SPECIAL OFFER: Buy today and get FREE shipping worldwide on any order! No minimum purchase required.

A Closer Look at the History of Diesel Locomotives


The year 1918 marked the precursor to the diesel locomotives we know today. The United States, much like the rest of the world, had enjoyed the fruits of its labor during the Industrial Age of the previous centuries. At that time, the steam-powered locomotive was born and train travel became a necessity for some, and a luxury for others, seeking to travel across the great nation. Technology wanted to move past the steam engine, however, and a company by the name of American Locomotive Company -- ALCO -- partnered with two major players remaining in the industry today, Ingersoll-Rand and General Electric, to design a diesel-powered motor car to run on the Jay Street Connecting Railroad #4 in New York City.

The GM-50, as it was called, was the first diesel-electric powered vehicle to find its way on the railroad tracks, and by 1924 the trio of companies had designed a more advanced diesel motor that powered a 60-ton boxcar. The Central Railroad of New Jersey purchased the engine that produced 300 horsepower of energy, and the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad, commonly known as B&O in those days, followed suit. Working with B&O, the Electro-Motive Corporation, which later became known as General Motor's Electro-Motive Division, fine-tuned the diesel-electric locomotive design in the 1930s and B&O began running the engines on North American railroads.

Diesel-electric locomotives took off because experts and laypeople alike easily understood their mechanics. A diesel locomotive generates energy to produce enough power to drive the electrical generator found within the engine. The generator powers the traction motors, and the traction motors are the engines that turn the locomotive's wheels. This series of one powerful piece supporting and driving another powerful piece produces an efficient way to propel the immense locomotive across the tracks, far more efficient than a steam engine. Each part of the diesel-electric motor serves its own purpose, and the diesel-electric locomotive generates and utilizes its own power to motion the train.

As the technology behind the diesel engines advanced, B&O continued to run its trains on diesel-electric power. By 1935, B&O was powering its smaller passenger trains using diesel-electric locomotives, and as the technology evolved over the next 50 years, diesel-electric engines beefed up the power to lead heavier passenger and large freight trains across the country. Part of the reason the railroad companies stuck with diesel was its efficiency. Diesel-electric locomotives ran with less fueling than steam locomotives. This kept the trains moving on the tracks instead of having to stop frequently to "refuel" with water and oil. Diesel-electric locomotives also required less maintenance than steam-powered engines. This also kept the engines on the tracks, moving and making money, instead of "in the shop" costing money. Diesel-electric locomotive engines won the hearts of many a railroad company because they were more profitable than a steam-powered locomotive.

Today, new companies have taken over where the American Locomotive Company and the ALCO-GE-IR trio left off. A newer incarnation of diesel-electric manufacturers is a partnership between Electro-Motive Diesel and GE. This company has been building diesel-electric locomotives since 2005. Steam locomotives, and the companies who produced them, finally fell out of complete favor in the mid-20th century, with the final standing steam locomotive manufacturer, ALCO, closing its doors prior to 1970. Advancement in technology does that -- removes once key players from the game. In part because the key players might not understand the wave of the future; in part because advancements in technology produce a more efficient way to do things. The diesel-electric locomotive is a prime example of technology catching up to the needs of the industry and the people who run it.

For more information on diesel-electric powered locomotives and American railroads, please consult the following links:

Any questions?

We're here to help! So contact us, or read our FAQs.

Order Today

It takes minutes to order and minutes to fit, so why wait? Buy now with complete confidence!

Find Your Vechicle »

What others are saying...

“A friend recommended one of your "gadgets" a year ago and being not-very-techno (but Scottish and keen to save money!) I bought one. The gizmo has TRANSFORMED the performance of my Land Rover Freelander 2 TD4 AND improved the fuel economy by a genuine 15%; so much so that I have bought another one for our Freelander 2 SD4 which is now a REAL Q-car! (And of course saves fuel...) I have never written a review before (though strangely I do read them and take notice of them, whilst half-believing that they are written by the owner's chums!) so to have made me pick up pen & paper so to speak - I MUST be delighted! Thanks for making technology so simple and so successful!”

★★★★★

Andrew from Lochwinnoch

Land Rover Freelander (2) SD4 190

“Be assured, this is NO gimmick. Arrived yesterday (less then 24 hours after the order was placed) and fitted today. The fitting was easy especially with the photos and instructions sent with the chip. The first thing I noticed was the responsiveness of the engine from a standing start, no more lag. I then went on a 30 minute drive both motorway and sideroads and my average fuel consumption went UP from 33.3mpg to 38.7mpg. My motorway speed varied from 60 to 85mph and the sideroads from zero to 40mph. I am so pleased with the whole result. This is worth every single penny paid. Thank you!”

★★★★★

Edwin from Bridgend

Ford Kuga MK2 2.0 TDCi 163

“Many thanks for your fantastic service! Unit ordered Sunday, delivered Tuesday am!! Unit now fitted and, as promised, the car is transformed. Winding country lanes tackled quite happily in fifth gear. Cruising on much smaller throttle openings and immediate response on acceleration. The car behaves as a mini car should behave. I had some initial doubts about spending quite a large amount of money on this item but it is worth every penny and would not hesitate to advise anyone to do similar.”

★★★★★

Alan from Coventry

Suzuki Swift 1.3 DDIS 75

“I was a sceptic at first, then after reading the experiences others had been through I decided to give it a go. I bought a new 1.7 CRDI Sportage, not the 2ltr purely for better fuel figures. Whilst this engine pulls very well in standard form, and was returning 44-45mpg even during the first 500 miles I had to go down the CHIP Express route. Well, there is absolutely no point in forking out the extra 2 grand for the 2 litre model when you can get the 1.7 and spend much less to get 2 litre power figures. Excuse the cliché’s, but this car is transformed and by a big margin too. From what I can remember about my 2 litre test drive, my 1.7 now pulls better than the 2 litre version. The low-down grunt is remarkable and pulls like the proverbial train. Fitting took minutes and was effortless, the box was kept on factory settings, I feel there is no need to mess with it. Needless to say I am now a very happy boy and would without question take this route again. I would recommend this to any diesel Sportage owner. Many, many thanks for a remarkable product and a customer service that is rare in this country!”

★★★★★

Ron from Thetford

Kia Sportage MK3 1.7 CRDI 116

“I must say l'm delighted with the improvement from your chip, its on the standard settings and the difference in the car is amazing!!! I have a smile on my face every time I get in the car, and there is about 5-7mpg improvement. With the mileage l do, l can see myself getting my money back in no time at all. So if your a doubter like me, don't be because its one of the best things l've ever bought!!!”

★★★★★

Ian from Manchester

Audi A6 MK4 3.0 BiTDI 313

“May I congratulate you on this diesel tuning product as it has made a noticeable difference to my Land Rover Discovery. I have tried other diesel tuning boxes for my previous vehicles (Kia Sorento, Peugeot 206 and Vauxhall Vectra)... and they all produced slight engine stuttering under certain load conditions. The CHIP Express system does not show any evidence of this and is equal to the likes of an ECU remap (which I have also had done before) for smoothness and noticeable power gains. This would be the only diesel tuning product I would recommend.”

★★★★★

James from Callington

Land Rover Discovery (3) 2.7 TDV6 190