ASME-Landmark:Electro-Motive FT Freight-Service Diesel-Electric Locomotive


The lead unit of the four-unit EMD-103 demonstrator locomotive became the prototype of the first mass-produced diesel-electric locomotives used for freight service in the United States. They rapidly replaced the steam locomotive. Called "the diesel that did it" in a February 1960 edition of Trains magazine, it was a revolutionary step for the rail industry.

Electro-Motive No. 103 was a 193-foot-long, 900,000-pound, 5,400-horsepower diesel-electric road freight locomotive designed by Richard M. Dilworth, chief engineer of the Electro-Motive Division of the General Motors Corporation. It set out on an 83,764-mile working journey from coast to coast, running freight hauls in 35 states. No. 103 met and overmatched the best performance steam could offer, consistently beating steam freight schedules for comparable tonnage hauls. One of its best test performances was running a tough climb on the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad's Cumberland Division; steam locomotives at the time required two helper engines and 80.5 minutes to run the section, averaging 8.4 miles per hour, but when the No. 103 tackled the climb, it made the run alone in 41.3 minutes, averaging 16.6 miles per hour.

After its eleven-month testing phase running hauls in thirty-five states between November 1939 and October 1940, the locomotive was reconditioned, painted Southern Railway's black and white livery, and was in regular service as Southern Railway Locomotive #6100 from 1941 to 1960.

Little more than a year after its retirement, the unit took up residence at the National Museum of Transport at St. Louis, where it remains on display. See ASME website for more information