EMD's E Unit:
The Streamlined Bulldog



In June of 1937, the Baltimore and Ohio became one of the first railroads to place the EMD E unit passenger diesel in mainline service. This was to begin a love affair that railroads would have with the E for over 25 years. Most of the passenger trains in the country would eventually be pulled by these handsome diesels with the "bulldog" nose. Many of the others would be pulled by EMD F units, also suitable for passenger runs, while Alco PAs, FPAs, and a few other models handled what little this left for them. In all, 1314 E units were sold, compared to only 297 Alco PAs. The E unit, like EMD in general, dominated the passenger motive power department.

Note: 10 different models of the E were built. I have chosen to present technical data on the E7 because it was the most popular and was produced at about the same time as the PA and provides a good comparison between the 2 competitors.

Technical Data:

Model: E7
Horsepower: 2000
Tractive Effort: 51,250 lbs.
Engines: 2 EMD 567
12 Cylinders each
Produced: 1945-1949
Units sold: 428(A units)
82(B units)

Models Produced: EA, E1-E9 1098 (A units)
216 (B units)
Total: 1314

Technical Features:

1. The E was just over 70 feet long, 11 feet wide, and almost 15 feet tall. Each truck was 14 feet long. Each unit weighed 315,000lbs., with 205,000 lbs. on the driving wheels.
2. Maximum speed was 98 m.p.h. on a gear ratio of 55:22. A gear ratio of 57:20 allowed 85 m.p.h., 92 m.p.h. on 56:21, and 117 m.p.h. on a ratio of 52:25.
3. The E unit required 2 EMD 567 engines to develop 2000 horsepower. The Alco PA, on the other hand, only needed one engine to match this. The 567 eventually developed into more advanced A, B, and C versions over the 25 year production run. Horsepower increased from 2000 to 2400 by the time production ended in 1963.
4. The prime mover of an E could be changed-out relatively easily, therefore many units were re-engined over their careers.
5. Most Es served for over 15 years before the inevitable torch was turned on them. Many survived for more than 20 years.Some registered over 6,000,000 miles on their odometers when retired!
6. The E carried 1200 gallons of fuel and 330 gallons of oil for lubrication. 1350 gallons of feed water was provided for the passenger-heating boiler and 436 gallons were carried as engine coolant.
7. Since the E used 2 engines to generate 2000 horsepower, turbochargers were not installed.
8. Dynamic brakes were optional and not offered on early models. (Competition with the PA changed this)
9. Es were occasionally regeared and used for freight service by some railroads.

Historical Analysis:

The E unit has become, like most cab units, a classic. The sleek, streamlined design was very much a product of the Art Deco era in which everything, even a toaster, was streamlined! The E was one of the first passenger diesels and the first in regular production. (The E6 was the first production version according to EMD)
The E outsold it's principal competitor, the PA, by more than 4 to 1. If you saw a passenger train in the forties, fifties, or sixties, odds were it was pulled by an E.

There are approximately 100 Es still with us. There condition varies widely. Some have been converted to power cars and fuel tenders, while others serve as static displays minus their prime movers. Others rust away in backlots, like an L&N E6 at the Kentucky Railway Museum, awaiting restoration. But some of the luckier ones are operational and still haul passengers on excursions. Several railroads, like Union Pacific, Kansas City Southern, Canadian National, Wisconsin Southern, and others, use Es to pull special inspections and occasional railfan trips. If you look for them, you'll find an E somewhere.

Railfan Perspective:

The E is very popular with railfans. It is a very good looking locomotive that revolutionized passenger travel in the U.S. and Canada. It took on the steam locomotive and won. Most of the premier passenger trains, ranging from the Super Chief and 20th Century Limited, to the lowliest coach train, had an E at the front. That record should speak for itself.


E8#814 in the handsome color scheme of the merged Erie-Lackawanna Railroad. Photo courtesy of George Elwood.



 "The American Diesel Locomotive" Brian Soloman. MBI Publishing. 2000.

 "Modern Diesel Locomotives" Hans Halberstadt. MBI Publishing. 1996

"Vintage Diesel Locomotives" Mike Schafer. MBI Publishing. 1998

"A Field Guide to Trains" Gerald Foster. Houghton-Mifflin. 1996

 "Diesel Locomotives: The First 50 Years" Louis A. Marre. Kalmback Books. 1995

 "The Encyclopedia of Trains and Locomotives" C.J. Riley. MetroBooks. 1995

 "The Railroad Encyclopedia" Edited by Anthony Lambert. Eaglemoss Productions. 1996

 "B&O E. Unit Diesel Passenger Locomotives" Douglas B. Nuckles with Thomas W. Dixon. TLC Pub. 1994

Diesel Era Magazine

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Railway Technical Web Pages site. 


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