EMD Technical Publications

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By Preston Cook

(mirrored with permission, from Railway Preservation News)

(Preston Cook has worked in the locomotive building industry for 35 years, serving in a variety of technical jobs for two locomotive manufacturers, and has done historic and technical presentations at museums and historical societies.)

Over their many years of building diesel locomotives, Electro-Motive produced and distributed a wide range of technical publications in support of maintenance and modernization programs for their products. Some of these publications, like operators manuals and parts books, had standardized content intended for widespread distribution to the customers owning and operating the locomotives, and are more commonly encountered due to their large print runs. Other publications were intended for internal communication or limited distribution, and are less frequently seen. There were also a number of periodical publications issued by EMD, which sometimes show up as individual issues but seldom are seen in complete sets. This article is written to provide an introduction to some of the technical publications other than operators manuals and parts books, and to describe their typical scope of content and define the time period when they were produced.

The titles and format of EMD technical publications were divided into two groups by time period, we will take a look at the typical publications of each era in this article. Please note that Sales Brochures, published Technical Papers, procedural manuals, Training Center handouts, and other single use materials that were not distributed periodically are not included in this discussion.

The First Publication Series - 1936 Through 1953

General Service Bulletins

The General Service Bulletin (GSB) system was a Service Department publication adopted in 1936 and was openly distributed to EMD Sales and Service personnel and to customers. The bulletin series started at Number 1 and terminated at Number 600 in 1953. They could be anywhere from one to six pages in length and each one dealt with a specific maintenance procedure or issue. Some of the bulletins in the series were specific guides for modernization procedures such as the installation of winterization packages, some covered the disassembly, rebuilding, and reassembly of specific hardware, and some were notices about service problems.

When the GSB was discontinued in 1953, the contents of some of the bulletins that dealt with general guidelines for locomotive maintenance or rebuilding of specific equipment were carried forward as topics in the numbered Maintenance Instruction system which had been started in the late 1940s and eventually replaced the GSB completely. This extension of continuity led to a wholesale dumping of GSB files by many railroad personnel, who consolidated their reference material around the newer publications. Consequently a full set of General Service Bulletins is a very rare item nowadays. This is unfortunate because the GSB system provides an extremely valuable guide to the early years of diesel production at EMD, since many of the service problems that led to redesign of systems in later locomotives are clearly identified and explained.

Genuine Parts Pointers

Genuine Parts Pointers (GPP) was an EMD Parts Department publication that was sent openly to customers and to EMD field sales and service personnel. Its primary purpose was to notify the customer base of the introduction of improved new parts, to advise them on the proper procedures and methods for ordering and returning parts, and to make general announcements about changes in parts and events like plant closures for inventory that might have a direct effect on parts availability.

Genuine Parts Pointers was introduced in 1946 and went through four numbered volumes of publication before its discontinuance in 1953. It was replaced by the later title EMD Pointers, a publication that combined many of the elements of Genuine Parts Pointers, Field Service News, and General Service Bulletins.

Field Service News

The Field Service News was originally adopted as an internal newsletter published by the Service Department and circulated to all the field sales and service personnel. It initially dealt almost exclusively with internal business, but as it progressed the focus was increasingly toward locomotive production and deliveries, and the activities of the sales and service departments. When the EMD Pointers publication was introduced in 1954 the field service news was discontinued, and its more generalized announcements were folded into EMD Pointers and distributed to the customers as well as EMD people, while the more confidential communications were increasingly handled by direct letters between La Grange and the people in the field.

Product Development

Product Development was a fine internal newsletter developed by the Sales Department and circulated to the field sales and service staff. This publication featured articles about the introduction of new products, and frequently included detailed artwork and drawings supporting product improvements. Because of the very small printing runs and primarily internal distribution, the Product Development newsletter is very difficult to find in complete sets nowadays.

The Second Publications Series - 1954 Through The Present

Maintenance Instructions

The EMD Maintenance Instructions actually predated the rest of the 1954 publications, they were first issued in the late 1940s as specific instructions for the rebuilding of items of equipment. However starting in 1954 they absorbed all of the functions of the General Service Bulletins, and incorporated additional topics dealing with scheduled maintenance programs, qualification of parts, and alignment of equipment. The EMD MI's are numbered from 100 through 9999, roughly grouped in number series by type of equipment and function. Not all of the numbers in the series have been applied to documents. There has also been some confusion generated by the re-use of numbers for successive documents pertaining to different equipment, especially in the 5000 series numbers.

Modification Instructions and Modernization Recommendations

Modification Instructions and Modernization Recommendations (ModRecs) were a separate group of Maintenance Instructions that were solely concerned with the installation of upgrade kits to address service problems and the adaptability of later design parts to older products respectively. These documents were published in a Maintenance Instruction format, but were kept in a separate number system. They were first numbered in the 5000 series, but as the number of MI's increased they were moved to the 9500 series. This resulted in them being grouped together at the end of the EMD MI book, where they were easy to access.

EMD Pointers

The EMD Pointers publication series was introduced in 1954 and is significant in being the point at which the commercial Sales and Service Department organization took over the direct communication with the customers from the Parts Department. The new Pointers publication absorbed many of the functions of the previous Genuine Parts Pointers, the Field Service News, and some of the tasks previously covered by issues of the General Service Bulletins.

It was published at irregular intervals from 1954 into the 1990s, when its functions were partially taken over by individual Service Advisory newsletters. During the very active production periods of the 1960s and 1970s, it was not unusual for there to be as many as 25 issues of EMD Pointers in a single year.

Unfortunately the Service Department chose to use several numbering schemes on EMD Pointers over its four decades of printings. The earliest issues have a Volume Number and Issue Number in addition to the publication date. The Volume and Issue numbers were dropped by about 1958 and replaced by only the date of issue. Then beginning in the late 1970s EMD began printing separate issues for locomotive, marine, and industrial customers and adopted a numbering scheme such as 1L-78 (first issue, locomotive, in 1978). This was subsequently replaced in the 1990s with an issue code such as MM000001 (someone optimistically expected they would issue a million topics), while the previous code system was also included in a small text block in the publication. All these changes in issue designations make the indexes rather confusing, and also make it more difficult to describe the publication in any database indexing system.

Inside EMD

Inside EMD was originally introduced as a Parts Department newsletter to notify customers and field sales personnel of the availability of new and improved parts, special deals on parts through sales or inventory closeouts, or of matters of policy pertaining to the sales and marketing of parts. The publication was introduced in the middle of 1953 and issues appeared at irregular intervals for several decades. The name "Inside EMD" was subsequently adapted in the 1980s for the internal company newspaper when it was considered that "The Streamliner," which had been the company newspaper for many decades, was an out of date image.

The original "Inside EMD," printed in the 1950s and 1960s, was one of the most basic of the EMD internal commercial publications. It was printed on inexpensive paper and seldom included any photographs. However it frequently contained technical information that was not conveyed in any other publications. Due to the very small print runs surviving copies of this newsletter are very hard to find and should be preserved whenever they are encountered. This publication should not be confused with much more recent issues of the company newspaper, originally the STREAMLINER, which was subsequently renamed INSIDE EMD.

"Inside EMD" is also the name adopted by the author of this article for a two hour color slide tour program of the original La Grange plant, which was introduced in 2003 after the plant had been demolished.

Irregularly Issued And Updated Handout Publications

There were a number of irregularly issued handout publications which were distributed to customers either by direct mailing or the participation in Service Department Training Center class sessions. These included booklets on cooling water treatment, fuel quality, lube oil specifications, locomotive performance, and other topics.

Electro-Motive also distributed some corporate publications to customers, training center students, and plant visitors. A typical example would be the booklet "Diesel The Modern Power" which was first printed in the 1930s and then was updated with new product and engine artwork at irregular intervals for several decades.

The Key To Using EMD Publication Indexes

Throughout the seventy years that Electro-Motive has been producing publications in support of their diesel locomotive products, they have periodically issued indexes to the service publications. Most of these were turned out on an annual basis, and in the first series of publications between 1936 and 1953 the index covered nearly all the topics that had been presented in the series. After the change to the second series of publications beginning in 1954, the indexes also provided fairly complete coverage for that series up until the early 1970s. At that time it became evident that the index was getting much too large and was maintaining listings of some items that were obsolete, so the size was reduced by limiting the listings to the topics that were considered to still be current and relevant to the recent product line.

From a practical standpoint of doing research or trying to find information on an obscure point of equipment maintenance, having seventy years of indexes to look through is almost as long a process as trying to find a particular item by going page to page in the service publication files. I would like to offer the suggestion that the indexes that are the most useful, and therefore the ones to seek if they become available through a collectible paper dealer on eBay, are the indexes issued in years where there was a major change in the product line. These indexes list most of the service material pertinent to the preceding series of locomotives without being confused by material on the new product line. The resulting yearly indexes to watch for are:

The Needle In The Haystack

Many people have commented to me over the years, that trying to find information in EMD publications of the 1960s-1970s is like trying to find a needle in a haystack. You search and search and search, and when you finally locate the details they are only listed on one page in one document, while they might pertain to topics in other documents or a complete manual.

The folks that comment about this are absolutely correct, the information usually is found in only one place, it was done that way intentionally. The gentleman who managed Service Publications for many years had as a principal philosophy the belief that if you only put the information in one place you would only have to go to one place to correct it when the Engineering Department changed it. He commented about that many times in talks during lunch hours at the plant.

Current EMD Publication Distribution

Many major suppliers of diesel engines and related parts have gone to a practice of posting their publicly distributed service bulletins as PDF files on their websites for free downloads. The method of distribution is now used by Detroit Diesel, Woodward Governor Company, and other widely recognized suppliers of diesel power. However, Electro-Motive is still distributing their service publications by request from known owner/operators or through their authorized distributors and service centers. They may have intellectual property and copyright concerns that mandate this method of distribution, but it makes the process of requesting and receiving information extremely slow and costly for their distributors and customers. It also does nothing to prevent service material from ending up in the hands of competitors, most of them can obtain it easily with a call to a friend on a railroad. If Electro-Motive were to go to website distribution of service materials it would be a major help to the preservation community and might also lessen the technical question load on Rail Systems Inc., their authorized distributor for short line and industrial railroads, located in Houma, Louisiana.

EMD service materials and publications pertaining to their older products presently are only available where and when you can find them. eBay is presently one of the best shopping areas, but items there are heavily fought over and sometimes command very impressive prices. This kind of material had very limited distribution, and it will become increasingly rare as the years pass. Collections of technical documents deserve to be preserved, indexed, and backed up in electronic format wherever possible. The objective in writing this article is to make the preservation community more aware of the value of this kind of material so that in those rare instances where it becomes available, it is recognized and properly preserved for future reference.