From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search
Janesville & Southeastern BL2, at NRM, Green Bay, 20040426.jpg
Janesville & Southeastern #52 at the National Railroad Museum. It is now operating as Saratoga and North Creek Railway #52.
Type and origin
Power type Diesel-electric
Builder General Motors Electro-Motive Division (EMD)
Model BL2
Build date September 1947 – May 1949
Total produced 59
AAR wheel arr. B-B
Gauge 4 ft 8 12 in (1,435 mm)
Prime mover EMD 567B
Engine type V16
Cylinders 16
Performance figures
Power output 1,500 hp (1,100 kW)
Tractive effort 56,200 lbf (250 kN)
Operator(s) See "original Owners"
Locale United States

The EMD BL2 is a four-axle B-B road switcher built by General Motors Electro-Motive Division (EMD). Often considered the "Ugly Duckling" of diesel offerings from EMD, the BL2 set the stage for the company's widely successful GP series of locomotives.


EMD's diesel program was well underway in the late 1940s and early 1950s, thanks to the success of the company's FT demonstrations across the country. While the F-units in production were great for moving trains over the railroad, their full-width carbody made it difficult for locomotive crews to see to the rear of the locomotive. The F-units also lacked locations for brakemen or switchmen to stand and ride short distances while performing switching duties. The F-units had grab irons and stirrup steps, but these features were a hindrance in locations with tight clearances.

Since the engine inside the locomotive's hood didn't take up the full carbody width, it seemed only logical that the hood could be "cut away" a bit to allow the crew to see and ride safely. This wasn't an entirely new idea either, as the Pennsylvania Railroad's GG1 fleet, which featured large cutout sections in its hoods, had been in service since 1934.

Another problem facing EMD was that ALCO was making inroads into a market that EMD wanted to retain. ALCO's RS series road-switchers were starting to assume many of the tasks that EMD wanted to fulfill with their locomotives. Likewise, Baldwin and Fairbanks-Morse had started their own models of road-switchers.

EMD's designers and engineers designed a carbody reminiscent of the GG1 with mechanics that contained the technical knowledge they had learned with the company's F-unit series. Starting from an F3, the result was the BL1 EMD Demonstrator #499 in September 1947. The BL1 Demonstrator was EMD Project 89499, thus the 499 Demonstrator number. The BL in the model name stood for "Branch Line", indicating that EMD felt the locomotive was best suited for light traffic and frequent switching chores.

The BL1 and BL2 were virtually identical, differing only in throttle mechanism. The only BL1 was built with an air-actuated throttle. The BL1 was converted to a BL2 in February 1948 by replacing the air-actuated throttle with a standard electrically-actuated throttle. The production BL2 used the standard electro-hydraulic governor and notched throttle as used in the F3. While EMD public relations claimed the difference between the BL1 and BL2 was a lack of MU control, photographs of the BL1 demonstrator clearly show it was MU-equipped.

This locomotive was sold for both freight and passenger service and the locomotive's intended purpose could be easily identified by the presence or absence of an exhaust stack between the two windshield panes. This exhaust stack was for the steam generator on passenger service units.

Limiting the locomotive's success were several mechanical and ergonomic features. The mechanical components within the engine compartment were difficult to access and maintain, reducing its appeal among railroad shop crews. The locomotive's carbody lacked the full-length walkways of subsequent GP diesels, making it difficult for the brakeman or switchman to move from one point on the locomotive to another during switching operations. Finally, although the industrial designers at EMD tried to build a carbody that evoked high-class passenger trains while retaining the utilitarianism of railroad work, the visual design never quite became popular. Even though the BL2 didn't succeed very well, EMD's engineers learned from the endeavor, and incorporated all of the good ideas from it into the company's widely successful GP series of locomotives.

Original owners[edit]

Railroad Quantity Road Number Remarks
Bangor and Aroostook 8 550-557 (later 50-57) All were MU as built or added by the BAR.
Boston and Maine Railroad 4 1550–1553 Steam generator; no MU.
Chesapeake and Ohio Railway¹ 14 80-85, 1840–1847 Steam generator in 83, 1840-1842 dual controls
Chicago and Eastern Illinois Railroad 2 1600-1601 Steam generator, EMD 499 to C&EI 1602
Chicago, Indianapolis and Louisville Railway ("Monon") 9 30-38
Chicago, Rock Island and Pacific Railroad 5 425-429 Steam generator added in 1951
Electro Motive Division 1 499 Demonstrator built as BL1 in 9/47, converted to BL2 in 2/48, sold to C&EI 1602 in 12/48
Florida East Coast Railway 6 601-606
Missouri Pacific Railroad 8 4104-4111
Western Maryland Railway 2 81-82 Built without MU, added later
Total 59
¹ The first six of the C&O units were actually ordered by the Pere Marquette Railway (PM), but were delivered after the C&O had purchased the PM. Units were delivered with C&O markings and PM lettering, leading to a myth that a handful were delivered before the merger with the PM.


The following BL2s have been preserved:


  • Pinkepank, Jerry A. (1973). The Second Diesel Spotter's Guide. Kalmbach Publishing Co., Milwaukee, WI. ISBN 0-89024-026-4. 
  • Holt, Brent. "The BL2: EMD's Ugly Duckling?". 
  • Dover, Dan; Skinger, Ed; Cuisinier, Win. "BL2..... A Final Study". Extra 2200 South (46): 20–24.  Drawings by Win Cuisinier (Preston Cook).

External links[edit]