By Otto M. Vondrak/photos by the author
Welcome to Photo Line! Production of EMD’s famous F-unit line with its signature “bulldog” nose went into formal production in 1939, and railroads all over the country purchased the sleek, streamlined diesels. Though it wasn’t until the mid-1950s that the New Haven Railroad came calling looking for a special design that would allow their diesels to draw power off the 600-volt third rail systems in the Grand Cental and Penn Station terminal zones around New York City. The cash-strapped railroad was looking to cut costs, and the turn of the century high-voltage A.C. catenary system was the target. The five-axle EMD FL9 was the answer, with deliveries beginning in 1956. When the final unit was delivered in 1960, it closed out the era of F-unit production in North America. The dual-powered FL9s served through Penn Central and Conrail, but finished their careers with Amtrak and Metro-North. At the dawn of the 21st century, only a handful remained in service, confined to branch line shuttle services. By January 2009, the last F-units were shut down for good and an era of classic railroading came to an end. Join associate editor Otto Vondrak for a fond look back at the FL9’s final decade.
Morning local at Dock Siding
On a beautiful summer morning in July 2008, a two-car Danbury Branch local rolls past Dock Siding in South Norwalk, Conn. CDOT FL9m 2027 was rebuilt by Morrison-Knudsen in 1993 from former NH 2015.
Reflections on Ansonia
CDOT FL9 2016 is shoving its train north along the Naugatuck River into the station stop at Asonia, Conn., in August 2007. Normally locomotives are found on the north end of all trains, but occasionally the branch line trains could be found with their engines facing south.
Veteran and Successor at Danbury
CDOT FL9 2016 arrives at Danbury station while CDOT P32AC-DM 228 lays over with a New York through train on July 31, 2004. The large sphere at right was a gas storage tank, since removed.
Brass City Limited
With the busy junction of Route 8 and I-84 looming in the distance, two CDOT FL9s pull their train out of Waterbury, Conn., on May 7, 2008.
On Umpawaug Pond
CDOT 2014 speeds past Umpawaug Pond near Topstone, Conn., on June 13, 2007. Built as NH 2041, it because Metro-North 2014 before it was transferred to CDOT and sent to Morrison-Knudsen for rebuiding in 1992. The unit caught fire in 1998, but was repaired and repainted in 1999.
Contemplative mood at Stratford
A pair of CDOT FL9s are shoving against their two-car Waterbury Branch train as they depart from a brief station stop at Stratford, Conn., on May 6, 2008. Did the commuter on the platform know that the classic cab units were on borrowed time?
Out to Pasture
Metro-North FL9 2008, and F10s 411 and 410 await shipment the scrap processor in Ohio from the CSX Croton West Yard on May 2, 2010. At the time of this writing, only a single FL9 remains in storage at Harmon, while CDOT retains their small fleet in storage at New Haven.