California Zephyr Motive Power

As the operating terrain and environments varied between the three roads they were each free to choose motive power dependent upon their individual needs with the only requirement being that said motive power would be diesel locomotives capable of maintaining the agreed upon schedule.

Already familiar with Electro-Motive Division products both the Chicago, Burlington & Quincy and Western Pacific ordered three F3 sets. CB&Q opted for A-B-A sets numbered 9960-9962 while WP ordered A-B-B sets numbered 801-803. Locomotives for both roads were numbered with a A-B-C suffix to differentiate the individual locomotives units. Denver & Rio Grande Western was also familiar with EMD’s offerings having a small stable of F units itself. But a difference of opinion had emerged between D&RGW’s Al Perlman and EMD’s Cyrus Osborn which mainly concerned the method in which EMD was rating available horsepower in their manuals and sales brochures. Perlman had watched ALCo PA’s consistently pull up to 100 percent more tonnage up the eastern slope of the Rockies compared with the same horsepower F units. Because of this difference D&RGW elected to purchase ALCo's PA-PB units. This initial purchase consisted of two A-B-A sets of PA1/PB1 locomotives numbered 600-601 which also had A, B and C suffixes. All of the locomotives ordered, both ALCo and EMD, were rated at 4500 horsepower per set.

CB&Qs F3s were delivered with dual headlights, steam generators, 56:21 gear ratios, smooth passenger style pilots and featured black nose strips on the silver car body. Although they were later supplemented by E5's, E7's and E8's in the early 1950's, also built by EMD, they remained in Zephyr service until 1955 when they were downgraded to freight service with the removal of steam generators and trucks being re-geared. At that time the E unit fleet that CB&Q had built up for passenger service was large enough to also provide full service for the California Zephyr. With the F-3's removal from passenger service the E7's and E8's continued to power the Zephyr wearing both red or black nose striping.
9960C at Denver, Colorado
D&RGW’s ALCo’s came with dual headlights decorated in black with yellow striping which was standard for their locomotives at the time. Having made the point with EMD, the ALCo order was quickly supplemented with an additional order to EMD for three 6000 horsepower A-B-B-A F3 sets also with dual headlights and painted black with yellow striping. Steam generators were installed on the B units only. With its major changes of paint schemes applied to its locomotives D&RGW set itself apart from the other two railroads. The ALCo’s received four different schemes and the F’s three. 1950 found the ALCo’s being repainted in a gold and silver scheme that was quickly replaced in 1951 with the first “Prospector” scheme of yellow with multiple black strips. This early “Prospector” color scheme was later changed to yellow and silver with a single wide black stripe and black roof. With EMD F3's, F7's, F9's and ALCo PA’s available for passenger service D&RGW in later years freely mixed the motive power assigned to the CZ.
601 at Ironton, Colorado on 3-14-1949.
Frank Brehm Collection
Western Pacific’s F3 locomotive sets received stainless steel side panels, dual headlights, steam generators and were equipped with 56:21 gear ratios. These units featured the orange nose with a window panel of the body also painted orange, a black roof with silver on the windshield area and over the cab roof area. The nose was adorned with the red and white winged feather river herald. Although these units had an A, B or C suffix after the unit number the letter suffix was not included in the nose number-boards on the A unit when delivered. As delivered the C units did not have the feather herald on the side, it would be added later by the railroad.
803 at LaGrange, Illinois in 1947.
EMD, Frank Brehm Collection
Early in 1950 WP placed another order with EMD for two more sets of passenger locomotives, this time A-B-A sets of FP7/F7B units. These units would be mixed and matched with the earlier F3 units. Vary rarely did an FP7/F7B/FP7 consist ever occur after initial delivery. WP is the only one of the three participating roads which had virtually no changes whatsoever to the overall paint scheme on their passenger locomotives from the beginning of Zephyr service to the end with style and size of lettering being the most notable exception. F3s carried 3000 gallons of water per set for steam generator use, which was increased, to 3900 gallons on the F7 sets.
804D at Oakland, California on 3-2-1970.
Jack Palmer

Locomotives assigned to passenger service on the WP received the red and white “wing” across the nose with the Feather River Route herald centered on the door below the lower headlight. Black roof paint on passenger units terminated just behind the cab doors, usually culminating in a point on the center of the roof. WP regularly assigned only locomotives purchased specifically for the Zephyr until its demise in 1970.

An additional F3 A unit was added to the WP Zephyr power pool in 1957 when an ex New York, Ontario & Western unit (one of three) purchased for the Sacramento Northern as #303 was instead leased back to the WP and numbered 801-D. This “odd” unit did not have stainless steel side panels, a boiler and only had a single headlight. In 1967 freight unit 920B, which had a steam generator, was renumbered 806B and made available for passenger service if needed.

The first F3’s to leave the passenger power pool were the 801A, 802A and B, and 801D in 1967 with the 802B being traded to GE against a U30B and the others going into freight service after swapping trucks with retired FT’s. 1968 found the 801A, 802A, and 801D being renumbered as 925A, 925D, and 926A respectively.

Although discontinuance was being sought there was no denying the F units were aging and the steam generators becoming more unreliable. A decision was reached in 1968 to perform tests using freight units to power the Zephyr. Borrowing a steam generator car from the D&RGW a test run was made using U30B 754 on September 13, 1968. Another run was made on September 15 which also used the 754. Although the tests were essentially successful two problems were identified on these trips. After going through the car washer at Portola much time was spent just keeping the unit running afterwards. It seems water from the pressure nozzles got into everything shorting electrical circuits and such. The second problem was a general shortage at the time of freight units.

Even though the decision to use freight power was abandoned, the age and condition of the boilers in the F units was a concern. Having separate steam generator cars would take the strain off the F unit boilers while at the same time allow for the use of freight power if needed on an emergency basis. With this reasoning in mind WP purchased heater cars 1-3 from the Great Northern in 1968 and renumbered them 591-593.