The Illustrated History of North America’s Favorite Locomotives
Author: Brian Solomon
Blending automotive manufacturing and styling techniques with state-of-the-art diesel-electric technologies, General Motors’ Electro-Motive Division conceived and marketed America’s first commercially successful road diesels: the fabulous E-Units and F-Units.
Beginning in 1939 with the first 1,350-horsepower FT demonstrator built for the Southern Railway, the Electro-Motive Division of General Motors introduced dynamic braking, electrical motor transition, and a 16-cylinder version of the 567 engine that powered the early Es. This illustrated companion to Voyageur Press’ Alco Locomotives (2009) and Baldwin Locomotives (2010) is the most comprehensive history of the most recognizable locomotives ever built. Along with the 1939 debut of the fast and powerful E-Units designed for long-haul passenger service, author Brian Solomon treats readers to a wonderful array of archival imagery while explaining the impact the locomotives made on the locomotive market and the railroad industry.
Dean Vinson: As the subtitle states, “The illustrated history of North America’s favorite locomotives.” Longtime railroad enthusiast and author Solomon surveys the history of the classic streamlined diesel-electric locomotives that revolutionized both the nature of railroading (from steam to diesel) and the nature of locomotive building (from unique designs developed by and for each individual railroad, to standard designs adaptable to any railroad). The book ranges from the birth of the Electro-Motive Company to development of the “567” class diesel engine, through the various models of E and F units in their heyday, to the continued use today of Es and Fs on various railroads’ flagship executive fleets. Wonderful vintage color and black-and-white photos, along with modern photos of surviving Es and Fs still in operation, illustrate the text. As is often the case with general history texts, I sometimes found myself wanting more detail: More nuts and bolts, so to speak, about the various iterations of generator sets or traction motors or various truck designs, or more operational details from the perspectives of train crews or railroad executives. But all of those subjects are at least touched on, and I recognize the limits of time and pages–no one book could contain all the details various readers might want. For fans of EMD’s first-generation diesel locomotives, this book is a keeper.
John N. Botens: This elegant volume takes its place beside others in author Brian Solomon’s studies of railroad technology. He has applied his broad knowledge of railroading to show how General Motors got into diesel development in the 1930s and introduced the first locomotive that was rugged and powerful enough to haul freight trains. GM engineers used their skills in design and marketing of automobiles to demonstrate the superiority of their new product. Though their production was limited by World War Two, they continued to refine their designs, emphasizing power, reliability and interchangeability of parts. GM locomotives in passenger service became icons for a sleek new look that railroads wanted to keep people riding trains.
Author Solomon supplies just enough technical details to show why GM’s product was so successful, illustrating its development with a lavish display of color pictures of the locomotives and trains on a variety of railroad lines. I bought my copy from Amazon.
Paul Lantz:The subject is a fascinating one, E and F units are the classic diesel locomotives to me. They are the ones that my childhood train sets came with. I bought this book as an e-book and read it using the Kindle app on my iPad. I was a little hesitant about spending so much on an ebook; I have had disappointments before, particuarly with the way that they handle illustrations. This book was reasonably good as an ebook, I could magnify the illustrations and compensate for my ancient eyes.
At the same time that the book is a very good facsimile of the printed book, I think it could be more. Once you get away from paper you can get away from limitations on illustration. It would have been nice to have had more illustrations, especially more interior shots.
One problem with larger format books is the difficulty in holding them comfortably. The ebook takes care of that as well as removing the need to find bookshelf space.
Overall a good effort, probably just as a satisfying to read as the printed book would have been.