FAIRFIELD — General Electric Co. (GE) is expanding its locomotive production and will add 500 jobs in Fort Worth, Tex., the headquarters for the Northern Santa Fe Railroad.

GE Transportation, the $3.7 billion division of GE, will invest $96 million in the Texas plant, its first U.S. manufacturing plan outside its Erie, Pa. base in more than a century.

The Erie plant will also see an increase of 250 new jobs, bringing the transportation global unit total to 10,000 employees.

GE officials cited Texas as having the most railroad route miles in the U.S. It is served by the nation’s largest railroad, Union Pacific Corp. (UNP), with 8,000 locomotives, and Burlington Northern, with 6,000.

The Lone Star State will be paying $4.2 million of the freight for the plant.

GE is pinning its hopes on an emerging global markets, an improving economy, driven by more manufacturing in the U.S. and its lobbying efforts to expand Amtrak and high-speed rail.

GE Transportation says it has booked orders over the past two years from China, Kazakhstan, South Africa and Brazil. It is currently running a $4.1 billion backlog of locomotive orders — 40 percent higher than last year.

U.S. rail volumes excluding grain and coal shipments rose 7.9 percent to 4.6 million carloads in the quarter ended March 31, according to Association of American Railroads, a trade group. The increase was the was the second-highest for a first quarter after last year’s 9.3 percent advance.

Bloomberg News reported that GE Chief Financial Officer Keith Sherin told an April 21 conference call that first-quarter orders for rail cars (which GE does not manufacture) rose to their highest level since 1997.

 Metro-North’s new M-8 cars, the first of which entered service last month, include products from two Connecticut manufacturers.

The cars’ interior and external lighting systems were supplied by Trans-Lite Inc. of Milford. Founded in 1887 as the Safety Car Heating & Lighting Co., Trans-Lite designs and manufactures transportation related lighting and destination sign equipment that is found on most transit systems throughout the U.S.

Most of the locks, latches and other special hardware for the M-8 coaches were made by the 170-year-old James L. Howard & Co. of Bloomfield, which manufactures locks, latches, keys and other types of specialty hardware for the railroad and subway industries. Howard performs all design, manufacturing and assembly work in-house.