The brand new EMD FT locomotives of the Milwaukee Road, November 20, 1947.

(EMD, Minneapolis Tribune, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons)


Electro-Motive Diesel, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons.


The EMD FT is a 1,350-horsepower (1,010 kW) diesel-electric locomotive that was produced between March 1939 and November 1945, by General Motors' Electro-Motive Corporation (EMC), later known as GM Electro-Motive Division (EMD). The "F" stood for Fourteen Hundred (1400) horsepower (rounded from 1350) and the "T" for Twin, as it came standard in a two-unit set. The design was developed from the TA model built for the C,RI&P in 1937, and was similar in cylinder count, axle count, length, and layout. All told 555 cab-equipped ”A” units were built, along with 541 cabless booster or ”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.


A Great Northern Railway freight train led by EMD FT locomotives, November 11, 1946.

(Great Northern Railway, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons)


Design and production

The first units produced for a customer were built in December 1940 and January 1941 for the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Railway and numbered the 100 set. These were the first diesel-electric locomotives ever produced with dynamic braking, a system developed at the insistence of the railroad and with its assistance. Initially the four-unit, coupler-equipped set featured two booster units between two cab units in the manner of the demonstrator set. The Brotherhoods of Locomotive Engineers and Firemen, however, insisted that the two cabs required two crews, so the railway had EMD produce extra boosters, and renumbered its earliest sets into four unit sets with one cab unit and three boosters. Negotiation with the unions soon rectified the situation, but as the road's earliest units were geared for higher speeds than subsequent units, these sets continued to be composed of one FTA cab unit and three FTB boosters. This is why the road had ten more FTB booster units than FTA cab units. The original A-B-B-A demonstrator set was sold to the Southern Railway.

The FT was equipped with the EMD 567 medium-speed two-stroke cycle Diesel engine, along with its many successors.

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 (2,000 kW). 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 (4,000 kW). Some railroads purchased semi-permanently coupled A-B-A three-unit sets of 4,050 hp (3,020 kW). All units in a consist could be run from one cab; multiple unit (MU) control systems linked the units together. Some roads, like the initial customer Santa Fe, ordered all their FTs with regular couplers on both ends of each unit for added flexibility. This package included "hostler" controls for B units, enabling these units to be operated independently of A units for moving within yard limits, and a fifth porthole was provided in the carbody to enable the "hostler" some measure of visibility. Internally, EMD referred to these units as model FS.


Postcard photo of EMD FT locomotives at the Santa Fe roundhouse at San Bernadino, California.

This facility maintained both diesel and steam locomotives as well as various train cars for the railway.

(Mike Roberts, Berkeley, California, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons)


Engine and powertrain

The FT introduced a 16-cylinder version of the 567 (later 567A) series engine developing 1,350 hp (1,010 kW) at 800 rpm. Designed specifically for railroad locomotives, this mechanically scavenged (Roots-blown) two stroke 45 degree V type, with an 8+1⁄2 in (216 mm) bore by 10 in (254 mm) stroke giving 567 cubic inches (9.29 L) 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.

Only the four demonstrator FTs used the 567 U-Deck engine. Those engines were replaced in the demonstrators by 567 V-Deck engines before sale to the Southern in May 1941. All FT locomotives built between December 1940 and February 1943 used the 567 V-Deck engine. The 567 V-Deck engine was replaced in production with the 567A engine in May 1943. All subsequent FT locomotives built from May 1943 to the end of production in November 1945 used the 567A engine.


CRIP No. 96, an EMD FT, passing the Ottawa, Illinois Rock Island station on June 10, 1962.

(Roger Puta, courtesy Marty Bernard, railfan 44, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons)


Body recognition and appearance

The FT is very similar to the later F-units in appearance, but there are some differences that 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.

As with other early cab units - but unlike "hood" type locomotives - the F (and E) series used the body as a structural element, similar to a truss bridge. Most of EMD's newer passenger locomotives have a non-structural “cowl” type body built on an underframe derived from freight designs.


Washing one of the Santa Fe R.R. 54 hundred horse power diesel freight locomotives in the roundhouse, Argentine, Kansas. Argentine yard is at Kansas City, Kansas. March 1943. (Jack Delano, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons)

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 (Slambo assumed (based on copyright claims)., CC BY-SA 2.5 <>, via Wikimedia Commons)


Wartime restrictions

During World War II, locomotive production was regulated by the War Production Board. First priority for the diesel prime movers' manufacturing capability, as well as the materials used in the fabrication and assembly of the engines, electric generators and traction motors was for military use. Steam locomotives could be built with fewer precious materials, and with less conflict with military needs. It was also opportune for eastern railroads to stick with coal-fired steam power while petroleum distribution to the east coast was disrupted in early days of the US war effort. The traditional locomotive builders were prohibited from developing or building diesel road locomotives until early 1945, with the exception of a few dual-service ALCO DL-109s for the New Haven Railway. EMD, however, was purely a diesel builder, and therefore was allowed to build diesel freight locomotives, as consistent with fulfilling Navy needs for their 567 engines. The WPB assigned the FTs to the railroads it deemed most able to benefit from the new locomotives. 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. 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.

The 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 suited for high capacity road use. Other locomotive manufacturers, under extreme competitive pressure from EMD's high-powered and reliable 567 engine in the early postwar era, embarked upon crash development programs that yielded unsatisfactory results. EMD's advantage resulted in their selling the vast majority of units in the dieselization era and a death spiral for all who tried to compete with them in the early postwar market.


Photo of Santa Fe's first FT locomotives on their first cross-country trip. This shows the locomotives headed by Santa Fe FT No. 100 as they were placed into service in 1941. (Santa Fe Railway, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons)

Winslow, Arizona. Engineer George Bertino in the cab of his EMD FT diesel freight engine, ready to pull out of the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Railroad yard in March of 1943. (Jack Delano, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons)


Subsequent models

The FT was discontinued in late 1945, replaced in production by the F2, which retained the 1,350 hp (1,010 kW) 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

Railroad Quantity A units Quantity B units Road numbers A units Road numbers B units Notes
Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Railway 155 165 100-104, 105,C–179,C 100A,B,C-104A,B,C, 105A,B–179A,B Nearly all of these units were renumbered.
Atlantic Coast Line Railroad 24 24 300–323 300B–323B 317 wrecked 11/50, rebuilt to F7 317:2 5/51.
Baltimore and Ohio Railroad 12 12 1,A–11,A (odd) 1X,AX–11X,AX (odd) 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 24 24 4200A–4223A 4200B–4223B
Chicago and North Western Railway 4 4 5400A,D–5401A,D 5400B,C–5401B,C Renumbered 4051A–4054A (A) and 4051B–4054B (B). All rebuilt to FP9 and F9(B) specs in 1955 (only 1500 hp), same numbers
Chicago, Burlington and Quincy Railroad 32 32 100A,D–115A,D 100B,C–115B,C 100–104 renumbered 150B,C-154B,C, 155A,B-159A,B
Chicago, Milwaukee, St. Paul and Pacific Railroad 26 26 35A,D–47A,D 35B,C–47B,C
Chicago, Rock Island and Pacific Railroad 20 16 70,A–73,A 88–99 70B–73B, 88A–99A 70B–73B short B units 88A-99A resuffixed 88B–99B
Delaware, Lackawanna and Western Railroad 12 8 601A,C–603A,C 651A–654A 601B–604B 651B–654B 601B–604B short B units. To Erie Lackawanna
Denver and Rio Grande Western Railroad 24 24 540A,D–551A,D 540B,C–551B,C Renumbered 5401/2/3/4–5511/2/3/4 (ABBA)
Electro-Motive Division (demonstrator) 2 2 103,A 103(b),A Sold to Southern Railway in May 1941 as 6100ABCD. It was renumbered 6100, 6150, 6151, 6105.
Erie Railroad 12 12 700A,D–705A,D 700B,C–705B,C to Erie Lackawanna
Great Northern Railway 51 45 250A-258A, 300A,C-305A,C, 400A,D-428A,D even 250B-258B, 300B-305B, 400B,C-428B,C even 300B-305B short B units, 5600AB, 5700AB, 5701AB, 5900AB renumbered
Lehigh Valley Railroad 4 4 500–503 500B–503B Renumbered 500–507 (A even, B odd)
Minneapolis and St. Louis Railway 4 2 445A,C, 545A,C 445B, 545B Short B units. All rebuilt to 1500 hp GP9M in 1956-1957
Missouri Pacific Railroad 12 12 501–512 501B–512B
New York Central Railroad 4 4 1600–1603 2400–2403
New York, Ontario and Western Railway 9 9 601, 801–808 601B, 801B–808B
Northern Pacific Railway 22 22 6000A,D-6010A,D 6000B,C-6010B,C Renumbered 5400ABCD–5410ABCD (ABBA)
Reading Company 10 10 250A–259A 250B–259B
Seaboard Air Line Railway 22 22 4000–4021 4100–4121
Southern Railway 36 28 4100–4127, 6101-6104, 6800–6803 4100–4119, 6152-6155, 6825-6828 6825-6828 short B units. Many renumbered.
St. Louis Southwestern Railway 10 10 900A,D, 905A,D, 910A,D, 915A,D, 920A,D 900B,C, 905B,C, 910B,C, 915B,C, 920B,C Renumbered 901–904; 906-909; 911-914; 916-919; and 921-924 (A odd, B even) 920ABCD wrecked 11/16/1948. 920D rebuilt on F7 underframe, 920B,C rebuilt as FTBM, 921 wrecked 11/29/1949 and rebuilt on a F7 underframe.
Western Pacific Railroad 24 24 901,C–906,C 907A,D–912A,D 901A,B–906A,B 907B,C–912B,C 901,A,B,C–906,B,C,D resuffixed 901ABCD–906ABCD
Totals 555 541

Western Pacific EMD FTA 903-A, November 27, 1963, at Clyde, Illinois. 

This is the end of the line. Western Pacific 903-A has been delivered to the scrapper in a trade in to EMD for new GP35 3001.

It has been in service since January, 1942.

(Craig Garver from Tucson, Arizona, United States, CC0, via Wikimedia Commons)



Type and origin
Power type: Diesel-electric
Builder: General Motors Electro-Motive Division (EMD)
Model: FTA (cab unit), FTB (regular booster), and FTSB (short booster)
Build date: March 1939 – November 1945
Total produced: 555 A units, 541 B units
​• AAR B-B (B-B+B-B for AB set)
Gauge: 4 ft 8+1⁄2 in (1,435 mm)
Performance figures
Maximum speed: 65–95 mph (105–153 km/h)
Power output: 1,350 hp (1,010 kW) for A unit. 2,700 hp (2,000 kW) for AB set
Locale: United States


Photo of GM-EMD FT Demonstrator No. 103, September 6, 1940. Click to enlarge.

(Decatur Daily Review, AP photo, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons)