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EMC "TA" Locomotives


Published: January 25, 2024

By: Adam Burns

The TA was a streamlined diesel locomotive built by Electro-Motive Corporation (EMC) in the late 1930s for the Chicago, Rock Island & Pacific - better remembered as the Rock Island.

It was one of the earliest such locomotives produced by the company, manufactured alongside the early "EA" and "E1" models produced for the Baltimore & Ohio and Santa Fe respectively.

These early diesels ushered in single unit locomotives in the new streamliner era sweeping the nation.  The TA was known for its distinctive "shovel nose" carbody and operated by Rock Island for its new Rocket streamliners.

Despite its innovative design the locomotive's four-axle configuration was not repeated and the original six examples were the only ever produced.  They were all retired and scrapped by 1958.


DhthURoX0AAe6Ti.jpgRock Island TA #602 is seen here in Chicago during the 1950s. Manufactured in 1937 this model was a variant of Electro-Motive's first EA passenger diesels but featured only B-B trucks (4 axles) for use on the early "Rocket" streamliners.


Electro-Motive holds a significant place in the annals of American locomotive manufacturing. A fascinating contribution to the industry was the "TA" streamlined diesel, specifically designed for the Rock Island.

Under new CEO John D. Farrington, the railroad quickly embraced the streamliner concept in effort to reduce costs and increase ridership.  Farrington had been a strong advocate of reversing the railroad's woes as it had long struggled against stronger competitors.

In his book, "Classic American Railroads," author Mike Schafer notes his program to improve the company's fortunes was known as "Planned Progress."  Among its initiatives was laying heavier rail, rebuilding bridges with steel, improved track alignments, signaling upgrades, and more efficient motive power - such as diesels.

Farrington immediately saw the streamliner as another way to increase profitability and, as Mike Schafer and Joe Welsh note in "Streamliners: History Of A Railroad Icon," quickly ordered six new semi-articulated trainsets from E.G. Budd Manufacturing.

Dubbed the Rockets they included four sets of three cars (baggage-dinette-coach, standard coach, and coach-parlor observation) and two sets of four cars (baggage-dinette, two standard coaches, and a parlor-observation lounge). 

To power these trains, the Rock ordered six four-axle, streamlined diesels from Electro-Motive  dubbed the "TA."  The locomotives - completed between August and October, 1937 - were equipped with a single, 1,200 horsepower, 16-cylinder Winton 201-A engine. 


While the carbody was similar to the first E units, the locomotive was nearly ten feet shorter due to its B-B trucks.  In addition, it featured a lower profile by nearly two feet to match the cars.

Interestingly, at the time of their development Electro-Motive - while having the carbodies built directly by the company - outsourced much of the locomotive's components.  It featured GE electrical gear and traction motors as well as Commonwealth drop-equalizer trucks from General Steel Castings.

The "TAs" (Twelve-hundred horsepower, A unit) were designed with a focus on passenger comfort and efficiency. The streamlined body, adorned in a striking crimson and stainless steel livery, added to its aesthetic appeal while reducing drag at higher speeds.

These locomotives featured high-speed gear ratios that allowed them to reach a maximum speed of 110 miles per hour, making them some of the fastest locomotives of their time.

In their original configuration the TAs were equipped with only a single, flush mounted headlight centered at the top of the nose.   To improve visibility the railroad later added an extra gyrating headlight below this, centered beneath the "Rock Island" herald.

In addition, Electro-Motive's original skirting, which partially hid the trucks and fuel tank was removed giving the locomotives an improved look. 

The TAs enjoyed rather productive careers; after the Rock Island separated the original trainsets the locomotives joined general pool service and spent their last days in commuter assignments before their retirement in 1958.  The locomotives were later scrapped at Silvis, Illinois in 1960.

Data Sheet

Entered Production8/1937 (Rock Island #601)
Years Produced8/1937 - 10/1937
Engine201-A (1)
Engine BuilderWinton
Length60' 10"
Height (Top Of Rail To Top Of Cab)13' 11"
Width10' 3"
Weight230,000 Lbs
Fuel Capacity1,000 Gallons
Air CompressorGardner-Denver
Air Compressor ModelWBO
Air Brake ManufacturerWestinghouse
Air Brake ScheduleHSC
Truck TypeGSC Commonwealth
Truck Wheelbase9' 0"
Wheel Size40"
Steam Generator ManufacturerVapor-Clarkson
Steam Generator Capacity1200 Lbs/Hr
Traction MotorsGE 726C (4)
Primary GeneratorGE 542
Auxiliary GeneratorWestinghouse/GE
MU (Multiple-Unit)Yes
Dynamic BrakesNo
Gear Ratio62:15
Tractive Effort (Starting)56,500 Lbs at 25%
Tractive Effort (Continuous)31,000 Lbs at 11 mph
Top Speed110 mph

Production Roster

Owner Road Numbers Serial Numbers Order Numbers Completion Date Quantity
Rock Island601-606735-740E1518/1937-10/19376


Despite the limited number produced (only six were ever built), the "TA" class left a significant legacy. Evidence of the locomotive’s design influence can be seen in the later EMD E and F series locomotives.

They served as significant steps in Electro-Motive's development of high-speed, stylish, powerful, and reliable diesel locomotives. The "TA" is an unforgettable example of Electro-Motive's trailblazing commitment to innovation and technology in the locomotive industry.


  • Hayden, Bob. Diesel Locomotives: Cyclopedia, Volume 2 (Model Railroader). Milwaukee: Kalmbach Publishing Company, 1980.
  • Johnston, Bob and Welsh, Joe. Art Of The Streamliner, The. New York: Andover Junction Publications, 2001.
  • Kelly, John.  Rock Island Railroad, Photo Archive:  Travel On The Rockets.  Hudson:  Iconografix, 2010.
  • Marre, Louis A. Diesel Locomotives: The First 50 Years, A Guide To Diesels Built Before 1972.  Milwaukee: Kalmbach Publishing Company, 1995.
  • Schafer, Mike and Welsh, Joe. Streamliners, History of a Railroad Icon. St. Paul: MBI Publishing, 2003.


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

It is quite staggering and a must visit!