CN 902, a preserved GMD NF110 narrow gauge locomotive.

(Jsp3970, Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons)



Not to be confused with General Motors Diesel Division.

General Motors Diesel was a railway diesel locomotive manufacturer located in London, Ontario, Canada. It was established in 1949 as the Canadian subsidiary of the Electro-Motive Diesel division of General Motors (EMD). In 1969 it was re-organized as the "Diesel Division of General Motors of Canada, Ltd." The plant was re-purposed to include manufacture of other diesel-powered General Motors vehicles such as buses. Following the Canada-United States Free Trade Agreement in 1989, all of EMD's locomotives were built at the London facility. In 2005 new owners of EMD renamed the Canadian subsidiary "Electro-Motive Canada". The plant was closed by EMD's new owner Progress Rail in 2012, with EMD's production remaining in LaGrange, Illinois and Muncie, Indiana.



Early diesel locomotive manufacturing in Canada

Diesel-electric locomotives were built in Canada beginning in 1928. The earliest diesels were custom built one-of-a-kind designs such as Canadian Nationals numbers 9000 and 9001 and Canadian Pacific number 7000. After these unique locomotives, steam remained in favor for road service owing to the higher initial costs and lower reliability of early diesel locomotives. The benefit of diesels was largely their reduced operating costs compared to steam, but they had to be kept going to pay for themselves. Increased utilization was key to their cost benefits. The greatest savings were to be had in yard service, where switching often meant idling that maximized the efficiency advantages of diesel over steam. Through the 1930s into the 1940s the largest market for diesel-electric locomotives was for switchers such as the ALCO S-2 and the EMD NW2.

Tariffs protected Canadian manufacturers against imported goods, thus many companies wanting to do business in Canada set up controlled or wholly owned subsidiaries in Canada. General Motors Diesel, Ltd., was EMD's subsidiary organized for that purpose. Montreal Locomotive Works (MLW) in Montreal served a similar purpose for the American Locomotive Company (ALCO) and the Canadian Locomotive Company (CLC) in Kingston served a similar purpose for Baldwin Locomotive Works. MLW and CLC also produced steam and diesel engines of their own designs. The growing market for diesels in Canada meant it became worthwhile to build facilities in Canada to avoid import duties. While MLW and CLC both utilized existing steam locomotive erecting shops in Montreal and Kingston, respectively; General Motors, never having built steam locomotives, required a new facility.


Ownership changes

In the 2000s, GM reorganized the Canadian Diesel Division holdings and separated a portion out under the name "GM Defense". After a successful joint venture company between General Dynamics Land Systems and GM Defense (the "GM-GDLS Defense Group Ltd") with the award of the US Army Stryker contract, the defense side of the Canadian operations was sold to General Dynamics in 2003.

On April 4, 2005, GM sold its EMD subsidiary with its London and LaGrange operations to a partnership between Greenbriar Equity Group and Berkshire Partners. The company was renamed "Electro-Motive Diesel, Inc", thus retaining the EMD initials. EMD's Canadian subsidiary was renamed "Electro-Motive Canada". In 2010 EMD and its Canadian subsidiary were acquired by Caterpillar's subsidiary Progress Rail.

The end

The plant was closed in 2012, after a labor dispute and construction of a new plant in Muncie, Indiana.

In 2015 McLaughlin Brothers and J-AAR Excavating jointly acquire the plant facility. HCL Logistics moved into the plant space after consolidating their London operations and is partner with General Dynamics Land Systems in the same site.



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