© 2011 by usatrains.ch
There are many train related websites around which contain already a tremendous amount of
information about American railroads, therefore I decided to keep this topic at a minimum level.
Nevertheless, I found it noteworthy to mention that there are currently only 2 US locomotive
builders remaining. These are Electro Motive Division (EMD, formerly owned by GM) and the
General Electric Company (GE).
Other builders like American Locomotive Company (ALCO), Baldwin and Fairbanks Morse (FM)
were mainly focused on building steam engines or mechanical parts thereof, but they couldn‘t
keep up with the fast progress of the diesel market and eventually went out of business or were
taken over by their competitors.
EMD‘s history dates back to the year 1930 after General Motors purchased EMC (Electromotive
Corporation), which had specialized in gas-electric motor rail cars, and its principal supplier, the
Winton Engine Co.. The key to EMD‘s success was the development of a standardized
locomotive that could be produced in masses. The resulting cost savings reflected on the price
tag and lots of railroads saw their chance to replace their old and expensive steam engines with
new diesel engines. EMD‘s breakthrough came in 1939 with the introduction of the E unit for
passenger trains and the FT for freights, the latter one was succeeded by the famous F3, F7 and
F9 units with the well known „Bulldog“ nose. Further successful models such as the SD9 or the
SD40-2 followed and made EMD the number one locomotive producer. This lasted from 1945
until 1983, when GE took over. Even one of the largest locomotive orders in history over several
hundreds SD70MAC‘s, placed by BNSF, could not save EMD from falling back to 2nd place
behind General Electric. In 2005, EMD was sold by its parent company General Motors, and after
being independent for 5 years, it eventually was purchased in 2010 by Progress Rail Services, a
wholly-owned subsidiary of Caterpillar Inc.
As a pioneer in electric, gas-electric and diesel-electric propulsion, GE built its first locomotive in
1893 in Lynn, Ma. In addition to constructing its own locomotives, GE also served as a supplier of
electrical and control equipment for diesel-electrics produced by other builders. From 1925 to
1928, GE was a partner in the Ingersoll Rand/GE/Alco consortium, a pioneer builder of box-cab
switchers which were believed to be the first commercially successful diesel-electrics in the
world. In the 30s and 40s, GE developed a highly successful line of 25 to 90-ton switchers for
industrial and short line use. Between 1940 and 1953, GE‘s biggest involvement with road
diesels was its role in the Alco-GE partnership as the supplier of traction motors, generators and
electrical equipment for locomotives designed and built by Alco. In 1953, the Alco-GE alliance
dissolved, setting the stage for GE to finally enter into the domestic road-diesel market. The
breakthrough was made between 1960 and 1977 with the introduction of the U25 through U50
series. During this period, no less than 3600 units were produced, laying the cornerstone for the
next generations of „Dash-7“ and „Dash-8“ models. Due to its reliability and smooth ride
characteristics, the „Dash“ series was a great success and catapulted GE in 1983 to the top
position of the American locomotive builders.
Video: courtesy of Charles Chan