In Electro-Motive F Units And E Units: The Illustrated History Of North America's Favorite Locomotives, noted railroad historian Brian Solomon provides us with a very thorough and detailed history of the classic diesel (or "covered wagon," an affectionate nickname the design earned) which extinguished steam as main line power for virtually the entire railroad industry (some lines would not be convinced until the 1950s, notably Norfolk & Western). Like most of Mr. Solomon's books, this latest title is published by MBI Publishing/Voyageur Press and filled with large and vivid photos, many of which are in color. However, don't confuse it with a coffee-table book that offers little in the way of text and information as the author provides an incredibly detailed look at the history of Es and Fs from how they were developed to their decline and continued even today. In many ways, I'm not sure any other book so completely covers these locomotives, which were pioneers in the diesel era and the first successful such motive power for main line use.
The book begins with an introduction by looking at the impact that Electro-Motive's diesels had on the railroad industry, enabling lines to save millions of dollars in maintenance costs associated with steam, a motive power that had been in use since trains first plied the rails in the early 19th century. This first section mostly gives a very brief overview of General Motors' locomotive division from its earliest years through present day and is only a few pages in length. The first chapter of Electro-Motive F Units And E Units begins by looking at the E series, a locomotive that actually had a history dating back to the earliest years of Electro-Motive. To fully learn how this model was developed you first need to understand how Electro-Motive (EMC) was created, founded in the early 1920s as a builder of diesel rail cars.
In any event, Mr. Solomon provides a thorough background of the company including its association with the Winton Engine Company and working in collaboration with the Budd Company and Chicago, Burlington & Quincy to unveil the original Zephyrtrainset in early 1934. Interestingly, if General Motors had not stepped in to purchase EMC later in the 1930s the company would almost certainly never have flourished, it was simply neither large enough nor had the massive funding backed by its parent to develop such reliable and efficient machines that would overtake steam as a main line form of motive power. With millions available in research and development EMC began producing single-unit test models, the first of which was a boxcab, #50 built for the Baltimore & Ohio in 1935. The development of this locomotive type came about due to the inherent limitations of the fixed streamliner trainsets that did not allow for interchangeability.