Thursday, April 13, 2017

Locomotive Identification: It's all in the Details

Union Pacific 7681 ES44AC (labeled C45ACCTE by UP) serves as a remote-controlled Distributed Power Unit (DPU) on the KLTG2-23, on Union Pacific's Evanston Subdivision near Emory, Utah.
For experienced railfans, one can easily identify the type and manufacturer of the locomotives which power each train.  For those inclined, the same railfans can ‘guesstimate’ a time when the locomotive rolled out of the manufacturer’s factory.  But for those new to the hobby, identifying one locomotive from the next can be a genuine challenge.  But once they acquire the skill, a new interest begins in the hunt for ‘cool’ locomotives compared to ‘ordinary’ locomotives.

For the purpose of this article, we will revolve around the two largest locomotive manufacturers in the United States; General Electric, aka GE, and Electro-Motive Diesel/Division, aka EMD.  The products of both companies vary greatly, and each have their own ups and downs.  General Electric is known for it’s products of “Standard Cab” and “Safety Cab” diesels.  Their locomotives generally are cheaper than EMD’s, and have a service life of 10-20 years, with potential to run longer.  EMD locomotives vary in cab designs from type to type, but all serve the same purpose.  Although EMD locomotives are more expensive up front than GE, they can last up to 40+ years when given proper maintenance.  Both find their place in the modern railroad scene, as they ferry cars from point A to point B, whether that’s across a city, or across a whole continent.  This guide doesn’t cover all locomotives built by either company, but focuses on the more dominant freight-hauling ones found throughout the American west.


Electro-Motive Division (of General Motors) is, on average, the easiest to define the different models/ editions of locomotives, with different features characterizing each model.  EMD’s are the go-to option when it comes to yard service, with the older models providing the size, and EMD’s ability to provide the continuing life for these engines.  That said, all EMD locomotives are, if not were, rated for mainline operations.

GP15-1s are jokingly called "Mini Tunnel Motors" for a reason.  They are one of the smaller GP (or General Purpose) locomotives built by EMD, and often have the short, curved radiator at the very rear of the unit.  Most of the time these units have a smaller fuel tank, which doesn't take up the full space between the trucks.

GP38s are another iconic 4-axle locomotive which can be seen across the country.  The 38's are known for the 2 radiator fans at the rear of the unit, in addition, they had smaller fuel tanks which didn't span the whole space between the trucks.  Pictured above is a HLCX 'Leaser' locomotive, which worked in SLC during the summer of 2016 for the Union Pacific.

GP40s are considered the most common of all 'Geep' designs.  The GP40 can best be identified by its 3 rear radiator fans and it's 'boxy' design.  This particular locomotive was originally built for Baltimore & Ohio, and retains it's interesting ditch light configuration.  Nowadays it works as one of three GP40s on the Utah Railway.

GP60 (GP62)
Picture above is a duo of GP60s, which are distinguished by their large radiator fans as well as their turbochargers.  Another distinguishing feature is the full-length fuel tanks under the locomotives.

The SD40s are by far the most popular, and for sure the most iconic early 6-axle locomotive built by EMD.  They are easily identifiable by the individual features on the long hood, as well as the short radiator grates towards the rear of the unit.  These units come with rather a 'standard' nose or a 'snoot' nose.  The 'Snoots' have noses which expand well beyond the cab, (as pictured on 1831 above,) with the extra room reserved for remote control equipment.

The SD60s are known for their solid-looking frame, with some features similar to the SD40 listed above.  Although the dynamic brake fans are towards the cab, and the radiator grills are much larger than their SD40 counterpart.  These units also had the ability to come with a 'Cowl' cab.  These units, known to railfans as 'Cyclopses', are officially classified as SD60Ms.  Nowadays, SD60s are becoming few and far in between, and are a fun thing to see if someone has the opportunity.

SD70M (Flared and Non-Flared)
SD70Ms are known for their "teardrop" windshields/noses, which symmetrically slant down on both sides.  Present here are two different types of SD70Ms, with the first unit being "Non-Flared" and the second one being "Flared."  If you look at the long hood of each, it's clear why, the second unit's radiator extends outwards from the initial frame, while the other one doesn't.  The leader is also special given it's history, serving the first course of life as one of 25 SD70Ms ordered by SP.  The SD70MACs are very similar, with the only difference being AC traction instead of DC found on the 'M's.

An SD70ACe is know for the unique "Chopped Nose" cab design, as well as the offset radiator towards the long hood (rear) of the locomotive.  Pictured above is UP SD70ACe No. 8641 serving as a DPU on the ZDLCYP-23, pictured in Uintah, Utah.


General Electric, for some years now, has been the “butt end” of the railfan jokes.  Although they are more cheaply made than their EMD counterparts, they still have an extremely dominant presence in the modern railroading landscape.  To be fair, have been real competition from their competitors.  GE locomotives are primarily assigned to road service, ferrying the revenue trains for the railroad.  Following the introduction of the “Safety Cab,” it’s become much harder to identify model-to-model, as all of their locomotives characterized a very similar shape.

AC4400CW/ C40-9W/ C44-9W
GE's early 4000/4400 horsepower locomotives all have the same basic shape, with the primary difference between each model featured towards the radiators and traction motor types between each unit.  These units come equipped with AC trucks, hence the 'AC' in the locomotives names.  Pictured above is the most standard, an AC4400CW, delivered to the UP in June of 1998.  All of the units can be distinguished by their sloping, roof-like radiators at the rear of the unit.  Also noteworthy is the relatively visible exhaust stack, visible just behind the horn in the middle of the unit.

Although these units have the same Safety/Wide Cab design, and same general carbody design, the real distinguishing feature between the AC6000CW and its counterparts is the radiator which extends over the rear platform.  These units were originally equipped with 6000 horsepower motors, but have since been downgraded to 4400 HP prime movers.  Again, the 'AC' designates the locomotive's AC traction.  All of GE's 6000 HP motors used AC traction.

The ES44AC/ES44DC is arguably the most common locomotive on any Class I railroad.  These units are usually identified, once again, by their long hood.  The top of the radiators are more flat than any of the models which came before it, which usually have more of an upwards-facing arrow.  Units can be equipped with AC or DC traction, although UP calls their newer runs 'ES44AH' units.

The ET44 is GE's newest locomotive model, which meets the EPA's Tier 4 emissions standards.  These locomotives stand out from the rest due to their large sloped radiator towards the back of the unit.  These units, for the time being, are very clean, and stand out from the rest of the fleet.  These units have been produced with both AC and DC traction, as well as specified trucks per the client's request, (such as C4 trucks for BNSF.)
I hope this helps everyone with identifying locomotives on their train, knowing this can add fun to the hobby, and allows someone to develop a proper sense of favoritism of one locomotive over another. See you down the line!
- Schon N.

1 comment:

  1. One comment about the GP60. The late 40-2s, GP50s all have the same fans and large fuel tanks. The GP50 and60 share the same size radiator. The giveaway for a GP60 are the dynamic brakes. The GP50 is more similar to the GP40-2.