Immerse yourself in 100 years of EMD history

Immerse yourself in 100 years of EMD history

Power, performance and innovation. It is these driving factors that have made EMD® the leading diesel-electric locomotive brand for over 100 years. Today, Progress Rail continues its tradition of innovation by offering alternative fuels to help customers achieve their climate goals.

“EMD is proud of its 100 year track record of delivering proven technology and innovation to rail customers,” said Marty Haycraft, senior vice president of Caterpillar and president and CEO of Progress Rail. “We will continue to invent new ways to deliver world-class locomotives to our customers and look forward to another century of helping our customers build a better and more sustainable world.”


Harold L. “Hal” Hamilton founded the Electromotive Corporation in August 1922. He soon renamed it the Electro-Motive Company (EMC). In 1924, EMC introduced its first 150 hp Electro-Motive gas-electric rail car.

The company was sold to General Motors in 1930, where Hamilton helped develop the diesel locomotive, a vast improvement over steam locomotives. The new diesel locomotives quickly revolutionized the rail industry due to their speed and versatility. Following a merger with General Motors’ other motor division, EMC was officially renamed the Electro-Motive Division (EMD).


In addition to supplying engines for ships and submarines during World War II, Merck also developed a new welding process that helped make tanks bulletproof.

After the war, EMD’s drive for innovation continued with the development of a new passenger car that quickly became very popular with passengers. They also introduced the trailer, which allowed semi-trailers to be loaded onto a single wagon that could travel on the road, facilitating the emergence of intermodal transport.

Fast forward to the 1970s when Amtrak turned to EMD to provide long-distance passenger locomotives. In the early 1990s, EMD continued to improve productivity and efficiency by supplying computer-controlled locomotives. Throughout the 20th century, Merck’s commitment to innovation and customer satisfaction allowed it to continue to grow as other railroad companies went out of business.


In 2010, EMD was sold to Progress Rail where it was renamed Electro-Motive Diesel. This acquisition allowed EMD to leverage its global experience and partnership with Caterpillar, and in 2015 EMD introduced a new EPA Stage 4 compliant freight locomotive.

Today, Progress Rail continues to offer its customers a range of options to help them achieve their climate goals. Not only can all EMD locomotives run on 20% biodiesel, they are also experimenting with 100% biodiesel. In early 2022, BHP and Fortescue announced the purchase of EMD Joule battery electric locomotives from Progress Rail for service in Australia.

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