Photo of the first streamlined train from 1934-"The City of Salina" at top with a photo of "The City of Los Angeles" (going eastbound by the train number). The combination photo was issued by the Union Pacific Railroad to mark the 19th anniversary of the first streamlined train (The City of Salina) and to promote their latest streamlined passenger trains. Circa 1953.  (Union Pacific Publicity Dept., Public domain, via W. Lenheim Collection)


A diesel locomotive is a type of railway locomotive in which the prime mover is a diesel engine. Several types of diesel locomotives have been developed, differing mainly in the means by which mechanical power is conveyed to the driving wheels.

Early internal combustion locomotives and railcars used kerosene and gasoline as their fuel. Rudolf Diesel patented his first compression-ignition engine in 1898, and steady improvements to the design of diesel engines reduced their physical size and improved their power-to-weight ratios to a point where one could be mounted in a locomotive. Internal combustion engines only operate efficiently within a limited power band, and while low power gasoline engines could be coupled to mechanical transmissions, the more powerful diesel engines required the development of new forms of transmission. This is because clutches would need to be very large at these power levels and would not fit in a standard 2.5 m (8 ft 2 in)-wide locomotive frame, or wear too quickly to be useful.

The first successful diesel engines used diesel–electric transmissions, and by 1925 a small number of diesel locomotives of 600 hp (450 kW) were in service in the United States. Diesel–electric propulsion was brought to high-speed mainline passenger service in late 1934, largely through the research and development efforts of General Motors dating back to the late 1920s and advances in lightweight car body design by the Budd Company.

The economic recovery from World War II caused the widespread adoption of diesel locomotives in many countries. They offered greater flexibility and performance than steam locomotives, as well as substantially lower operating and maintenance costs


Diesel-Electric Locomotives List by Manufacturer


AGEIR (Alco-GE-Ingersoll-Rand)

American Locomotive Company (ALCO)


Baldwin Locomotive Works (BLW)

Canadian Locomotive Works (CLC) F-M Units

Electro-Motive Corporation (EMC)

Electro-Motive Diesel (EMD)

Fairbanks-Morse (F-M)

General Electric (GE)

General Motors Diesel (GMD) (Canada)

General Motors-Electro-Motive Division (GM-EMD)

Ingalls Shipbuilding

Lima-Hamilton Corporation

Montreal Locomotive Works (Canada)

National Railway Equipment Company

Siemens Mobility