into A-B sets. The A-B units were joined semi-permanently with a drawbar and while on the WP were seldom, if ever, separated. The FT was the first locomotive to use the new 16 cylinder 567 power plant. Also new were the trucks, which would be known as the Blomberg truck. They would become the standard four-axle truck for EMC/EMD locomotives over the next 40 years.

Delivered in a striking new color scheme of Woodfield Green and Diamond Yellow with Omaha Orange trim the FT’s provided a colorful departure from the black worn by the switchers and remaining steam locomotives. Designed by EMD’s Styling Section this colorful paint scheme was never to be repeated on any other WP motive power.

Link to image of WP FT 904

As with anything new there was a learning curve associated with the running and maintenance of these new locomotives. EMD supplied field instructors with the delivery of each set of locomotives who ensured the initial set up of the locomotives was successfully accomplished and instructed train crews on new operational procedures. Shop forces that would have to work on these units also received training on correct repair procedures as well. Because field instructors had a limited amount of time to spend with each railroad and train crews were still operating steam most of the time Operating Manuals were devised that explained all aspects of running and troubleshooting the locomotives. Western Pacific also took the extra precaution of hiring one of EMD’s best instructors.

Dissatisfied with the small number boards on the side of the nose, WP added large roof mounted number boards in 1946-48 and simply painted over the smaller as delivered number boards. Thus WP began the visual modifications to the FT fleet. Starting in 1949 headlights salvaged from retired steam locomotives were mounted on the roof at the trailing end of the booster units and used as backup lights. By the end of June 1950 all FT A units had been fitted with additional air cooling radiators located on the roof just behind the forward fans and covered with a metal plate. This modification eliminated the nasty problem of brake pipes freezing in extremely cold weather. Other visual additions included wagon wheel type radio antennas installed atop the cab roof, additional grab irons on the nose and a large “Feather” medallion on the engineers’ side of some B units at the rear.

One drawback to the FT design was the lack of MU connections on the nose of the A units. They could only be run as A-B or A-B-B-A sets. A modification to overcome this problem was never accomplished on these units by the WP. Engine temperature was controlled by manually operated air intake shutters which required the fireman to walk through the units numerous times during a run to open or close them depending on operating conditions. EMD changed this on later F unit designs to a thermo-statically controlled motor on each of the cooling fans and WP applied this as a modification to all FT units in the late 40’s. Due to design differences in later F units upgrading of the FT’s to incorporate newer replacement parts did not take place. When retired they were essentially the same mechanically as when delivered. Units 903 and 907 have the distinction of being the only units retired as A-B-B-A sets.


Beginning on January 31 and continuing until February 7, 1950 EMD delivered F7 locomotive sets 913 through 921. These were delivered at a cost to the railroad of $653,408 per set. Ordered and delivered in A-B-B-A sets, B-suffix units came equipped with steam generators and were the only unit in the set so equipped. ‘A’ suffix units had a 700-gallon water tank, ‘B’ suffix units had a 1200-gallon water tank and ‘C’ suffix units had two tanks of 500 and 1200 gallons each. ‘D’ suffix units carried no extra water capacity. The water from the ‘A’ and ‘C’ suffix units was trainlined to the ‘B’ suffix unit. Numbers 922 through 924 were ordered in November 1950 with delivery taking place in June 1951. By this time the price had risen to $675,533.00 for an A-B-B-A set. EMD had also changed the design somewhat with all doors now having rounded corners. Gearing on all units was the same as the FT’s at 62:15. Unfortunately the F7’s were not electrically compatible with the earlier FT’s so never ran in multiple with them. Electrical connections and dimmer controls, as requested, were supplied on the rear of all units for backup lights to be installed by the railroad. Only the B units ever received them with the lights coming from retired steam locomotives.

Link to image of WP F7 917

Rated at 1,375 tons per unit in the canyon and 2,275 tons on the first subdivision all of WP’s F7’s were Phase 1 early, that is, with the extended roof overhang at the rear and a regular 36” dynamic brake fan. EMD constructed F7 Phase 1 units from November 1948 through November 1951. All were delivered with a single headlight, which remained unchanged throughout their life on the WP. When delivered they all wore a variant of the famous “Zephyr” paint scheme. The orange (side) stripes “wrapped” around the ends (approximately) 6 inches. The cutoff point was the edge of the side wrap – the joining of the side sheet to the end sheet. The ends were painted silver and the entire roof black including the front of the cab around the front windows and window posts. The pilots received multiple black strips and the lettering was small “Zephyr Gothic”.

Always looking for ways to increase locomotive reliability and availability shop forces were kept busy installing upgrades, as they became available. Beginning in November 1951 and continuing through April 1953 retrofit fuel tanks from EMD were installed increasing fuel capacity from 1200 to 1500 gallons. February 1963 saw A units receiving MU connectors on the left side of the nose next to the headlight. This allowed the units to be MUed without regard to location within the consist. Not all of the A units received this modification as they were traded before the upgrade could be installed. One modification was limited to one unit only when the 921A received a surplus SP type plow pilot in 1968. When retired in 1971 the plow pilot was transferred to the 920A, which would later be renumbered the 913. This would also be the lone remaining F unit that did not receive the MU modification to the nose which relegated it to leading or trailing status.

More visible changes took place starting in 1955 when large 15” Claredon style lettering began replacing the as delivered small lettering. 1965 progressed with some units being repainted into the solid orange “Pumpkin II” scheme to eliminate the silver paint, which was prone to oxidation.

916A and 924D where the first to vacate the roster after being involved in an accident at Beowawe, Nevada on September 21, 1963. 916A was traded to EMD against GP35 3021 while the 924D was credited against the 3022. It was not until July 1967 that another Covered Wagon would leave the WP when the 922D found itself on the way to GE as trade in for the 755. 917A and 923A followed in September when sold to Mt. Newman Mining in Australia through Bechtel Engineering. This was followed closely by the 913C being traded to GE as credit for U30B 754 in November. Early 1969 found many units being vacated and traded to GE as credit towards more new U30B’s. The early to mid 1970’s found the purging of the F units from the roster in full swing with most going to EMD for new GP40’s. Late 1972 found all B units off the roster with the 914C and 918C the last of their type to go as trade in to GE on September 13th. Only six units remained of a once sizable and proud fleet, 913A:2, 914A, 915D, 917D, 918D, and the 921D.

Four of the six remaining units wore the silver and orange paint with the remaining two, 913A and 915D, featuring the solid orange pumpkin paint. After an electrical fire the 914A was sent to Stockton for repairs. While awaiting repairs the 914A and sister unit 917D were painted solid green with orange lettering and striping on the nose similar to the black used on the nose of other freight cab units. The traditional feather herald on the nose door was replaced with a staggered WP. After viewing the application of the WP on the nose of the F unit it was decided that all equipment painted green would receive this treatment as well.

With the exception of the 914A the remaining F’s lost the letter suffix from their number on a July 1, 1975 renumbering. Only one, the 914A, which had suffered an electrical fire on August 9, 1972 retained the letter suffix. Stripped of any usable parts to keep the other five running the 914A was sold to the Purdy Company of Chehalis, Washington and vacated from the roster on October 15, 1975 for scrap. This left only five units, all cabs, remaining of a once proud stable of F unit locomotives. In April 1979 Associated Metals in Sacramento, CA reduced that number further with the scrapping of the 915, which had suffered a main generator failure on February 4, 1974. The railfan community would come to know what was left as the “Fabulous Four” receiving nationwide press coverage as well as a loyal following. Assignments for the remaining four were generally held close to Stockton with the San Jose Turn, a six-day a week local between Stockton and San Jose, over Altamont Pass being the normal assignment.

With the Union Pacific takeover in December 1982 all four were vacated from the roster and donated to various museums. Two of the remaining four, the 917D and 921D, are located in Portola, California at the Western Pacific Railroad Museum.