They were called F's, or covered wagons. For years they
pulled every style of train, from the Zephyr, to the Super Chief,
to merchandise and local freights. Newer, bigger, more powerful locomotives
made them obsolete. More than 7,600 were built by General Motors between
1939 and 1960. Of the thousands that were built, only a handful still exist
today. The others were traded-in or simply cut up for scrap.
The Southern Pacific Railroad owned over 770 of these
workhorses at one time. For roughly two decades these Black Widows
dominated the SP system and the Sierras.
The No.6378 and No.6380 are two late-model EMD F-7A locomotives built
for the Southern Pacific in July, 1952. The locomotives saw service over
the entire system, and still retain their classic snow plow pilots from
their days of battling the harsh winters in the Sierras.
The 28 units of class DF-8, numbered 6378-6405, were delivered in A-A sets
with no B-units. All were painted in the classic SP Black Widow freight scheme,
as they were purchased primarily for that service. The premier passenger trains
in 1953 were well in the hands of E- and PA-diesels, as well as the large stable
of GS 4-8-4 Daylight locomotives. The F's had proven they were superior
to the E-units in some applications, and as the steamers were retired, some F-units
were given 60:17 (79 MPH) gearing and placed in the passenger pool. These A-units
were built with boiler controls and steam lines, while the B-units of the class DF-4
(Nos.8086-8139) and DF-12 (Nos.8290-8303) carried the steam generator and water tanks.
These F-7A units were often found at the lead of the San Joaquin Daylight, Owl,
Californian, Argonaut, Klamath, system mail trains, and special movements like
This F-7 class was delivered with Nathan M-5 five-chime air horns, nose lifting-lugs,
and 1,500-gallon fuel tanks for extended range. The dynamic brake fans were enlarged
to 48-inches to dissipate 700 amperes, up from 600 amperes on the F-7's
equipped with 36-inch fans. Snowplow pilots were added by the Southern Pacific.
The SP Black Widow and Daylight paint schemes were time-consuming
to mask, as both used four different colors. During the 1958 recession, SP
experimented with some simplified two-color schemes. A Halloween paint scheme
of black and orange was tried on some units, but it was not acceptable. The SP-6378
is acknowledged as being the first Southern Pacific unit to be painted in the new
system-standard Lark Grey and Scarlet Red scheme in July 1958. F-7's Nos.6365,
6378, 6382 and several other units were originally lettered with the boxcar style
Gothic type face on the nose and flanks. It was then decided to return to the classic
SP Railroad Roman as the standard for locomotive lettering. All F-units in the
passenger pool were painted gray/red, but only about 20-percent of the freight
F-units were repainted, most going to scrap in their delivered colors.
The SP-6378 and SP-6380 were part of a group traded to General Electric for new units
in the late 1960's. Luckily, GE did not scrap these units, as was the fate of
1000's of others. GE resold a group of these F-7's, including Nos.6378 and 6380,
to the Salzberg Family who owned a number or shortline railroads. These units were
sent to the Wellsville, Addison and Galeton Railroad (WAG) in Upstate New York, where
they became WAG-2100 and WAG-2000, respectively. In August 1969, the locomotives were
transferred to the Louisiana and North West Railroad (L&NW) and were renumbered 46
and 45, respectively.
Electro-Motive Division, General Motors
16559 and 16561