The Story of the E-8 Engine

The 796 E-8 Locomotive

In 1937 Electro Motive Division of General Motors built the first E-Unit locomotive for the B&O Railroad. Ten different models of E-Units were built over a span of 25 years from the EA through the E9. Units were produced as A units with a cab and B units, which were cab-less and used in multi-unit lash-ups. A total of 1314 E units were produced.

These streamlined locomotives with their sloped “bulldog” nose gave the visual impression of speed and were primarily used for passenger service with a top speed that ranged from 98 to 117 miles per hour depending on the gear ratio. They outsold the competition from Alco (the PA) by 4 to 1.

The typical E unit was powered by two EMD 567 diesel prime movers that generated 1,000 horsepower each. Several later conversions increased the total power to 2,400 total horsepower. The E unit carried 1,200 gallons of fuel, 330 gallons of oil, 1,350 gallons of water for the passenger heating boiler, and 436 gallons of coolant. The overall weight of the unit surpassed 300,000 pounds. The average life span of an E unit was 15 years with some units registering over 6 million miles of travel.

The L&N ordered 4 new E8A units and took delivery of numbers 794, 795, 796, and 797 in 1953. None of these original L&N units are still in existence with all succumbing to the scrapper’s torch. Only about 100 E Units are left in existence. Their condition varies from the lucky operational units working excursion trains to those that are rusting away awaiting restoration.

Our locomotive has been re-numbered 796 to reflect one of the original L&N order, with the number chosen through a national contest. It actually began life for the Chicago and Northwestern Railroad in 1953 as #5028A. It was renumbered 513 when it entered commuter service and kept that number when it was sold to Chicago area METRA. It later was re-numbered Kalamazoo, Lake Shore & Chicago #95 and Wisconsin & Southern #95 before finding its way to the Arkansas Railway Museum in Pine Bluff. The Friends of the Depot acquired the locomotive in 2006 and contracted Mid-America Locomotive in Evansville, Indiana, to do the restoration. We initially believed it to be a three to six month process but due to unforeseen structural damage, the restoration took much longer. With the help of some of our volunteer members, the final metalwork progressed to finish.  The engine was later delivered and opened for touring in 2013.

The cab area is restored to near original condition so a visitor can see and feel how it would be at the controls of an E8A. The diesel engines have been removed and that space contains a history of passenger locomotion of United States Railroading. The addition of this engine is the showpiece of our passenger train consist at the museum leading the Railway Post Office car, the Duncan Hines Diner car, Towering Pine sleeper, and the 353 L&N Presidential car down our imaginary mainline to the Sunny South.