EMD F-units; on Sierra Leone 1850 (Scott) sheetlet

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DRGW 5771

If there is one locomotive series that paved the way for dieselization in North America more than any other, it would have to be the F-series locomotives of General Motors Electro-Motive Division. The first true F unit was the FT, first produced in 1939. F units were originally designed and sold as two-unit pairs of, usually, one cab-equipped A unit and cabless B unit drawbarred together like the Denver & Rio Grande set of F9s at the Colorado Railroad Museum (shown here). EMD built almost 1,000 FT units in the A and B configurations together, while later models were produced in even higher numbers. With their high production numbers and widespread use on both passenger and freight trains up through the 1970s in regular service, the EMD F series has appeared on numerous stamp issues. Let's take a closer look at one set from Sierra Leone...

Sierra Leone sheet of F-unit stamps

This miniature sheet of 12 stamps from Sierra Leone, listed in the Scott catalog as number 1850, is part of a series of three miniature sheets depicting railroads of the world. While the other two sheets include images of diesel and electric equipment from around the world, this sheet contains images only of United States railroads and except for two of them, only EMD F series locomotives. The locomotives depicted are:

Denver & Rio Grande Western
EMD FT
Central of Georgia 802
EMD E7
Seaboard Coast Line
EMD FT
Missouri Pacific
EMD E3
Santa Fe
EMD FT
Milwaukee Road
EMD FT
Texas & Pacific
EMD F7
Soo Line 2225-A
EMD F7
Western Pacific 901
EMD FT
Great Northern
EMD FT
Baltimore & Ohio
EMD FT
Rock Island
EMD FT

In the eight stamps depicting EMD FT locomotives, we get an idea of just how widespread the purchases of this model were. There are images of FTs in service on southwest (Rio Grande and Santa Fe), west and northwest (Western Pacific and Great Northern), midwest (Milwaukee Road), south central (Rock Island), southeast (Seaboard Coast Line) and northeast (Baltimore & Ohio) railroads. The other railroads represented here further show how widespread the F and later 6-axle E unit series had become. EMD was given a boost during World War II as wartime restrictions on domestic production were put into effect across the country. Alco and Baldwin, which had also begun building their own diesel locomotive models in the late 1930s, were ordered to build steam locomotives to proven designs. Alco had been in the steam locomotive business since its creation in 1901 (through the merger of several smaller manufacturing companies that dated back to the mid 1800s), and Baldwin had been building steam locomotives starting with a demonstration model built by Matthias Baldwin in 1831. Since EMD had never been a steam locomotive builder, the company was allowed to continue diesel locomotive production. By the end of the war, EMD had built almost 1,000 FT units, and was about to begin production of about 100 F2 locomotives, followed shortly by the beginning of F3 production in 1946. Eventually, EMD built almost 1,800 F3s and over 3,800 F7s before the mid 1950s. With diesel locomotives like these, North American railroads were able to operate longer and heavier trains with only one engine crew. Diesels also didn't need extensive water supply facilities, since their power is not derived from steam. The railroads that adopted diesel power saw cost savings in operations and maintenance, and the EMD F and E series helped lead the way.