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EMD F59PH - A Locomotive Profile



From Toronto to Dallas, this former GO Transit F59PH now hauls daily commuters past Dealey Plaza.

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

Following on the heals of the popular F40PH, the F59PH proved to be a reliable commuter hauler.

Prototype History

Builder: General Motors, Electro Motive Division (EMD)
AAR Type: BB
Dates Built: 1988 - 1994 (including derivative models)
Number Built: 83
Horsepower: 3,000
Engine: 12-710E3

After a long stretch without new passenger locomotive orders along with several unsuccessful models, EMD found a new standard with the F40PH in the 1980s. Based on the GP40-2 freight locomotive, this boxy powerhouse became the new face for passenger trains in North America.

In 1988, coinciding with the introduction of the new model 710 diesel engine, EMD dropped the F40PH from the product line and introduced the F59PH in its place. The F59PH developed the same 3,000 horsepower as the F40PH but did it with a 12 cylinder engine as opposed to the F40's 16, offering greater fuel economy.

Outwardly, the locomotives were similar to the F40PH behind the cab. The biggest difference was the change to a 3-window comfort cab with a front walkway similar to what was applied to some of EMD's early production SD60M models. This front walkway and revised cab greatly improved access and comfort for the crew, but for those who did not like the looks of the F40PH, the F59PH offered even less.

Locomotive's built for Metrolink in California were built in LaGrange, IL. Those for GO Transit came from GMD in London, Ontario. This split manufacturing was common for Canadian and US orders until EMD moved all assembly to London in 1991. In fact, the F59PH's were among the last locomotives produced in this facility.

Despite the fuel savings, EMD sold only 83 of the new locomotives to two commuter agencies. Weaker sales were to be expected as Amtrak, VIA Rail and many other passenger providers had only recently purchased the F40PH to retrofit their rosters.

Adding to the sales problem, Morrison Knudsen built "knock-off" F40PH look-alikes for several regional railroads as cheaper alternatives to the F59PH from 1988 to 1994. These included several variations of rebuilt engines for Boston, Miami, San Diego, Altamont (CA) and Caltrain.

Beginning in 1994, new P40 and P42 locomotives from General Electric began replacing the F40PH on Amtrak's intercity passenger trains. These locomotives would become the new "standard" power for Amtrak and Via. But Amtrak and others would return to EMD for several F59PHI locomotives in the coming years.

Most of the F59PH locomotives are still operating today. Metrolink continues to use all of its fleet. GO Transit has sold most of it's locomotives to other commuter agencies in the United States. Others remain stored for possible new routes in Canada. It looks like this model will continue to take people to work for many more years to come.

Operating Railroads

  • GO Transit (Toronto) - 49
  • Metrolink (Los Angeles) - 23
  • North Carolina DOT - 17 (ex GO)
  • Trinity Rail (Dallas - Fort Worth) - 8 (ex GO)
  • VIA Rail - 3 (ex GO)


Although the F59 has recently spread to several cities across the country, its relative rarity compared to the F40PH has kept any model manufacturer from reproducing this locomotive en masse. Kaslo Shops produced a kit for the shell in HO scale several years ago. These kits required a lot of extra detailing and painting and did not include a frame, trucks, or motor.

Enterprising modelers could also kitbash a model with parts from an F40PH shell and a 3-window EMD SD60M cab along with other details. These parts and locomotive models are readily available in several scales.

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