EMD "E7" Diesel Locomotives

Last revised: May 17, 2022

By: Adam Burns

The E7 was the first model in the series built fully under the General Motors banner and went on as the most successful.

The design began construction in early 1945 and was ultimately purchased by dozens of major railroads for use in passenger service.  Internally, the E7 varied little from the E3 through E6 models.

However, externally, EMD updated the carbody giving it a sleeker look and a more beveled, blunted nose (the classic "bull dog" appearance that made EMD's cab design legendary) that was first featured on the freight FT of 1939. 

Some E7s saw service for many years and were still around until the start of Amtrak in 1971. The succeeding E8 was also purchased by many railroad successful. 

Incredibly, despite more than 500 E7As and Bs constructed be Electro-Motive just one is preserved today, Pennsylvania #5901-A (out-shopped by the builder in September, 1952). 

While she is no longer operable you can see this locomotive adorned in its handsome Tuscan Red livery with cat whiskers, housed indoors at the Railroad Museum of Pennsylvania in Ronks, Pennsylvania.  Ironically, more Alco PA's now survive than this popular EMD model!

This Electro-Motive photo, taken in the spring of 1945, features Great Northern E7A set #504A/B wearing a rare livery ordered for the postwar "Empire Builder." As Bob Le Massena notes: "As was common at the time the motive power arrived long before the cars were delivered. In this instance, the delay was a year-and-a-half. By that time [the] locomotives had been altered somewhat. The simplified mountain goat emblem was removed from each side, replaced by the traditional herald (with its 'Great Northern Railway' name ring around the outside) mounted on a plaque low on the nose door. A second headlight was mounted in the upper half of the door, and the illuminated number-plate was moved upward to a position just below the original headlight. "The Great Northern" in gilt script around the nose was removed to make room for the herald plaque, and the dark green bands which had ended at the new herald were extended on around the nose and curved down to a point on each side of the nose door."

The EMD E7 began production in early 1945 as the first passenger model manufactured by GM's official Electo-Motive Division.

The model's internal components were more or less similar to earlier models.  While the locomotive did feature a slightly upgraded 12-cylinder, model 567A prime mover it still carried a rating of 2,000 horsepower (using dual engines).

The truck setup remained the same as an A1A-A1A (meaning the center axle was unpowered) and model D7 traction motors. 

Finally, as had been the case for most E series designs cataloged by Electro-Motive through that time the E7 offered 56,500 pounds of starting tractive effort and 31,000 pounds continuous. 

Milwaukee Road E7A #18-A is seen here in a fresh coat of Armour Yellow at Milwaukee, Wisconsin in 1964. Russ Porter photo. American-Rails.com collection.

By 1945 EMD's products were well known for their reliability, efficiency, and ruggedness. 

The builder paved the way for the fall of steam thanks to its FT, and then went on to silence the motive power forever with future models like the F7, GP7, GP9, and others. 

As such, most railroads came to trust Electro-Motive's products and were willing to use the E7 to power their most prestigious trains of the time.

Numerous lines from the Baltimore & Ohio and Atlantic Coast Line to the Milwaukee Road and Southern Pacific purchased the streamlined diesel.

While EMD's passenger line was never as successful as its freight models the builder sold some 428 E7As and 82 E7Bs by the time production had ended in the spring of 1949.

Missouri Pacific E7A #4 is showing her age at Poplar Bluff, Missouri, circa 1968. This unit was built for MP subsidiary Texas & Pacific as #2003 in 1947. American-Rails.com collection.

The reliability of Electro-Motive's E7 and later E models could been seen in their longevity. 

Many of those not traded in and replaced by the later E8 saw service up until Amtrak, although by that time with service in severe decline many units had been extremely abused and were simply worn out. 

It is not believed that any remaining E7s actually made it into service on Amtrak although the carrier did utilize a number of aging E8s, E9s, FL9s, and FP7s. 

Sadly, the Rock Island which could not afford to join Amtrak (railroads had to pay a fee to the carrier to hand over their remaining passenger trains) continued to use some of its worn out E7s in passenger service through the late 1970s.

Rock Island E7A #633 is stopped at the Morton Street Depot in Peoria, Illinois with train #11 from Chicago in July, 1968. American-Rails.com collection.

EMD E7A Production Roster

Owner Road Number(s) Quantity Date Built
Alton Railroad100-103, 101A-103A71945-1946
Atlantic Coast Line524-543201945-1948
Baltimore & Ohio64A-80A (Evens), 64B-80B (Evens)181945
Bangor & Aroostook700-70121949
Boston & Maine3800-3820211946-1949
Burlington9916A-9929A, 9931A-9937A, 9916B-9929B, 9931B-9937B421945-1949
Central Of Georgia801-810101946-1948
Chesapeake & Ohio95-9841948
Chicago & Eastern Illinois1100-110231946
Chicago & North Western5008A-5020A, 5007B-5019B261945-1949
Electro-Motive (Demo)765 (To UP, #988)11947
Florida East Coast1006-1022171945-1947
Great Northern500A-504A, 510A-512A, 500B-504B121945-1947
Illinois Central4000, 4005-4017141946-1948
International-Great Northern Railroad (MP)7007, 701221947
Louisville & Nashville458A-461A, 458B-461B, 790-793121945-1949
Maine Central705-71171946-1948
Milwaukee Road16A-20A, 16B-20B101946
Missouri-Kansas-Texas Railroad (Katy)101A, 101C21947
Missouri Pacific7005-7006, 7010-7011, 7013-701791945-1948
New York Central4004-4035321945-1949
Pennsylvania5900A-5901A, 5840A-5883A461945-1949
Pere Marquette101-10881946-1947
Rock Island632-642111946-1948
Seaboard Air Line3017-3048321945-1949
Southern Pacific6000A-6004A51947
Southern Railway2905-2922181946-1949
Spokane, Portland & Seattle75011948
St. Louis, Brownsville & Mexico (MP)7008-700921947
St. Louis San Francisco Railway (Frisco)2000-200561947
Texas & Pacific (MP)2000-2009101947-1949
Union Pacific907A, 927A, 930A-931A, 959A-960A, 98881946-1947
Wabash Railroad1000-1002, 1001A41946-1949

EMD E7B Production Roster

Owner Road Number(s) Quantity Date Built
Atlantic Coast Line755-764101945
Florida East Coast1052-105431945
Illinois Central4100-410341946-1948
International-Great Northern Railroad (MP)7012B11947
Missouri Pacific7004B, 7010B-7011B, 7014B-7017B71945-1948
New York Central4100-4113141945-1948
Pennsylvania5840B-5864B, 5900B131947-1948
Rock Island632B-634B, 637B-642B91945-1948
Seaboard Air Line3105-310731948
Southern Pacific6000B-6004B, 6000C-6004C101947
Union Pacific908B-909B, 928B-929B, 961B-963B71946

An aging Pennsylvania E7A, #5872, lays over in Bay Head, New Jersey along the New York & Long Branch on April 3, 1966. Author's collection.

As a comparison, the only other locomotive builder to truly compete in the passenger model market with EMD was Alco and its PA model. 

While considered the most beautiful diesel locomotive ever built, unfortunately it used a troublesome and unreliable prime mover that caused many railroads to stick with EMD, even after Alco corrected the issue with a new engine in the PA-2. 

Today, the Pennsylvania unit remains cosmetically restored at the Railroad Museum of Pennsylvania in Strasburg and can be regularly visited by the public, housed in-doors and out of the elements.  

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