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The EMD FT Diesel Locomotive

The EMD FT was a 1,350-horsepower diesel-electric locomotive produced between November 1939 and November 1945, by General Motors' Electro-Motive Division (the "F" stood for 1400 horsepower (rounded from 1350) and the "T" for twin, as it came standard in a two-unit set). All told 555 cab-equipped A units were built, along with 541 cabless booster B units, for a grand total of 1,096 units. The locomotives were all sold to customers in the United States. It was the first model in EMD's very successful F-unit series of cab unit freight diesels, and was the locomotive that convinced many U.S. railroads that the diesel-electric freight locomotive was the future. Many rail historians consider the FT one of the most important locomotive models of all time.

See EMD 567 for specific information on the history of the 567 medium-speed two-stroke cycle Diesel engine, as employed in the FT and its many successors. In 1951, E. W. Kettering wrote a paper for the ASME entitled, History and Development of the 567 Series General Motors Locomotive Engine, which goes into great detail about the technical obstacles that were encountered during the development of the 567 engine (these same considerations apply to its successors, the 645 and 710).

FTs were generally marketed as semi-permanently coupled A-B sets (a lead unit and a cabless booster connected by a solid drawbar) making a single locomotive of 2,700 hp. Many railroads used pairs of these sets back to back to make up a four-unit A-B-B-A locomotive rated at 5,400 hp. Some railroads purchased semi-permanently coupled A-B-A three-unit sets of 4,050 hp, while a few, like the Santa Fe, ordered all their FTs with regular couplers on both ends of each unit for added flexibility. All units in a consist could be run from one cab; multiple unit (MU) control systems linked the units together. "Hostler" controls were an option for B units, enabling these units to be operated independently of A units for moving within yard limits.

Engine and powertrain
The FT introduced a 16 cylinder version of the 567 (later 567A) series engine developing 1,350 hp at 800 rpm. Designed specifically for railroad locomotives, this naturally-aspirated (Roots-blown) two stroke 45 degree V type, with an 8 1⁄2 inch bore by 10 inch stroke giving 567 cubic inches displacement per cylinder, remained in production until 1966. A D8 D.C. generator provides power to four D7 traction motors, two on each truck, one on each axle, in a B-B arrangement. The Blomberg design introduced here has been EMD’s standard B truck, used with few exceptions through the F59PHI of 1994. EMD has built all its own components since 1939.

Body recognition and appearance
The FT is very similar to the later F-units in appearance, but there are some differences which render it distinguishable from later EMD freight cab units. The side panels of the FT were different, but it was fairly common for railroads to alter them to make an earlier unit appear later. As built, FT units had four porthole windows spaced closely together along their sides, and B units with couplers on both ends had a fifth window on one side for the hostler position, if equipped with hostler controls.

The roof is a more reliable indication; FTs had four exhaust stacks along the centerline (flanked by boxy structures if dynamic brakes were included). The radiator fans were recessed within the carbody, and arranged in two pairs, one near each end of the locomotive. Later units have the fans grouped together, and their shrouding extended atop the roof.

The overhangs of the body past the trucks differ in the FT compared to later units. The B-units of FTs ordered in semi-permanently coupled A-B sets, and those with couplers on both ends, have a large overhang on one end (the coupler-equipped end on the paired units) featured on no other EMD B-units. This is not present on the B-units in semi-permanently coupled A-B-A sets, which were called FTSB units (for Short Booster). At other locations, except the cab front, the FT units have less of an overhang than later units; the trucks appear to be right at the ends of the car bodies.

Unlike most railroad locomotives, the F (and E) series used the body as a structural element, similar to a truss bridge. EMD has not repeated this construction, as their modern passenger engines have a non-structural “cowl” type body.

Wartime restrictions
During World War II, locomotive production was regulated by the War Production Board. The traditional locomotive builders were prohibited from building diesel road locomotives until early 1945. There were a few dual-service ALCO DL-109s for the New Haven. Steam locomotives could be built with fewer precious materials, and were the proven type of motive power at the time.

EMD however, was purely a diesel builder, and therefore was allowed to continue building diesel freight locomotives, except when fulfilling demands for 12-cylinder 567 engines for LST vessels for the U.S. Navy. The WPB assigned the FTs to the railroads it deemed most able to benefit from the new locomotives. The Santa Fe received by far the largest allocation, given its heavy war traffic and the difficulty and expense of providing water for steam locomotives on its long desert stretches. The original A-B-B-A demonstrator set was sold to the Southern Railway.

Were it not for the wartime restrictions, many more FTs would have been built. Most railroads wanted diesels, but often had to settle for steam locomotives.

Parenthetically, these wartime restrictions on other manufacturers' diesel programs helped ensure EMD's dominance of the postwar diesel market, as EMD exited the wartime restrictions with a fully mature diesel engine, while the other locomotive manufacturers took several years, post-war, to reach an equivalent level of maturity with their diesel engines, and several never reached maturity, and hence exited the locomotive market altogether.

Subsequent models
The FT was discontinued in late 1945, replaced in production by the F2, which retained the 1,350 hp rating of the FT, but with upgraded electrical and control equipment. Additionally, the mechanically-driven cooling fans, which required constant tending by the locomotive's fireman, were replaced with electrically-driven fans which were automatically controlled, a system which is still in use to this day. The F2 was produced only in 1946, and afterward was replaced by updated models in the EMD F-unit series, such as the F3, F7, and F9.

Original buyers
Electro-Motive Division (demonstrator)
Quantity A Units: 2
Quantity B Units: 2
A Unit Road Numbers: 103,A
B Unit Road Numbers: 103(b),A
Note: to Southern Railway 6100ABCD renumbered 6100, 6150, 6151, 6105.

Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Railway
Quantity A Units: 155
Quantity B Units: 165
A Unit Road Numbers: 100-104, 105,C–179,C
B Unit Road Numbers: 100A,B,C-104A,B,C, 105A,B–179B,C
Note: 160-168, 415 renumbered.

Atlantic Coast Line Railroad
Quantity A Units: 24
Quantity B Units: 24
A Unit Road Numbers: 300–323
B Unit Road Numbers: 300B–323B
Note: 317 wrecked 11/50, rebuilt to F7 317:2 5/51.

Baltimore and Ohio Railroad
Quantity A Units: 12
Quantity B Units: 12
A Unit Road Numbers: 1,A–11,A (odd)
B Unit Road Numbers: 1X,AX–11X,AX (odd)
Note: Renumbered 101,A–111,A odd (A) and 101X, AX–111X, AX odd (B); later 4400–4411 (A) and 5400–5411 (B).

Boston and Maine Railroad
Quantity A Units: 24
Quantity B Units: 24
A Unit Road Numbers: 4200A–4223A
B Unit Road Numbers: 4200B–4223B

Chicago and North Western Railway
Quantity A Units: 4
Quantity B Units: 4
A Unit Road Numbers: 5400A,D–5401A,D
B Unit Road Numbers: 5400B,C–5401B,C
Note: Renumbered 4051A–4054A (A) and 4051B–4504B (B).

Chicago, Burlington and Quincy Railroad
Quantity A Units: 32
Quantity B Units: 32
A Unit Road Numbers: 100A,D–115A,D
B Unit Road Numbers: 100B,C–115B,C
Note: 100–104 renumbered 150B,C-154B,C, 155A,B-159A,B.

Chicago, Milwaukee, St. Paul and Pacific Railroad
Quantity A Units: 26
Quantity B Units: 26
A Unit Road Numbers: 35A,D–47A,D
B Unit Road Numbers: 35B,C–47B,C

Chicago, Rock Island and Pacific Railroad
Quantity A Units: 20
Quantity B Units: 16
A Unit Road Numbers: 70,A–73,A, 88–99
B Unit Road Numbers: 70B–73B, 88A–99A
Note: 70B–73B short B units. 88A-99A re-suffixed 88B–99B.

Delaware, Lackawanna and Western Railroad
Quantity A Units: 12
Quantity B Units: 8
A Unit Road Numbers: 601A,C–603A,C, 651A–654A
B Unit Road Numbers: 601B–604B, 651B–654B
Note: 601B–604B short B units. To Erie Lackawanna.

Denver and Rio Grande Western Railroad
Quantity A Units: 24
Quantity B Units: 24
A Unit Road Numbers: 540A,D–551A,D
B Unit Road Numbers: 540B,C–551B,C
Note: Renumbered 5401/2/3/4–5511/2/3/4 (ABBA).

Erie Railroad
Quantity A Units: 12
Quantity B Units: 12
A Unit Road Numbers: 700A,D–705A,D
B Unit Road Numbers: 700B,C–705B,C
Note: to Erie Lackawanna.

Great Northern Railway
Quantity A Units: 51
Quantity B Units: 45
A Unit Road Numbers: 250A-258A, 300A,C-305A,C, 400A,D-428A,D even
B Unit Road Numbers: 250B-258B, 300B-305B, 400B,C-428B,C even
Note: 300B-305B short B units, 5600AB, 5700AB, 5701AB, 5900AB renumbered.

Lehigh Valley Railroad
Quantity A Units: 4
Quantity B Units: 4
A Unit Road Numbers: 500–503
B Unit Road Numbers: 500B–503B
Note: Renumbered 500–507 (A even, B odd).

Minneapolis and St. Louis Railway
Quantity A Units: 4
Quantity B Units: 2
A Unit Road Numbers: 445A,C, 545A,C
B Unit Road Numbers: 445B, 545B
Note: Short B units.

Missouri Pacific Railroad
Quantity A Units: 12
Quantity B Units: 12
A Unit Road Numbers: 501–512
B Unit Road Numbers: 501B–512B

New York Central Railroad
Quantity A Units: 4
Quantity B Units: 4
A Unit Road Numbers: 1600–1603
B Unit Road Numbers: 2400–2403

New York, Ontario and Western Railway
Quantity A Units: 9
Quantity B Units: 9
A Unit Road Numbers: 601, 801–808
B Unit Road Numbers: 601B, 801B–808B

Northern Pacific Railway
Quantity A Units: 22
Quantity B Units: 22
A Unit Road Numbers: 6000A,D-6010A,D
B Unit Road Numbers: 6000B,C-6010B,C
Note: Renumbered 5400ABCD–5410ABCD (ABBA).

Reading Railroad
Quantity A Units: 10
Quantity B Units: 10
A Unit Road Numbers: 250A–259A
B Unit Road Numbers: 250B–259B

St. Louis Southwestern Railway
Quantity A Units: 10
Quantity B Units: 10
A Unit Road Numbers: 900A,D, 905A,D, 910A,D, 915A,D, 920A,D
B Unit Road Numbers: 900B,C, 905B,C, 910B,C, 915B,C, 920B,C
Note: Renumbered 901–904; 906-909; 911-914; 916-919; and 921-924 (A odd, B even) 920D wrecked 11/16/1948 and rebuilt on a F7 frame, 921 wrecked 11/29/1949 and rebuilt on a F7 frame.

Seaboard Air Line Railway
Quantity A Units: 22
Quantity B Units: 22
A Unit Road Numbers: 4000–4021
B Unit Road Numbers: 4100–4121

Southern Railway
Quantity A Units: 36
Quantity B Units: 28
A Unit Road Numbers: 4100–4127, 6101-6104, 6800–6803
B Unit Road Numbers: 4100–4119, 6152-6155, 6825-6828
Note: 6825-6828 short B units. Many renumbered.

Western Pacific Railroad
Quantity A Units: 24
Quantity B Units: 24
A Unit Road Numbers: 901,C–906,C, 907A,D–912A,D
B Unit Road Numbers: 901A,B–906A,B, 907B,C–912B,C
Note: 901,A,B,C–906,B,C,D re-suffixed 901ABCD–906ABCD.

Totals: 555 A Units,  541 B Units

Surviving units
Multiple EMD FT units survive today. They include the lead A-unit from demonstrator No. 103 displayed at the Museum of Transportation in St. Louis, Missouri. It is paired with one FT B-unit. (The B Unit is on loan from the Virginia Museum of Transportation). Both units are cosmetically restored and painted in the original GM demonstrator paint however, only the A unit is from the original demonstrator set which eventually went to work for Southern Railway. Only the single A unit at St. Louis is from the demonstrator. The two B units and the other A were eventually scrapped after years of service. The B unit now on display at St. Louis, originally just a random FT B unit, was later stripped of its engine and other locomotive parts and converted to a boiler car. It later went to the museum in Virginia. In 1989, this former FT B unit as well as the genuine demonstrator A unit from St. Louis were repainted in the original demonstrator colors for a celebration at EMD (McCook, Illinois, often described by mailing address LaGrange) for the 50th anniversary of the FT. They toured together and then were returned to their respective museum owners.

An FT A unit, FSBC 2203-A on display in Mexico, which was originally built for the Northern Pacific Railway.

Three B-units from the Southern Railway are preserved. #960604 is at the Southeastern Railway Museum in Duluth, Georgia, and #960602 is in Conway, South Carolina, and #960603 is at the Museum of Transportation in St. Louis, Missouri.

See also:

List of EMC-EMD Locomotives

Diesel-Electric Locomotives

EMC-EMD

An EMD FT Slideshow.

The nose of GM 103, the first EMD FT, on display at Railfair '91 at the California State Railroad Museum in Sacramento, California, May 10, 1991. Photo by Sean Lamb.    By No machine-readable author provided. Slambo assumed (based on copyright claims). [CC BY-SA 2.5 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.5)], via Wikimedia Commons

EMD logo.
The nose of GM 103, the first EMD FT, on display at Railfair '91 at the California State Railroad Museum in Sacramento, California, May 10, 1991. Photo by Sean Lamb.
GM Builder's portrait of Reading FT No. 250.

GM Builder's portrait of Reading FT No. 250.

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