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General Motor's Electro-Motive Division produced the well-known F3 diesel for four years, between July 1945 and February 1949. During this time, approximately 1,100 lead A units were manufactured while 700 B units were built. The F3 is a 1,500-horsepower locomotive and designed to haul both freight and passenger trains. In early 1949, the F3 locomotive was replaced with an upgraded F7 locomotive.

The Lionel F3 diesel, particularly in Santa Fe colors, is both a huge success story as well as an iconic image of the Lionel electric train company. Looking back, it's hard to imagine the F3 was a production gamble by Lionel. To help offset some of the investment risk, Lionel partnered with three other corporations on the F3 project: General Motors, the New York Central railroad and the Atchison, Topeka & Santa Fe railroad. Each of these companies financially contributed to the development of the F3 in return for advertising on the new diesel. Needless to say, in addition to Lionel, all three companies received a tremendous amount of advertising from the F3 project over the past 75 years!

During the postwar years, Lionel offered the F3 in three variations: AA diesel set, AB diesel set or the ultimate ABA option -- which measured almost 39" in length!