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EMD F59PHI - A Locomotive Profile



The F59PHI has worn some colorful schemes, but perhaps none more so than this one for the 10th Anniversary of Amtrak's Surfliner service.

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

The F59PHI offered an exciting new look and environmental efficency for passenger service.

Prototype History

Builder: General Motors, Electro Motive Division (EMD)
AAR Type: BB
Dates Built: 1994 - 2003
Number Built: 74
Horsepower: 3,200
Engine: 12-710G3B

In 1988, coinciding with the introduction of the new model 710 diesel engine, EMD dropped the popular 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.

Despite the fuel savings, EMD sold only 83 of the new locomotives to two commuter agencies. Weak sales can probably be attributed to the large number of F40PHs in service as well as increased competition from GE and Morrison Knudson.

Undetered, EMD engineers continued to refine the F59PH. In 1994, an improved F59PHI was released.

The F59PH had a very utilitarian look, with an F40PH carbody combined with a 3-window safety cab as seen on the SD60M. The F59PHI was radically different on the outside with new streamlined carbody.

Not only was the shape of this locomotive different, so were the materials. Parts of the carbody, including the rounded nose section, were constructed of composite materials instead of steel. This eliminated the front walkway as found on the F59PH. From the nose, the front of the locomotive sloped upward and then rounded off to the roofline above the cab. The tops of the sides also rounded into the roof as opposed to the angled tops of the F40PH and F59PH.

Internally, the locomotive used an improved version of the same diesel engine as the F59PH. A second, smaller engine powered the Head End Power generator which supplies electricity to the passenger cars for light, heat and air conditioning. This means the main engine won't be robbed of power during critical times like acceleration from station stops. The locomotives have a top speed of 110 mph.

Thanks to other refinements however, the new F59PHI was even more efficient and became the first locomotive to be complient with California's new stringent emissions standards. Consequently, most of the F59PHI locomotives in Amtrak's fleet are assigned to opperations along the west coast.

Despite these improvements, Amtrak selected General Electric's P40 and P42 "Genesis" locomotives as the main replacement for the F40PHs in nation-wide service. Consequently sales of the F59PHI were even more limited than the original F59PH. Since removing the locomotive from its line in 2003, EMD has yet to produce a new passenger diesel design.

Since 2003, Motive Power (a division of WABTEC) has been the leading supplier of passenger locomotives with their MPXpress line. To date, 200 have been delivered or are on order across three different models in the series. While there are several key spotting features which differ from the F59PHI, the overall shape of the locomotive bodies are similar.

Operating Railroads

  • Amtrak - 21 (plus 15 "Amtrak California" units owned by Caltrans)
  • AMT (Montreal) - 11
  • Coaster (San Diego) - 2
  • Metrolink (Los Angeles) - 14
  • North Carolina DOT - 2
  • Sounder (Washington State) - 11
  • Trinity Rail (Dallas - Fort Worth) - 2
  • West Coast Express - 5


Despite only selling 74 units and being concentrated on California coast routes, manufacturers in several scales have produced models of the F59PHI. Its distinctive body styling and several dynamic and attractive paint schemes have likely helped its popularity.

Z Scale: AZL
N Scale: Athearn
HO Scale: Athearn
O Scale: K-Line, MTH

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