From TrainSpottingWorld, for Rail fans everywhere
EMD's FT demonstrator set #103, the locomotive that sold US railroads on the freight-hauling diesel locomotive.
Power type Diesel-electric
BuilderGeneral Motors Electro-Motive Division (EMD)
ModelFTA (cab unit), FTB (regular booster), and FTSB (short booster)
Build dateNovember 1939 – November 1945
Total production555 A units, 541 B units
AAR wheel arr.B-B (B-B+B-B with the B unit)
Gaugeft 8½ in (1435 mm)
Power output2,700 hp (with the B unit)
LocaleUnited States

The EMD FT was a 1,350 hp diesel-electric locomotive produced between November 1939 and November 1945 by General Motors Electro-Motive Division (the "F" stood for "freight" and the "T" for 2700 horsepower with a 2 unit set). 555 cab-equipped A units were built, along with 541 cabless booster B units, for a total of 1,096 locomotive units constructed, 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 US railroads that the diesel-electric freight locomotive was the future, and that EMD was the manufacturer that could make it happen. Many rail historians consider the FT one of the most important locomotive models of all time.

FTs were generally marketed as semi-permanently coupled A+B sets (a lead unit and a cabless booster connected by a 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.

File:ATSF FT 144.jpg
Santa Fe FT #144 (L,A,B,C) in New Mexico, 1947. The ATSF owned the largest number of FTs. The large overhangs on the ends of the B units near the middle of the four-unit locomotive can be seen.

Recognition and visual appearance

File:GM 103 at Railfair.jpg
The nose of EMD 103 on display at Railfair '91 at the California State Railroad Museum, May 10 1991.

The FT is very similar to the later F-units in appearance, but there are some unique differences which render it distinguishable from later EMD freight cab units. The side panels of the FT were unique, but it was fairly common for railroads to alter that area 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.

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 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) which no other EMD B units had. This is not present on the B units in semi-permanently coupled A+B+A sets, which were called FTSB units (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 carbodies.

Wartime restrictions

File:ATSF FT 103.jpg
An EMD model FT of the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Railway receives service during World War II.

During World War II, locomotive production was regulated by the War Production Board. The traditional locomotive builders were prohibited from building diesel road locomotives during this time, except for a few dual-service ALCO DL-109s for the New Haven. Steam locomotives could be built with fewer precious resources, and were the proven commodity at the time.

EMD however, was purely a diesel builder, and therefore was allowed to continue building diesel freight locomotives. The WPB assigned the FT's built to the railroads it deemed most able to benefit from the new locomotives. The Santa Fe received by far the largest allocation of them, 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.

These wartime restrictions on other manufacturers' diesel programs helped ensure EMD's dominance of the postwar diesel market.

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. The F2 was produced only in 1946, after which in turn it was replaced by updated models in the EMD F-unit series, such as the F3, F7, and F9.

Original buyers

Owner Cab-equipped 'A' units Cabless booster 'B' units
Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Railway 153 167
Atlantic Coast Line Railroad 24 24
Baltimore and Ohio Railroad 14 14
Boston and Maine Railroad 24 24
Chicago and North Western Railway 4 4
Chicago, Burlington and Quincy Railroad 32 32
Chicago, Milwaukee, St. Paul and Pacific Railroad 26 26
Chicago, Rock Island and Pacific Railroad 20 16
Delaware, Lackawanna and Western Railroad 12 8
Denver and Rio Grande Western Railroad 24 24
Erie Railroad 12 12
Great Northern Railway 51 45
Lehigh Valley Railroad 4 4
Minneapolis and St. Louis Railway 4 2
Missouri Pacific Railroad 12 12
New York Central Railroad 4 4
New York, Ontario and Western Railway 9 9
Northern Pacific Railway 22 22
Reading Railroad 10 10
St. Louis Southwestern Railway 10 10
Seaboard Air Line Railroad 22 22
Southern Railway 38 30
Western Pacific Railroad 24 24

Surviving units

Five EMD FT units survive today; they include the lead unit from demonstrator #103 displayed at the National Museum of Transportation in St. Louis, Missouri; an FT A unit, on display in Mexico, which was originally built for the Northern Pacific Railway; and three B units from the Southern Railway, and one of the two original FT B-Units from the EMD 103 demonstrator set, at the Virginia Museum of Transportation.