Since then, they were based in Altoona, along with the company’s 20-plus office cars. The locomotives wear a version of the former Southern Railway black-and-gray F unit paint scheme, with an image of the railroad’s thoroughbred horse on the nose of each A unit. The cars wear the Norfolk & Western’s classic Tuscan Red paint with gold lettering.
Southern, which merged with N&W in 1982 to create NS, was an early convert to diesel power, acquiring the demonstrator set of FT units that ran an 8,700-mile tour around the United States in 1939-1940. That performance widely proved the practicality of diesel-electric power in heavy freight service. Up to that time, it had been confined to lighter-duty passenger and switching service.
Built by the Electro-Motive Division of General Motors Corp. in 1952, the two A units, Nos. 270 and 271, began life as Baltimore & Ohio F7 locomotives. Rated at 1,800 hp, the A units were previously used by MARC, the Maryland Area Rail Commuter service. The B units, numbered 275 and 276 and rated at 2,000 hp, were built by EMD in 1950 for the Chicago Great Western.
The four were acquired during the administration of CEO Wick Moorman, along with three other Fs of Chicago & North Western, Canadian National, and Canadian Pacific heritage, which were stored for use as parts sources.
When NS acquired the units, it numbered the A units 4270-4271, as the highest-numbered Southern F7 unit was the 4269. The B units were numbered 4275-4276. Within the past year, the digit 4 was dropped from all four when NS’s program to rebuild standard-cab General Electric C40-9 DC-powered units into 4000-series wide-nose AC44C6M AC-powered units grew to reach into the 4200 number series.
The A units featured a camera mounted in the windshield, to provide a closed-circuit signal to TV monitors back in the train. They are also equipped with positive train control.