EMD "Blomberg" Trucks

What has arguably been described as the best engineered, four-axle suspension system ever put into service on a locomotive was the Blomberg Truck, named after its designer Martin P. Blomberg.  He was born in Sweden during the late 19th century during which time he attended college.  At the beginning of the 20th century he moved to Canada and later into the United States taking a job with the Pullman Company in the mid-1920s (after enlisting in the U.S. Army during World War I) as an engineer designing truck frames and passenger carbodies.  A decade later he helped with the design of early streamliners like Union Pacific's M-10000 (the first ever of its kind).  However, it was his employment with Electro-Motive where Blomberg truly became noted for his work.  While the truck named after him gained the engineer acclaim he also helped design several others over the years.

Electro-Motive's success as a manufacturer went beyond its rugged prime movers.  The company was long known for the smooth ride of its first and second-generation locomotives thanks to their trucks such as the Blomberg and Flexicoil.  In its prime, EMD did everything to the highest degree and its designs were built to last.  As a result, many locomotives built 40 or 50 years ago still remain in service today.

Santa Fe F7A #275-L is seen here in Somerville, Texas on December 12, 1976. In 1978 the unit was rebuilt into CF7 #2417 at the railroad's Cleburne (Texas) Shops. Gary Morris photo.

On September 1, 1935 Martin Blomberg moved from Pullman to the Electro-Motive Corporation (before it became an official division of General Motors) and it is here where his legend as a great contributor to railroad engineering began.  At EMC he was responsible for essentially the same areas while employed at Pullman, carbodies and trucks.  During these early years Blomberg either had a hand in or was responsible for a number of Electro-Motive projects including the A1A truck used under the first E units, as well as the E4 which he helped design (built for the Seaboard Air Line and its new Silver Meteor streamliner that debuted in 1939).  The engineer was helped design the AAR Type A, a two-axle truck used on Electro-Motive's early switchers such as the NW2, SW1, and NW3 of 1939.

A grimy Clinchfield F3A sits outside the locomotive shops in Erwin, Tennessee. Warren Calloway photo.

Since this suspension system was not really designed for standard road service it was not meant for high-speed operations.  However, the truck did use coil and leaf springs to provide a good balance of dampening (shock absorption).  Also in 1939 Blomberg readied a new type of truck for use on Electro-Motive's revolutionary diesel, the FT.   The locomotive sported a cab carbody (sometimes referred to as a "covered wagon") and was engineered to compete directly against steam.  For use in road service, such a locomotive would need a high quality truck to provide a smooth and stable ride not only for the crew but also to reduce wear and tear (because, after all, a diesel that rode poorly would not help in convincing the always-conservative industry that steam should be replaced for some newfangled type of power).

Soo Line GP38-2 #4400 wears the red letter edition of the company's livery as it heads the Keweenaw Local at Dollar Bay, Michigan in September of 1981. Rob Kitchen photo.

Since the FT was a four-axle locomotive Blomberg modified his three-axle A1A truck (meaning the two outside axles were powered with traction motors while the center was not) into a two axle version.  What became known as the Blomberg B carried an arched chassis with outside swing hangers that produced a higher quality ride (arguably the best among all early types).  Additionally, it used a combination of stiff and soft coil springs to reduce dampening.  All Blombergs were also equipped with roller bearings, an upgrade that first appeared on late era steam locomotives to greatly reduce wear and tear on the running gear.  While it is unknown if railroads ever addressed the matter given everything else the new FT showcased, the high quality of the Blomberg was almost certainly another factor in railroads choosing diesel over steam.

The Delaware & Hudson has slapped quick patch jobs on these former Reading GP39-2's; they are seen here at the D&H terminal in Whitehall, New York on August 27, 1976. Doug Kroll photo.

This original Blomberg truck remained EMD's standard on its entire four-axle, F series and later General Purpose (GP, or Geep) series through the early second-generation models.  These included all of the builder's popular designs that solidified its standing as top manufacturer during that era such as the F3, F7, FP7, F9, GP7, GP9, GP30, GP35 and many others.  The popularity of the Blomberg could also be seen in the number of railroads which preferred them over AARs, sometimes even requesting that General Electric use them on its early road-switchers.  Of course, Blombergs tended to be more expensive than their counterparts and some roads elected to have trade-in Alcos, Baldwins, or Fairbank Morse models reuse the truck chassis (which typically carried AAR Type Bs).

Norfolk & Western F7A #3717 (ex-Wabash #1185) is seen here in Decatur, Illinois on September 25, 1965. The N&W never purchased its own cab units; all were acquired through the 1964 Wabash Railroad merger. Dick Wallin photo/Warren Calloway collection.

When EMD added its "Dash 2" line to its catalog during early 1972 (which, among other improvements, featured upgraded electronics for easier maintenance) it also slightly updated the Blomberg truck to further enhance ride quality and reduce maintenance.  The Blomberg M used hydraulic shocks on opposing ends of each journal box and rubber pads also replaced the leaf spring suspension system.  Additionally, the truck was simplified by using only four brake cylinders instead of eight since these still offered adequate stopping abilities (several railroads had already modified their B types like this to save on maintenance).  The GP60 was the last production-scale EMD locomotive to sport Blombergs, appearing on Santa Fe's final order in 1989.  Today, since the truck was equipped on thousands of EMDs during a 50-year period Blombergs remain in wide-scale use all over the country.  To read more about EMD's Flexicoil truck please click here.



Grand Trunk Western GP38 #1776, wearing the road's Bicentennial livery, and Canadian National GP38 #5548 wait for the yardmaster to tell them what track their train is on in the yard at Battle Creek, Michigan in September of 1977. Rob Kitchen photo.

For more reading on EMD locomotives consider the book EMD Locomotives from author Brian Solomon.  The book highlights the history of EMD from its earliest beginnings in the 1920s, to its phenomenal successes in the mid-20th century, and finally its decline into second spot behind General Electric in the late 20th century and eventual sale by General Motors in 2005. The book features 176 pages of EMD history and is filled with excellent photography and illustrations.  Another good title regarding trucks and identifying diesel models is Gerald Foster's A Field Guide To Trains, which provides information on how to ID different designs from the earliest FT through those released into the 1990s.  If you're interested in perhaps purchasing these books please visit the link below which will take you to ordering information through Amazon.com, the trusted online shopping network.




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Header Photo: Drew Jacksich




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!



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You will be hard pressed at finding a better online resource regarding diesel locomotives than Craig Rutherford's TheDieselShop.us.  The website contains everything from historic (fallen flags) to contemporary (Class I's, regionals, short lines, and even some museums/tourist lines) rosters, locomotive production information, technical data, all notable models cataloged by the five major builders (American Locomotive, Electro-Motive, General Electric, Fairbanks-Morse, and Baldwin), and much more.  A highly recommended database!



Electro-Motive Database

In 1998 a gentleman by the name of Andre Kristopans put together a web page highlighting virtually every unit every out-shopped by General Motors' Electro-Motive Division.  Alas, in 2013 the site closed by thankfully Don Strack rescued the data and transferred it over to his UtahRails.net site (another fine resource).  If you are researching anything EMD related please visit this page first.  The information includes original numbers, serials, and order numbers.