Diesel Locomotives, Extinguishing The Fire Of Steam

Diesel locomotives, technically known as diesel-electrics, came into widespread use here in the United States with the development of the Electro-Motive Corporation’s (EMC, later to become the General Motors' Electro-Motive Division, or EMD) EA/EB design, first tested on the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad (B&O) in the late 1930s. The diesel-electric locomotive would also become a major milestone in technological development for North American railroads as it symbolized the end of the only motive power type (aside from electrics) to be used in the industry up until that time, the steam locomotive.

Two Milwaukee Road SD40-2s, #134 and #154, lead a westbound freight through Oakdale, Wisconsin on September 18, 1982.

The mechanics of diesels are rather straightforward, although it is commonly mistaken that the diesel engine itself propels the locomotive, which is not the case. While the diesel engine is the prime mover the energy it creates drives an electrical generator, which in turn drives the traction motors found within the locomotive’s trucks that actually turns the wheels (or the mounts which sit over the axles) and propels unit forward. The diesel engine itself has no connection to the actual motion of the wheels and in essence the locomotive is an electric locomotive which carries its own power source on board.

Diesel-electric locomotives have been around in one shape or form since 1918 when the American Locomotive Company (Alco) joined with General Electric and Ingersoll-Rand to produce a motor car design for the Jay Street Connecting Railroad, #4. Designated as model GM-50 it was essentially a diesel powered motor car, somewhat similar to an interurban car, and built in conjunction with Alco and Ingersoll-Rand. Later, in 1924 the three companies built a 300 hp, 60-ton boxcab design that would be purchased by the Central Railroad of New Jersey, followed by the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad.

Erie Lackawanna RS-3 #1026 rests between assignments at the engine terminal in Akron, Ohio on June 24, 1975.

The B&O also has the distinction of being the first railroad in the country to purchase a diesel-electric passenger locomotive in 1935 from EMC (B&O #50). While these early designs were somewhat successful and new diesel switch engines were becoming quite popular from makers such as Alco, it would not be until the development of EMD’s legendary E and F models (which followed the EA/EB design they were nicknamed "covered-wagons") to pull heavy passenger and freight consists did the diesel-electric locomotive really come of age and overtake the steam locomotive as the dominant means of moving freight across America’s rails.

It would take the diesel-electric locomotive nearly fifty years to equal the horsepower output of the steam locomotive during its technological height. However, diesels offered an advantage that far surpassed steamers and it was the deciding factor in them becoming the prime choice of motive power, efficiency. Diesels required far less maintenance in terms of overhauls (scheduled time in the shops for routine maintenance) and refueling (no longer were there frequent stops requiring water and coal/oil), which allowed them to be spending much more time moving freight and paying the bills.

Common Designs

Switchers

Cab Units

Road-Switchers

Transfer

Several Pittsburgh & Lake Erie U28Bs including #2811, #2804, #2813, and #2808 are far from home as they as they roll light through the Delaware & Hudson's SK Yard in Buffalo, New York (thanks to recently acquired trackage rights into the city) on November 19, 1983.

Below you can find each manufacturer and a number of their most popular first and second-generation diesel locomotive models. Simply click on their link to learn more about them.

American Locomotive Company (Alco)

A History Of Alco

Montreal Locomotive Works

Century Series

DL Series

Black Maria

FA

PA

RS1

RSD-1

RS2

RSC2

RS3

RSD4

RSD5

RSD7

RS11

RSD12

RSD15

RS27

RS32

RS36

C415

C420

C424

C425

C430

C628

C630

C636

C643DH

C855

S1

S2

S3

S4

S6

T6

GE/Alco Gas Turbine

Two Sierra Railroad Baldwin S12s, led by #40, heads eastbound with a freight through Jamestown, California during a cold and overcast December day in 1964.

Baldwin-Lima Locomotive Works (BLW)

A History Of Baldwin

A History Of Lima

A History Of The Whitcomb Locomotive Works

VO660

DS-4-4-660

VO1000

DS-4-4-750

DS-4-4-1000

S-8

S-12

DT-6-6-2000

RT624

DRS-4-4-1500

DRS-6-4-1500

DRS-6-6-1500

AS16

AS416

AS616

RS12

DR-4-4-1500

DR-6-4-1500

DR-6-4-2000

RF16

Baldwin "Centipede"

Baldwin "Sharknose"

Baldwin "Baby Face"

SP H24-66 Train Master #3028 heads up local commuter train #128 as it pulls away from the 3rd & Townsend station in San Francisco during August of 1973. Today, the depot and tracks are no more.

Fairbanks-Morse (FM)

Locomotives of Fairbanks-Morse

Canadian Locomotive Company

H10-44

H12-44

H15-44

H16-44

H20-44

H16-66 "Baby Train Master"

H24-66 "Train Master"

Erie-Builts

The Consolidated Line, "C-Liners"

CSX Train #134 rolls along the Mountain Subdivision at Pinto, Maryland led by AC4400CW #5111 on October 5, 2009.

General Electric (GE)

A History of General Electric

"U-Boats"

U18B

U25B

U28B

U30B

U33B

U36B

U23C

U25C

U28C

U30C

U33C

U36C

U50

U50C

GE/Alco Gas Turbine

B23-7

B30-7

B36-7

C30-7

C36-7

"Super 7" Series

B32-8

B39-8

B40-8/W

C39-8

C40-8/W

C40-9/W

C44-9W

AC4400CW

AC6000CW

Evolution Series

Westbound CSX Train #N626-27 departs Clifton Forge, Virginia with an empty string of coal hoppers led by SD70ACe #4844 on March 25, 2007.

General Motors’ Electro-Motive Division (EMD)/Electro-Motive Diesel

A History of Electro-Motive Diesel, EMD

General Motors Diesel

Early EMC Switchers: SW, SC, NW, NC

The "Cow-Calf"

NW2

SW1

SW7

SW8

SW9

SW900

SW1000

SW1001

SW1200

SW1500

MP15DC/AC/T

E Series

EA, E1, And E2

E3

E4

E5

E6

E7

E8

E9

F Series

FT

F2

F3

F7

FP7

F9

FL9

F40PH

F45

SDP40F

BL2

GP7

GP9

GP15

GP18

RS1325

GP20

GP30

GP35

GP38 and GP38-2

GP40 and GP40-2

GP50

GP60

SD7

SD9

SD18

SD24

SD35

SD38

SD40 and SD40-2

SD45 Series

SD50

SD60 Series

SD70

SD75M/I

SD80MAC

SD90MAC

SD70ACe

Odd/Unique Designs

B-Units

C&NW's Crandall Cabs

DD35/A

DDA40X, Centennial

Draper Taper

Great Northern's GP5

MK5000C

Rock Island's AB6

Slugs

Tunnel Motors

Notable Prime Movers

Alco's Model 244

Alco's Model 251

EMD's Model 567

EMD's Model 645

EMD's Model 710

Truck Types

AAR Type A/B

Blomberg A/M

Blunt

Flexicoil

Related Companies/Designs

Davenport Locomotive Works

Doodlebugs

Gensets/Green Goats

Rail Diesel Car, RDCs

Morrison-Knudsen

Notable Events/Programs

Norfolk Southern's Heritage Program

Streamliners At Spencer

Union Pacific's Commemorative Series

Diesels have come a long way from the early designs by EMC and Alco-GE-IR, with comfort cabs and electronic equipment the norm on new units now being built by Electro-Motive Diesel (now an independent company having been spun-off by EMD in 2005) and GE. However, when the diesel was first coming of age there were still several builders, many of whom were legendary steam locomotive manufacturers (such as Baldwin, Lima, and Alco) that began switching to diesel-electric development when the writing on the wall became apparent that steam's days were numbered.


B&O GP9 #6533 is awaiting its next assignment as it sits at LeRoy, New York on March 15, 1981.

While a few of the steam locomotive manufacturers were marginally successful, most notably Alco, all of these once mighty companies would be gone before 1970 (mostly the result of management never able to truly see that steam was in its twilight and diesels were the future).  While many of these companies no longer manufacture locomotives, their legacies will forever live on and many of both their steam and diesel locomotive models still survive, some even continuing to haul freight. Also, while diesels may have replaced the mighty steam locomotives, nothing can quite compare to seeing steam power at work!

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Related Reading

Notable Alco Models



The FA Series




The PA Series




The RS1




The RS2




The RS3




The RSD5




The RSD7




The RS11




The C415




The C420




The C424




The C425




The C628




The C630




The C636




The S1




The S2




The S3




The S4


Notable Baldwin Models



VO-1000




DS-4-4-1000




S-12




DT-6-6-2000




DRS-6-4-1500




DRS-6-6-1500




AS416




AS616




RS12




RF16


Fairbanks Morse's Various Models



H10-44




H12-44




H16-66




H24-66 "Train Master"




Erie-Builts




C-Liners


Notable General Electric Models



U25B




U30B




U25C




U30C




U33C




U36C




B23-7




C30-7




"Super 7" Series




C40-9/W




C44-9/W




AC4400CW




The Evolution Series


Notable EMD Models



NW2




SW7




SW1500




MP15DC/AC/T




EA/E1/E2




E7




E8




FT




F3




F7




BL2




GP7




GP9




GP30




GP38/-2




GP40/-2




SD7




SD40/-2




SD45 Series




SD70 Series




SD70ACe