SP 4-Axle Power

In the 1990s (when I began shooting most of my SP photos), the predominant four-axle locomotive classes were the GP40M and the GP60. As a result, they also dominate my collection of SPL photos. The GP40M’s were older units that were rebuilt by Morrison-Knudsen, arriving on the SPL system between 1990 and 1992. They spanned the transition between traditional SP and SSW paint schemes and the newer, “speed lettering” scheme inspired by the merger with the Rio Grande.
The GP60 series also arrived around this time, and as a result we find a mix of old and new paint schemes on those units.

As a sign of things to come, this late period also saw the introduction by GE of its B39-8 and B40-8 models.  They joined the older B30-7’s that were still working for the Espee, and together provided an interesting variety to the landscape.

On all units purchased after the merger, the headlight arrangement was simplified considerably from the usual SP practice. The red Mars lights and other signal lights were abandoned (and removed from older units). None of the newer units even had lights on the low nose. Instead, amber beacons were installed over the cab. Later, when ditch lights became the norm, beacons were not installed and were sometimes removed from existing units.

Jump to: GP60s Other 4-Axle

GP40 Series

SP7107 GP40M No. 7107 is idling at Monte Vista, CO in August 1996 while the crew is at beans (actually, at Pizza Hut). This was the first SP unit to be delivered in Speed Lettering. It’s the experimental, smaller size of lettering.


Built October 1971, rebuilt by MK in March 1991.

GP40M-GJ-20060701 Here’s a GP40M, ex- No. 7110, that has survived but with a patch from Union Pacific. Note the smaller-size herald. She is seen in the yard at Grand Junction on June 30, 2006, now as UP 1480.


Built February 1969, rebuilt by MK in April 1991.

SP7124-9708 GP40M No. 7124 idles at Alamosa in August 1997– not quite one year after the UP merger. This particular unit operated out of Pueblo for most of the 1990s.


Built March 1971, rebuilt by MK in June 1991.




GP40M No. 7129. Top: It’s powering the Ski Train on 3/14/93. The train is loading at Winter Park for the return to Denver.


Bottom: Idling in Alamosa in May 1999. Note that it has the smaller version of the Speed Lettering herald.

Built April 1969, rebuilt by MK in April 1991.

SP7131 1999-05 GP40M No. 7131 in Alamosa, May 1999. I just found this unit lurking in the corner of a photo, unnoticed.


Built Feb 1969 for the B&O, rebuilt by MK in 1991.

SP7135 GP40M No. 7135 leads the Alamosa-Pueblo mixed freight on 2/28/1996.
Built May 1970, rebuilt by MK in June 1991.
SSW7276_SP8355 SSW GP40M No. 7276 leads the Ski Train on 2/20/1994. When I took this photo the 4-motor unit was laboring mightily to pull the 17-car train by itself, because tunnel motor 8355 had dropped its load about a mile back.


Built August 1968, rebuilt by MK in November 1990.

SSW7282 SSW GP40M No. 7282, in Alamosa on 3/07/2003. This was taken with a Palm Pilot snap-on camera so I apologize for the low resolution. The 7282 was showing its lack of washings at this point in time.


Built August 1966, rebuilt by MK in December 1990.

SLV025SSW7286-081796 SSW No. 7286 is a GP40M.

Top: Here crossing the Conejos River approaching Antonito, CO in March 2003. This is a lot of power for one covered hopper!

Bottom: She’s leading a westbound manifest on the Royal Gorge line, 8/17/1996. This unit was one of several that were frequently found in the vicinity of Pueblo for many years.

Built July 1966, rebuilt by MK in December 1990.


Top: This shot of SSW No. 7291 was taken in Grand Junction, Colorado in August 1998. It’s paired with D&RGW No. 3126, a GP40-2.

Bottom: SSW No. 7291 is in Alamosa in March 2003 along with two mates and a pair of D&RGW GP40-2’s.

Built September 1967, rebuilt by MK in January 1991.




SP No. 7297 was on the point of the Ski Train on 3/14/1993, paired with No. 7129. Two views. This unit was delivered from MK in 1991, one of the last to come in the traditional SP paint scheme.


Built June 1966, rebuilt by MK in February 1991.

SP7298-081796 SP No. 7298, running second on a westbound at Cotopaxi, CO on 8/17/1996. (Photo in the pre-dawn shadows; a detail from a larger photo.)

Built August 1966, rebuilt by MK in February 1991.



SP No. 7299 was working the Alamosa turn in May 2002. Here it is seen, waiting in the downtown yard, in the company of SP GP40-2 No. 7954 and a UP four-axle motor. Note the traditional paint scheme and the high ditch lights. It’s pretty scruffy for only a dozen or so years of use…

Below: Now patched to UP 1534, she’s in Denver on 9/01/2008.

Built August 1968, rebuilt by MK in February 1991 (missing getting Speed Lettering by one month…)

FtGarland-1996-02_04 No. 7632 is a Cotton Belt GP40-2. No. 7124 is a GP40M (see above), as is the lead unit, No. 7135. Sandwiched between the two MK units is SP GP40-2 No. 7669. The scene is taken on the west approach of La Veta Pass in Colorado, on February 26, 1996.

#7632 Built January 1979. #7669 built March 1980.

TucsonWest4 SP No. 9717 leads an eastbound doublestack train at Tucson on 3/12/1995. Second in line is a GP60 from a previous order (No. 9618)– note the slightly-different dynamic brake blisters.

#9618 Built March 1988. #9717 Built April 1991.

SP9721_1995 No. 9721 running third, and elephant-style, on a westbound autorack train passing the Glenwood Springs depot on 6/29/1995. Not the greatest photo in the world (actually a detail from a larger frame), it still shows the condition of the unit at age 5 (i.e. in need of a bath!).


Built April 1991.




Top: No. 9738, at Rocky Flats on the Moffat line– powering the Ski Train on February 25, 1996. Items of note for such a late date in history include: the horn is still over the cab, and the beacon has not been removed from the cab. This unit was often around Denver from 1993-96 and made numerous appearances on the Ski Train.


Bottom: No. 9738 is running second on a westbound manifest at Cotopaxi on 8/17/1996, three weeks before the UP merger. She’s still pretty clean and shiny (compare to the flank of No. 8321 at left). Detail from a larger image.

Built May 1991, and still in original colors in 2013.

SP9742-1994 SP No. 9742 leads another GP60 (probably 9753) and a pair of GP40-series locomotives (the third unit is probably GP40M-2 No. 7102) on a westbound Golden State Route train. Here it’s paused in downtown Alamogordo, NM, on 6/04/1994. (A note about the beacon: it’s not a strobe as such; it consists of a circular array of four lights which illuminate consecutively.)

9742 built May 1991.




On 12/29/1994, SP Nos. 9752 and 9755 power the Ski Train.


Top: The return train is waiting to board at Winter Park. The lead unit always pulled up and stopped right at the west portal of the Moffat tunnel.

Bottom: Panorama, stitched together from several shots. Zoom in on this.

(9755 still had its SP number as of 2012, albeit in badly-faded paint.)

Both built June 1991.

JV_2 SSW No. 9651 is leading a westbound manifest freight near Buena Vista, CO on 2/18/1994. The power was a Heinz mix typical of the period: GP60, GP40M, SD45 in Kodachrome, SD40T-2. Note that the lead unit doesn’t have ditch lights yet (although No. 7124 just behind it does).

Built September 1989.

SSW9657 March 2001, and the Golden State Route is looking very much like a UP possession. It was a treat, therefore, to spot SSW No. 9657 in the mix of this westbound doublestack train at Tucumcari, NM.
SSW9673 SSW No. 9673 and SP No. 9738 head up the returning Ski Train at Rocky, west of Denver, on February 25, 1996. From late 1994 through the 1996 merger, GP60’s in red and gray were the usual power for this train.

Built March 1990.



SSW No. 9697 is flying past as it approaches Alamogordo just after dawn on June 25, 1997.

Top: leading two other GP60’s including No. 9735 and what looks like SSW 9636, and tunnel motor No. 8236.

Bottom: The relative speed was such that I led the train a bit too much when taking the photo, but it’s still worth keeping.

Built April 1990.

SW1500’s, MP15AC’s, and GE’s



SW1500 No. 2475
Top: It’s switching a string of hoppers at Grand Junction in August 1998.Bottom: sitting on the wye south of the east yard. This unit was stationed at Grand Junction for many years.Built August 1967, retired early 2006.
SP2510 1988 SW1500 No. 2510 working in Tucson in February 1988. Note the red primer showing where the white lettering has eroded.


#2510 built July 1968

SP2659 1988 SW1500 No. 2659 switching at Tucson in February 1988. This unit also has the “red” lettering (primer showing through) common with older SP units that had never been repainted.#2659 built June 1972.
Chacra2 One of the stranger trains I’ve seen was on June 30, 1995 between New Castle and Glenwood Springs, CO. A grimy SD45 led ten units, including this cow/calf pair in shiny new Speed Lettering.  The cow is MP15AC No. 2733, the slug is 1012 (thanks to Frank Keller for the info). These were used on the hump in Grand Junction until that facility was removed.
SSW-GE-840-B On June 24, 1997, this westbound train roars through Alamogordo, NM. The lead unit is a SSW GE Dash-840B; the number isn’t quite readable due to motion blur. I had to climb a fence at the Alamogordo Zoo to get this shot, so the camera wasn’t all that steady… Since it’s my only Dash-840B image, I had to include it here.
SSW7798_1988 SSW No. 7798, a B30-7, running third on an eastbounder leaving Tucson  on February 5, 1988. It was about 9 years old at the time. Yes, this is a terrible photo. It’s a detail from a larger frame. This unit received the Speed Lettering scheme a few years later.Built January 1980; much later converted to UPY yard slug 167.
SP7837 SP No. 7837, a B30-7, leads a lengthy intermodal train into Tucson from the east on February 5, 1988. It was about 9 years old at the time.
SP7863 B30-7 No. 7863 has been sold to the Creede tourist line, where we find it on 3/07/2003 in South Fork, CO. (The tourist line made a notable lack of progress, mostly due to opposition from the citizenry in Creede.) Around 2006, this unit actively worked for the San Luis & Rio Grande, but since late 2008 it’s been parked out in the weeds at South Fork.
Jump to: GP40 Series GP60s Other 4-Axle