EMD "E8" Locomotives

The EMD E8 was one of the final models in the series the builder produced. Manufactured during the late 1940s through the mid-1950s the E8 was the one of the most successful in the series (selling nearly 500 examples), which was largely due to EMD's lofty status as the premier locomotive manufacturer of the era. As with the E7, many Class I railroads purchased the E8 for use in passenger service and their reliability saw them remain in use all of the way through the early days of Amtrak.  Interestingly, after all of the previous models since the E3 had carried 2,000 horsepower EMD decided to bump up this rating in the E8. Today, the E8 is the most well preserved designs of the series with 58 either in operation or on static display around the country. 

The most famous of these is Bennett Levin's two former Pennsylvania Railroad E8s, #5711A and #5809A. They have been beautifully restored to their original livery and for years hosted special excursions throughout the Northeast.  Unfortunately, with the PTC requirement (Positive Train Control) now in full effect, Levin has elected not to spend the exorbitant costs associated with upgrading the locomotives with this device.  

In this Electro-Motive photo, a pair of the Pennsylvania Railroad's recently completed E8A's bask in the midday sun during the spring of 1952. Author's collection.

The EMD E8 began production in the late summer of 1949 as an upgrade to the earlier E7 design. This latest model looked almost identical externally to the E7 save for the grill running the length of the carbody and the addition of four port holes. The E8 also featured the classic "bull dog" nose (which first featured on the E7) and came equipped with two GM-built model 567B prime movers, which combined allowed it to produce 2,250 horsepower, the first upgrade in power since the E3 model. Once again EMD used an A1A-A1A truck setup (whereby the center axle was unpowered) on the E8 to provide extra traction although they equipped it with a new traction motor, the model D37 (it's continuous tractive effort, however, remained at 31,000 pounds continuous and 56,500 pounds starting).

Rock Island E8A #645 and an E7B have an outbound commuter run from Chicago's LaSalle Street Station during a June evening in 1971. Author's collection.

EMD's latest passenger locomotive was a bit shorter than previous designs. This began with the E7 where the builder had shaved a foot from the overall length making the locomotive just 70 feet in length. Of course, visually, one could hardly notice the difference in size. The weight, however, remained the same at 157.5 tons (for the A units, Bs were slightly less). Railroads again liked EMD's latest E series model (the extra horsepower was a great addition allowing the E8 to pull heavier loads) with numerous Class Is purchasing the E8 for use on their flagship passenger trains (interestingly, however, just one Canadian line went on to purchase the locomotive, Canadian Pacific bought three for use in the United States).

An Electro-Motive photo featuring freshly out-shopped Rock Island E8A #648 in the summer of 1951.

By the time production had ended on the locomotive in early 1954, EMD had sold 449 A units and another 46 B units with the Pennsylvania Railroad picking up the most, 74.   Railroads who went on to purchase the E8 included the Santa Fe, Atlantic Coast Line, Boston & Maine, Baltimore & Ohio, Burlington, Central of Georgia, Chicago & North Western, Rock Island, Chesapeake & Ohio, Lackawanna, Erie, Fort Worth & Denver (CB&Q), GM&O, Illinois Central, Kansas City Southern, Louisville & Nashville, Katy, Missouri Pacific, New York Central, Pennsylvania, RF&P, Seaboard Air Line, Frisco, Southern, Texas & Pacific, Union Pacific, and Wabash.

A pair of recently delivered New York Central E8A's sit on display at the Railway Supply Manufacturers' Association trade show in Atlantic City, New Jersey in late June of 1953.

EMD E8A Production Roster

Owner Road Number(s) Quantity Date Built
Atlantic Coast Line500, 532, 544-54871950-1953
Baltimore & Ohio26-32 (Evens), 26A-32A (Evens), 51, 53-56, 90-96 (Evens), 90A-96A (Evens)211950-1954
Boston & Maine382111950
Burlington9938A-9949A, 9937B-9948B, 9964-9977381950-1953
Canadian Pacific1800-180231949
Central Of Georgia811-81221950
Chesapeake & Ohio4000-4030311951-1953
Chicago & North Western5021A-5031A, 5019B, 5021B-5030B221950-1953
Electro-Motive (Demo)952 (To CRI&P, #643), 810-811 (To DL&W, #810-811), 5600-A (To SP, #6018)41951
Erie Railroad820-833141951
Fort Worth & Denver (CB&Q)9981A, 9981B21952
Illinois Central4018-4033161950-1953
Kansas City Southern23, 26-2951952
Louisville & Nashville794-79741951
Missouri-Kansas-Texas (Katy)106A-107A, 106B-107B, 131-13591950-1951
Missouri Pacific7018-702141950
New Orleans & Northeastern (SOU)6906-6915101953
New York Central4003, 4020, 4036-4095621951-1953
Pennsylvania5700A-5716A, 5760A-5769A, 5788A-5799A, 5801A-5810A, 5835A-5839A, 5884A-5899A, 5902A-5905A741949-1952
Richmond, Fredericksburg & Potomac1001-1015151949-1953
Rock Island643-656141949-1953
Santa Fe2, 4, 5, 82, 84-87 (Rebuilt by EMD from E1A's)81952-1953
Seaboard Air Line3049-3059111950-1952
Southern Pacific601811950
Southern Railway2923-292971951
St. Louis San Francisco Railway (Frisco)2006-2022171950
Texas & Pacific Railway (MP)2010-201781951
Union Pacific925-942171950-1953
Wabash Railroad1000, 1003-1015141949-1953

EMD E8B Production Roster

Owner Road Number(s) Quantity Date Built
Baltimore & Ohio51X-56X61953-1954
Illinois Central4104-410521952
Richmond, Fredericksburg & Potomac1051-105551949
Santa Fe4A, 80A, 82A-84A (Rebuilt by EMD from E1B's)51952-1953
Union Pacific922B-949B281950-1953

Norfolk & Western E8A #3808 (ex-Wabash) at Decatur, Illinois circa 1960's. Photographer unknown.

The E8 would all but end the market for passenger model locomotives, at least in regards to wide-scale sales.  As the locomotive ended production in 1954 rail travel was fast losing interest with the general public and railroads, naturally, began devoting fewer and fewer resources to the service. As such, the E9 cataloged from 1954 through 1964 sold less than 150 examples. Ironically, while the E7 and E8 both saw roughly the same number of sales, just one example of the former survives while the latter is one of the best preserved EMD models with dozens still in existence, a few of which remain operational (this was caused by many roads trading in their E7s for newer E8s, thereby reducing the cost). 

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Wes Barris's SteamLocomotive.com is simply the best web resource in the study of steam locomotives. 

The amount of information found there is quite staggering; historical backgrounds of wheel arrangements, types used by virtually every railroad, preserved and operational examples, and even those used in other countries (North America and beyond). 

It is difficult to truly articulate just how much material can be found at this website.  It is a must visit!

Researching Rights-Of-Way

A popular pastime for many is studying and/or exploring abandoned rights-of-way. 

Today, there are tens of thousands of miles scattered throughout the country.  Many were pulled up in the 1970's and 1980's although others were removed long before that. 

If you are researching active or abandoned corridors you might want to check out the United States Geological Survey's (USGS) Historical Topographic Map Explorer

It is an excellent resource with thousands of historic maps on file throughout the country.  Just type in a town or city and click on the timeline of maps at the bottom of the page!