My fascination with trains has a particular focus on the birth and early years of what became the utterly dominant GM EMD two-stroke diesel-electric locomotives. My story of EMD’s early streamlined locomotives through the final “classic” E-9 is here. But I recently cracked open Alfread Sloan’s excellent “My Years With General Motors”, and found perhaps the best documentation yet of just how exactly GM came to be involved in this business, created the first successful high-power American diesel locomotive engine, and turned it into a near monopoly. Kettering’s breakthrough two-stroke diesel engine was of course also scaled down by him to create the equally dominant Detroit Diesel engine, which too came to dominate the bus market, and be highly competitive in the truck market, as well as the mid-sized “Cleveland” engines, equally predominant in submarine and other marine applications.
Rather than try to re-write the story myself, it’s really best heard in Sloan’s lucid writing. It’s a bit long. and maybe not everyone’s cup of tea, but it sure is mine.