Wabtec Corporation was formed in November 1999 when Westinghouse Air Brake Company merged with MotivePower Industries, Inc.

The original Westinghouse Air Brake was founded in 1869 by George Westinghouse shortly after he successfully demonstrated the first straight air brake systems to the railroad industry. Three years later, Westinghouse developed the first automatic air brake system, which had a built-in safeguard whereby the brakes on the entire train would apply automatically if the train should separate or if air pressure should escape due to leakage in the system. This system was first installed on a Pennsylvania Railroad passenger train in Pittsburgh in 1872, and its efficiency dramatically improved the safety and popularity of rail transportation in North America. Throughout the 20th century, Westinghouse Air Brake maintained worldwide leadership in rail equipment technologies designed to improve the safety and productivity of customers in the transportation industries. In 1990, the company's assets and the WABCO name were purchased in a management buyout, and a new WABCO was created that went public in 1995.

MotivePower Industries began rebuilding locomotives for U.S. railroads in the early 1970s. In 1991, the company initiated a strategy to expand its capabilities by acquiring various companies that manufactured and distributed locomotive parts. Each of the acquired companies provided value-added, engineered products and had leading market shares. The company went public in 1994.

Today, Wabtec manufactures a broad range of products for locomotives, freight cars and passenger transit vehicles. The company also builds new locomotives up to 4,000 horsepower and provides aftermarket services.