Two CDOT FL9's lead a Metro-North Waterbury Branch train past High Rock park near Beacon Falls, Conn., on April 18, 2008. In their last years, it was not uncommon to see FL9s doubled-up to protect against failure on the road.
The FL9's Final Decade
By Otto M. Vondrak/photos by the author
Welcome to Photo Line! Production of EMD's famous F-unit line with its signature "bulldog" nose went into formal production in 1939, and railroads all over the country purchased the sleek, streamlined diesels. Though it wasn't until the mid-1950s that the New Haven Railroad came calling looking for a special design that would allow their diesels to draw power off the 600-volt third rail systems in the Grand Cental and Penn Station terminal zones around New York City. The cash-strapped railroad was looking to cut costs, and the turn of the century high-voltage A.C. catenary system was the target.
The five-axle EMD FL9 was the answer, with deliveries beginning in 1956. When the final unit was delivered in 1960, it closed out the era of F-unit production in North America. The dual-powered FL9s served through Penn Central and Conrail, but finished their careers with Amtrak and Metro-North. At the dawn of the 21st century, only a handful remained in service, confined to branch line shuttle services. By January 2009, the last F-units were shut down for good and an era of classic railroading came to an end. Join associate editor Otto Vondrak for a fond look back at the FL9's final decade.
Morning local at Dock Siding
On a beautiful summer morning in July 2008, a two-car Danbury Branch local rolls past Dock Siding in South Norwalk, Conn. CDOT FL9m 2027 was rebuilt by Morrison-Knudsen in 1993 from former NH 2015.
Little Brother, Big Brother
The difference in length is apparent with Metro-North FL9 2003 is coupled up to F10 (rebuilt F3) 411 at the Croton-Harmon shop complex. Four F10s were acquired from MBTA in 1991 for branchline duty to free up third-rail capable units for New York through trains.
Reflections on Ansonia
CDOT FL9 2016 is shoving its train north along the Naugatuck River into the station stop at Asonia, Conn., in August 2007. Normally locomotives are found on the north end of all trains, but occasionally the branch line trains could be found with their engines facing south.
Like the Days of Old
Striking a classic pose under wire on the old New Haven main line, two CDOT FL9s shove their Danbury Branch train at track speed through Noroton Heights, Conn., in 2008. Most Danbury trains terminate at South Norwalk, except for one morning and one evening rush hour train that run all the way to Stamford.
New Haven meets New York Central
Metro-North had painted two FL9s into classic New York Central lightning stripe paint to celebate the 150th anniversary of the Hudson River Railroad. CDOT 2027 with Train 1871 arrives at Wilton, Conn., while "NYC" 2012 prepares to head north with Extra Train 3832 on July 15, 2005. This was the last revenue movement for 2012, which suffered HEP failure after this trip.
CDOT 2011 at Bridgeport
A morning Waterbury Branch train departs Bridgeport, Conn., with CDOT FL9 2011 in the lead on June 8, 2008. This portion of the elevated viaduct through the city skirts the edge of Long Island Sound.
A Grand Exit
The Danbury Branch peels off from the New Haven main line at South Norwalk, Conn., atop an elevated portion nicknamed the "Chinese Wall." On May 9, 2008, CDOT 2027 and 2011 roll north over Marshall Street with an evening run bound for Danbury.
CDOT 2014 speeds past Umpawaug Pond near Topstone, Conn., on June 13, 2007. Built as NH 2041, it because Metro-North 2014 before it was transferred to CDOT and sent to Morrison-Knudsen for rebuiding in 1992. The unit caught fire in 1998, but was repaired and repainted in 1999.
As Far North as You Can Go
Metro-North opened a six-mile extension of the Harlem Line from Dover Plains to Wassaic, N.Y., rebuilding track on the existing roadbed that once ran all the way up to Chatham. We are 82 miles north of the bumping block at Grand Central, in the Taconic Foothills that lead to the majestic Berkshire Mountains. CDOT 2011 has just brought its weekend upper Harlem Line shuttle to a rest alongside Route 22 at Wassaic in 2008.
Contemplative mood at Stratford
A pair of CDOT FL9s are shoving against their two-car Waterbury Branch train as they depart from a brief station stop at Stratford, Conn., on May 6, 2008. Did the commuter on the platform know that the classic cab units were on borrowed time?
Veteran and Successor at Danbury
CDOT FL9 2016 arrives at Danbury station while CDOT P32AC-DM 228 lays over with a New York through train on July 31, 2004. The large sphere at right was a gas storage tank, since removed.
Brass City Limited
With the busy junction of Route 8 and I-84 looming in the distance, two CDOT FL9s pull their train out of Waterbury, Conn., on May 7, 2008.
Out to Pasture
Metro-North FL9 2008, and F10s 411 and 410 await shipment the scrap processor in Ohio from the CSX Croton West Yard on May 2, 2010. At the time of this writing, only a single FL9 remains in storage at Harmon, while CDOT retains their small fleet in storage at New Haven.