The EMD FT was considered the first successful diesel-electric locomotive built. It was designed and built by the Electro-Motive Corporation (now Electro-Motive Diesel) as an alternative to steam power. The name stood for "Fourteen hundred horsepower, Twin" as it came standard as a two-unit set. They were also the first products produced by EMD to use both the EMD 567 engine and the Blomberg B truck. The 567 would be a starting block for future EMD engines, and the trucks themselves are still being built for use on new locomotives.555 FTA-units and 541 FTB-units were produced.
In the 1930s, EMC ventured out into the locomotive market, with a goal to build a reliable diesel locomotive capable of replacing steam engines on services. After about 8 years of designing, the company came up with the EMD FT, a compact, streamlined 1350hp "cab unit" style locomotive with the ability to MU (Multiple unit) with other diesel units.
The FT was offered as both an A-unit and a B-unit. The A-unit had all the controls necessary to run the locomotive, along with the engine and running gear, while the B-unit was only equipped with an engine and the related running gear. With the use of MU cables, the engineer in the A-unit could control both his/her A-unit as well as the B-unit, thus giving the FT an advantage over steam locomotives; the ability to be linked up and controlled by a single operator.
Early FTs were produced in A-B-B-A sets, four units linked by drawbars. This later proved to be very inconvenient, and the drawbars were taken out and refitted with couplers.
During World War II, the production of diesel locomotives were strictly regulated. The FT was only sold to operators whom were deemed to have the most benefit from operating these. Most were allocated to Santa Fe, owing to the desert conditions they traveled through, along with the scarcity of water for steam locomotives.
The FT was discontinued and replaced by the F2 in 1945. Many FTs still survive today, either operable or preserved.