The EMD F59PH/F59PHI was a series of 3,000 hp diesel-electric locomotives which served in both the United States and Canada on various commuter and intercity services.


The EMD F59PH came to fruition as a result of the Toronto area GO Transit, who was in need of a modern passenger locomotive for its commuter trains serving the greater Toronto area. The locomotive was built with close communication with GO Transit, ensuring the agency’s needs were met. EMD proposed the F59PH design would be based on the company’s GP59 freight locomotive, however, a full width cowled carbody, Canadian safety cab, modified gearing, and HEP would be implemented. The GO Transit operations division communicated to EMD what needs had to be met, and worked alongside to design their ideal passenger locomotive.

F59PH #862 hauls a Metrolink train along the coast of the Pacific Ocean. Russel Sullivan photo

The locomotives began rolling out of the London, Ontario facility in 1988, and were a great success, as GO Transit purchased 49 examples of the type, and retired most of the existing locomotives on their roster. The locomotives continued to prove their worth, leading California’s then recently formed Metrolink, to order 25 examples of the type for its Los Angeles area commuter operations.

These are the only two operators who purchased the locomotives new from the factory, however, many have received them second-hand from GO Transit, such as Amtrak’s state sponsored NCDOT services in North Carolina, which were rebuild by MPI, Montreal’s Exo (formerly AMT), Fort Worth’s Trinity Railway Express, and Chicago’s Metra commuter service. Additionally, five of Metrolink’s units have been rebuilt, receiving a new EMD 12-710G3A prime mover, and updated cooling equipment, upgrading the locomotives to FRA tier 2 standards.


The F59PH (Full cowl 59 series, Passenger gearing, Head-end power) included an EMD 12-710G3A prime mover, producing 3,000 horsepower, and delivering 65,195 lbs of tractive effort to the rail-head. The units were improved from the builder’s venerable F40PH series locomotive, including a front walkway with easy access to the cab, and improved exterior access to the prime mover and other vital electronics.

The locomotive’s four axle design is common with most modern passenger diesels, which rides on EMD’s blomberg truck assemblies. Interestingly, the locomotives are equipped with three-piece window assembly, while many EMD models during the period had two-piece window assemblies, and the Canadian safety cab had four-piece window assemblies.

Perhaps the most notable mechanical difference between the F40PH and F59PH was the addition of a separate HEP generator, opposed to a shaft driven prime mover powered generator on the F40PH. The addition of a separate generator allowed the locomotive to idle when stopped, and only rev up when the throttle is moved by the engineer.

F59PH Technical
Dates Built1988-1994
Total Built73
Prime MoverEMD 12-710G3A
Length58 ft 2 in
Weight260,000 lbs
Traction MotorsD87B
GO Transit49 (520-568)
Metrolink25 (851-873)
Metra3 (97-99)
Amtrak (NCDOT)6 (1810, 1859, 1871, 1893, 1894)
Trinity Railway Express7 (525,527,528,565-568)
EXO (AMT)10 (1340-1349)
RB Railway Group (RBBX)12 (18520-18524), (18531, 18537), (18538-18547), (18551,18554)
Surfliner F59PHI #456 rests between runs at Los Angeles Union Station. Jonathan Lee photo


Although the F59PH was marginally successful, it lacked many aerodynamic factors that were important to passenger train operators, as they considered amount of fuel consumption, speed, and modernity important factors in a modern passenger locomotive.

Due to Amtrak’s need for a modern passenger diesel on various intercity rail lines in California, they looked towards EMD for an updated version of the proven F59PH locomotive. Amtrak and EMD worked closely on the project, and subsequently developed the F59PHI locomotive, which was essentially a streamlined version of the F59PH. Establishing the Importance of aerodynamics, EMD completely redesigned and improved the original F59PH locomotive, which had seen much success throughout its operating years.

In 1994, Amtrak California, the state sponsored service provided by Caltrans, ordered nine examples of the locomotive for their Capitol and San Joaquin corridor trains. With its modern streamlined look, and top speed of 110 mph, the F59PHI proved the ideal locomotive. Further orders were placed by Amtrak in 1996, when they purchased 16, 11 for the Pacific Surfliner service and five for the Amtrak Cascades.

Metrolink F59PH #861 rests at San Bernardino, California in 1995. Ed Gately Photo

With the eminent success of the locomotives on Amtrak services, commuter railroads began placing orders for the units, including Seattle’s Sound Transit, San Diego’s Coaster, Los Angeles’ Metrolink, Fort Worth’s Trinity Railway Express, Amtrak’s state supported Piedmont trains in North Carolina, Montreal’s AMT, and Vancouver’s West Coast Express. Although successful, EMD ended production of the locomotive in 2001, due to the locomotive’s non-compliance towards newly implemented emissions standards.

Although production ceased in 2001, the locomotives remained in service for many years, with many operators rebuilding the locomotives to upgrade them to tier 3 standards as opposed to purchasing new. Although many Amtrak routes in California and the Pacific Northwest have retired the F59PHI locomotives in favor of Siemens Chargers and EMD F125’s, the locomotives have been purchased by other operators such as Metra, and continue to provide reliable service to their new operators.

F59PHI Technical

The F59PHI, the “I” denoting the isolated cab, has an updated prime mover, the EMD 12-710G3B-EC, producing 3,000 horsepower, 65,195 lbf of tractive effort, and has a maximum speed of 110 mph. Interestingly, the locomotive is the first to meet California’s strict emissions standard when introduced in 1994.

The main exterior differences between the two locomotives was the addition of a removable nose piece to streamline repairs, a side skirt over the entire length of the fuel tank, and rounded castings on the roof near the radiator fans. Additionally, the locomotive had improved crew comforts with the addition of an isolated cab, meaning it’s separate from the locomotive’s frame, lessening noise and vibrations. Similar to its earlier F59PH counterpart, the locomotive includes an HEP generator separate from the prime mover.

A recently acquired F59PHI from the Surfliner powers a Metra Milwaukee District train through bustling Chicago. Jonathan Lee photo
Date Built1994-2001
Number Built83
Max Speed110 mph
Weight265,000 lbs
Length56’ 2”
HeightCab: 15’ 07.5”

Engine Hood: 15’ 04.5”

Prime MoverEMD 710G3C-EC
Main GeneratorGM-AR15
Fuel Capacity1,500 gallons

Courtesy of The Diesel Shop

Original Operators
Amtrak17, NCDOT: 1755,1797

Caltrans: 2001-2009, 2010-2015

Surfliner: 450-470

Metrolink14, 874-887
Coaster2, 3001-3002
Sound Transit11, 901-911
Trinity Railway Express2, 569-570
West Coast Express5, 901-905

Second-Hand Operators

Metra73-93, ex-Surfliner



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