Vintage Diesel Locomotives, By Mike Schafer

Header Photo: Drew Jacksich

Yet another book in Mr. Schafer's vast library of railroad titles, Vintage Diesel Locomotives takes a look at just that, classic diesel models from the five best remembered companies; General Motors' Electro-Motive Division (EMD), the American Locomotive Company (Alco), Baldwin/Lima-Hamilton (BLW/BLH), Fairbanks-Morse (FM), and (in later years at least) General Electric. The book was originally released by Andover Junction Publications, an MBI Publishing subsidiary, back in 1998. Overall, Brian Solomon's The American Diesel Locomotive is provides a more in-depth coverage of this topic, especially offering a deeper history of the beginnings of diesel locomotives. However, Mike's book is a paperback title meaning it is quite a bit cheaper if you. However, it still offers some incredibly wonderful photography, particularly by featuring rare photos of Baldwins and Fairbanks-Morse locomotives. Additionally, Mike discusses detailed aspects of some models not found in Brian's book.

If you are not familiar with Mike Schafer he is perhaps, along with Brian Solomon, the most well known railroad historian and writer in the field. Some of his other books over the years include the popular Classic American Railroads series, Caboose, Freight Train Cars, Classic American Streamliners, The Railroad Caboose, American Passenger Train, and several others that were coauthored such as The American Railroad, Pennsylvania Railroad, and The Art Of The Streamliner. In any event, Mike opens Vintage Diesel Locomotives with an acknowledgements and introduction; the former discusses how the book came together along with thanking those who helped in some manner while the latter talks about what can be found in the book. Mr. Schafer makes it pretty clear what you will find in the book, early first generation power and almost nothing else!

The book begins with a chapter entitled, "The Birth And Basics Of Dieseldom". As you might expect this section looks at the beginnings of the diesel locomotive and even discusses where the diesel engine was first developed by Rudolph Diesel back in the 19th century. For the first railroad applications Mike highlights the McKeen Cars powered by gasoline engines as well as similar switchers manufactured by the Baldwin Locomotive Works. Interestingly, Baldwin and Alco were pioneers in the diesel locomotive during the 1920s although they were gone as builders before the 1960s had ended. In any event, Mike also discusses the early testing of General Electric in the field as well and looks at the start up of the Electro-Motive Engineering Corporation in 1922 along with the Winton Engine Company around the same time.

From here the first true diesel locomotive for main line use is highlighted, eventual Jersey Central #1000, a boxcab built by GE/Alco/Ingersoll-Rand in 1924. Other discussions speak of the rise of General Motors in 1930 with its acquisition of Winton and EMC in 1930 as well as the first streamliners debuted in 1934 by Union Pacific (the M-10000) and Chicago, Burlington & Quincy (the Pioneer Zephyr). Much of the rest of the chapter focuses on early cataloged switchers built by Alco (such as its "HH" line and early "S" models), and the first successful main line locomotive models built by EMC the EA and FT (notably the latter). The rest of the section concludes by covering the impact diesels had on the railroad industry and their eventual displacing of steam as the dominate motive power. While just a brief general history, the introductory is a fascinating read especially if you are unfamiliar with the steam-to-diesel transition.

During chapter two Vintage Diesel Locomotives begins looking at the five major builders beginning with EMD. After a brief history of how the company came into being Mike breaks down different model types highlighting switchers, passenger locomotives, cab freight units, and the BL2 and introduction of the road-switcher (GP7s). Mike also feature sub-articles highlighting some unique EMD designs such as the nose-less Rock Island E6 (an AB6), RS1325, DDA40X, and stainless-steel E units built for the Burlington. The third chapter covers the fascinating models of Alco. All of the builder's best known locomotives are mentioned here from PAs and FAs to its much more popular early road-switcher (RS) models like the RS1, RS2, and RS3. The rest of Alco's highlight gives mention to the final Century line whereby the builder exited the market by 1968.

The final three chapters look at the three builders which were either not particularly successful or, in the case of GE, entered the market just prior to the release of second-generation models. In any event, if you enjoy studying early diesels you should really read through the chapters on Baldwin/Lima-Hamilton and the odd opposed-piston Fairbanks-Morse designs. The photos and information are a real treat to say the least. In the GE chapter Mike mostly provides a look at the builder's early switchers such as the center-cabbed units loved by industries (like the 44-tonner). However, he also discusses the earliest designs that GE first released like the UD18 of 1956 and its first successful road-switcher, the U25B.

Finally, don't forget to check out the very back of the book where Mike offers a brief glossary of diesel locomotive terms. If you are not familiar with diesels it's an interesting few pages to peruse. Overall, I have worn out my copy of Vintage Diesel Locomotives over the years, using it for reference numerous times when looking for both things like specific dates as well as a certain engine type. I'm not sure what your specific interest in diesels may be whether you would like to learn more about them or just want a book with a nice collection of photos. Either way, Mike's book offers a bit of both!