Real diesel locomotives are actually closer in lineage to Lionel model train versions than most would realize. Most diesel trains are more accurately called diesel electric trains. This is because the diesel is actually used to fuel a constantly running electric generator. This generator then supplies electric current to very powerful traction motors located in the locomotive train’s trucks (wheel assembly) making the train go. So just like in the real world, Lionel model train engines use electric motors to pull themselves down the track.
Initially, Lionel was slow to adapt and build diesel engine locomotive trains however in 1948 this really changed and Lionel began production of it’s F3 locomotive models. Lionel scored a big success with it’s F3 line of diesel engines, producing up to 125 of the most ubiquitous Santa Fe F3 models per hour.
The real life F3 Locomotive was produced in a joint collaboration between General Motors (EMD or Electro Motive Division is a General Motors subsidiary), The New York Central and Santa Fe railroads. In a very unusual move for a model train, the Lionel Model F3 diesel Engine was also jointly created by the same companies involved in the real life version; GM, The New York Central and Santa Fe railroads, of course with the addition of Lionel.
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Not wanting to be left out of the action, American Locomotive Company or ALCO teamed up with General Electric to produce their own diesel locomotive engine called the Freight-A unit or FA. The FA locomotive was the ALCO equivalent to the EMD F3. In fact they look very similar and both the F3 and FA locomotive engines can utilize a B unit and or additional A units in multiple unit lash up configurations such as AA, AB or ABA.