Western Pacific EMD F7 921-D
September 10th, 2021 (Portola, CA)
I was digging through some old hard drives looking for a photo a client asked for when I found some old photos from my trip through the Feather River Canyon, where I had the opportunity to pilot the WP 921-D F7 in the Portola Yard! It was absolutely an amazing day!
WP 921-D 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 (921) Color History
921 was built in Jan 1950 as number 921-D, then losing the “D” suffix in 1975. Originally was painted in the Orange & Silver scheme we all know from the Western Pacific. 921 was one of the last 2 WP locomotives to keep the orange/silver paint until 1978 when 921 was repainted to “Perlman” green. In 1977, 921 was involved in a fatal wreck (to the truck driver that ran into her) that tore up several of her left side panels. Soon after that, she
was sent to Morrison-Knudsen in Idaho for rebuilding. She ended up swapping prime-movers with 913. After her return, she was painted green in February 1978.
921 had a reputation for overheating after her return from Idaho, and it was predicted that she would be the first of the fab four to be sidelined permanently. As it turned out, 921 and 917 were the last two F-units to be retired in 1982. 921 was donated to the Feather River Railroad Society (FRRS) in Portola later that year. The new owners (Union Pacific) repainted 921 and 917 before donating them. They were both painted in the modified version of passenger/freight Orange and Silver that 913 had worn during her last few years. 921 is still operable and is used as part of their “Run A Locomotive” program.
Photo Source: 921 Pullman Green by Chuck Schwesinger all others Chris Sgaraglino