Book Review: Electro-Motive E-Units and F-Unit

by Steve Eshom on August 17, 2012

I was recently contacted by Voyageur Press to review 3 Brian Soloman authored books.  This review is for a volume just published in 2011.  My previous review of  Modern Diesel Power can be found here and my review of North American Railroads The Illustrated Encyclopedia can by found here.  

As most railfans know EMDs E and F units were the primary reason railroads began the movement from steam to diesel.  Their solid design, pulling power, lower operational cost, and reliability far surpassed steam locomotives and many of their competitors diesel products.  Electro Motive E-Units and F-Units dives into the history of this initial wave of road diesels.  It touches on the early EMD designs, the impact of World War II, and how EMD’s dedication to data collection and analysis turned into superior designs.

The book takes the reader through the 25 year history of E and F units and the steps EMD took toward their eventual dominance in the freight and passenger markets thanks to these locomotives.  The author, Brian Soloman, does a wonderful job of documenting the E and F unit story at times making it seem like a family tale handed down from generation to generation.

For the railfans who enjoy details the book contains many.  It does stop short of rivet counting specifics but I believe balances the right amount of detail with the overall story and time line of these historic engines.   When you finish the book you will certainly have an understanding of how EMD worked from the mid-1930s to the mid-1950s to make these locomotives the best the could be and to make them something palatable to the railroads and for the general public.  In the final chapters Mr. Soloman discusses the eventual end of their production and the fall off of their popularity as well as how many units were repurposed.

The photographs in this book are mostly historical images Mr. Soloman arranged from a variety of sources which he documents in the Acknowledgments.  The images are perfectly reproduced and many images are full page.  I didn’t tally to see if all railroads owning E’s and F’s are covered but it seems by observation most are.  One of my favorite images is a Brian Soloman original of a reproduction CNJ F unit in Pennsylvania.  The image shows off the famous bulldog nose while a later model EMD road switcher with its less streamlined style hides behind it.

Recommendation:  If you are a fan of E and F units, this book is for you!  It is an easy read and if you enjoy a wonderful historical tale this book is one for your collection.

Electo-Motive E-Units and F-Units is available for purchase on the Voyageur Press websiteAmazon, and Barnes and Noble.  It is also available as an e-book!

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