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EMD E5 - A Locomotive Profile



Only one E5, Silver Pilot, remains.

©2013 Ryan C Kunkle, licensed to About.com, Inc.

Only the Burlington purchased the E5, clad in stainless steel for their Zephyr trains.

Prototype History

Builder: General Motors, Electro Motive Division (EMD)
AAR Type: A1A-A1A
Dates Built: 1940-1941
Number Built: 11 A, 5B
Horsepower: 2,000
Engine: 12-567
Length: 72ft

In 1940, EMD's famous E-series of locomotives were still essentially unique models delivered to single buyers - much like the passenger steam locomotives they were meant to replace. The sixth offering in this line, the E5, was no exception.

All sixteen units (11 A units with control cabs and 5 B units without) were delivered to the Chicago Burlington and Quincy and its subsidiaries the Colorado and Southern and Fort Worth and Denver. The Burlington maintained these subsidiary roads as separate corporate identities due to state laws which required the railroads' corporate headquarters to be housed in Texas.

Having tested the E3, the Burlington liked the locomotive but wanted a very specific look. The railroad had made national headlines with its Zephyr diesel passenger train in the 1930s. The public responded well to the stainless steel and unique lines of the Budd-built train. Ultimately, some compromises were made, but the Q even had fake grills installed on the nose. (These were later removed and replaces with paint.)

The E5 was similar to the previous E2, E3 and E4 models. The most dramatic difference was the polished stainless steel exterior. Each of the locomotives was named (including the B units.) In early years, the locomotives even had stainless skirt panels added to the trucks. These were later removed to make maintenance easier.

The E5 also had a unique angled roof vent arrangement which was slightly different from earlier models and the subsequent E6. Like previous models, the E6 was designed for passenger service, built around a pair of diesel engines (in this case the 12-cylinder 567 model) and rode on a pair of A-1-A trucks. That is, the six wheel trucks had two powered axles around an unpowered idler for weight distribution.

One locomotive, Silver Pilot, is preserved today at the Illinois Railway Museum and is run on special occasions along with a Nebraska Zephyr 5-car trainset.

Operating Railroads

  • Chicago Burlington and Quincy - 9A, 3B
  • Colorado and Southern - 1A, 1B
  • Fort Worth and Denver - 1A, 1B


Until just very recently, the E5 has only been produced in limited run brass imports in any scale. Key Imports recently modeled both an early and late version of the locomotives with many modifications in O Scale (2 rail.)

Kato announced a new N scale model late in 2012. In other scales, an E6 would be the most logical starting point for a kitbash. Except for the differences in the roof vents, addition of fluted stainless steel side panels on the carbody would be the only major changes needed.

Like all E-units, the locomotives' long frame may pose some problems on tighter radius curves, especially when coupled to equally long scale-length passenger cars. Despite those limitations, the sleek and brilliant stainless steel streek would be an attraction on any railroad.

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