California Zephyr Motive Power
With a train of this stature the motive power also had to be very
dependable and able to maintain the schedule. With this in mind the
railroads purchased new locomotives strictly for use on the new
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. These 4500 horsepower locomotive sets received stainless steel side panels, dual headlights, steam generators, 56:21 gear ratios, and in the case of CB&Q smooth passenger style pilots. All units had an A, B or C suffix after the unit number. As delivered the C units did not have the feather herald on the side, it would be added later by the railroad. Although the Denver & Rio Grande Western also had F units at the time a difference of opinion emerged between D&RGW’s Al Perlman and EMD’s Cyrus Osborn. This 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 between 50 and 100 percent more tonnage up the eastern slope of the Rockies compared with the same horsepower F units. Because of this difference D&RGW decided to purchase ALCo's. This initial purchase consisted of two A-B-A sets of PA1/PB1 locomotives numbered 600-601which also had A, B and C suffixes. All of the locomotives sets ordered were rated at 1500 horsepower.
Locomotives of the CB&Q wore black nose strips while serving in passenger service. 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.
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 it’s 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.
WP early in 1950 placed another order with EMD for two more sets of 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 lashup ever occur after initial delivery. WP is the only one of the three participating railroads which had virtually no changes whatsoever to the overall paint scheme on their passenger locomotives from beginning of Zephyr service to end with style and size of lettering being the most notable exception. F3 sets carried 3000 gallons of water for steam generator use, which was increased, to 3900 gallons on the F7 sets. Also having F7B's in freight service, only those equipped with a steam generator received a "B" suffix applied to their number. Locomotives assigned to passenger service on the WP received a 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 it's demise in 1970.
An additional F3 A unit was added to the 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. The first F3’s to leave the passenger power pool were the 802B, 801A, 802A, 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.
Both D&RGW and WP would in later years run steam generator cars with their motive power consists in case a freight unit had to be substituted due to a locomotive failure and to also provide additional steam capacity for the aging boilers in the locomotives. WP purchased three steam generator cars from the Great Northern in late in 1968 with D&RGW’s being constructed from ALCo PB units originally purchased to power the Zephyr. WP on September 13th and 15th 1968 using U30b 754 with a generator car borrowed from the D&RGW made trial runs using a single freight locomotive for power. Although additional runs were made with the steam generator cars purchased from the GN and considered successful, the railroad was short of freight units so the F’s remained until the end.