SP 6-Axle Power

Southern Pacific always had a need for lots of big six-axle power. The system’s characteristics (many mountainous grades and tunnels) led to some unique innovations, most notably the development of the “tunnel motor” modification. This was applied to SD45T-2 and SD40T-2 models from EMD. SP had been purchasing 6-axle power from EMD from the earliest models, and some of those were still rolling into the 1990s.  Additionally, in 1993 the railroad ordered 133 rebuilds from Morrison-Knudson, units which were all classisfied as SD40M-2 but could be in nearly any EMD carbody.

By the period that I cover, all remaining 6-axle locomotives were EMD products, with the exception of the late-arriving C44-9Ws and AC4400s (and one lonely U33C) from GE.

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, until the AC4400’s arrived. Instead, amber beacons were installed over the cab. Later, when ditch lights became the norm, the beacons were left off, and sometimes removed from existing units.

SP8137_8146 But first! Here’s a shot of two C44-9Ws, a through-the-windshield photo, which is the best I could manage while driving on I-70. It’s June 1995 at New Castle, Colorado.  Nos. 8137 and 8146.
Rollins_1998 And, one other photo of a C44-9W. This one’s on the point of an eastbound UP autorack train that was tied down at Rollinsville, CO on 12/26/1998.  The number is anyone’s guess.
SD40 and SD45 Variants and Rebuilds, and Others

sp 7343

sp 7343

sp 7343

SD40R Walkaround

Here are four photos of ex-SP 7343, an SD40R. This unit was retired by Union Pacific, picked up by Balfour Beatty, who painted it in this blue shade. In 2009 it went to the San Luis & Rio Grande, where I photographed it on 12/28/2009. The following year it was sold to ISLX.

Despite the blue paint, the locomotive is essentially set up the same as during late SP service, including headlight installations and platings.

I have left these images at a fairly large size, so you can better make out details. The left-side sunshade has gone missing, but otherwise I see no noticeable changes.

HLCX 6335 SD40R in Helm Leasing (HLCX) lettering, on the former Golden State Route near Tularosa on 2/18/2008. This unit received a new number when it left UP’s roster– it’s now No. 6335. HLCX 6335 is ex-GECX 7313, exx-SP 7313, originally SP SD40 8400. The headlights were also moved up from the low nose to above the cab. Still very cool to see an old EMD running on a mainline autorack train in 2008.


SD40R No. 7349 leads the ZDVRO intermodal train just east of Parachute, CO on 8/11/1999. It’s paired with Rio Grande tunnel motor 5404 as the sole power on this UP train.

The train was flying past at 70 mph, photographed from the shoulder of Interstate 70, so my photos weren’t stellar, but what the heck… Here’s a side view.

SP7354 SD40R No. 7354 is part of a four-unit swing helper at Glenwood Springs, 6/29/1995. Image from a video capture. Typical for the time, it’s extremely grubby, the long-hood lettering is nearly invisible, and it has ditch lights.
SP7368 SP SD40R No. 7368 is the middle unit on a westbound intermodal train at Granite, CO on 10/22/92.
SP7435_1988 SP SD45R No. 7435 leads an eastbound train out of Tucson on the morning of 2/05/1988.  This train had at least nine units on the head end.

Built August 1966, rebuilt May 1982.

SP7454 SP SD45R No. 7454 heads up ten units and a long manifest train, between New Castle and Glenwood Springs, CO (7/1/1995). She’s showing her age and the wear-and-tear of heavy use with inadequate maintenance.
SP7481_2000 SD45R No. 7481 was in the yards in Tucson on 3/31/2000, some 3 and a half years post-merger.  Sorry about the terrible photo.  About one year after this it was retired by UP.

Built 2/1969 as No. 9008, rebuilt and renumbered in the early ’80s.

SP7552 SD45R No. 7552 leads a drag freight westbound out of Tucson on 3/13/1995.
SP7562 SD45R No. 7562 is still in Kodachrome paint from the Merger That Never Happened. It’s 11/25/1994 and she’s running second on a coal train about to enter the Moffat Tunnel.
SP8605_Tucson_1995 SP 8605 is actually a SD40M-2 rebuild from Morrison-Knudsen, delivered in 1994. She only looks like an SD45.
SP8610-1994 SP 8610 is another MK rebuilt SD40M-2.  Here it’s about to enter the Moffat Tunnel westbound on 11/25/1994 (a glimpse of her nose is in the photo of 7562 above).Originally built as Penn Central 6203 in 1/1968, rebuilt as shown late 1993-ish.  NEW PHOTO
SP8694 SD40M-2 No. 8694, another MK rebuild from August 1994, is one of the stranger-looking locomotives I’ve seen (check out the location of the radiator fans, and the length of the long hood). It is one of six former SDP45 (or SD45R, if you prefer) units originally built for the Erie Lackawanna. It’s at Silt, CO on 8/04/1998.  It actually spent a lot of time around Colorado in the 1990s.  See here for more information.
SP4345 Something old: a pair of SD9’s are running dead-in-consist on an eastbound freight at Clifton, CO on 6/25/1995. One can speculate that they were being moved into retirement. The Kodachrome unit, No. 4345, is pretty easy on the eyes! Image from a video capture.
Jump to: Others SD45T-2s SD70Ms
Tunnel Motors: SD40T-2
SP8236 SD40T-2 No. 8236 is running elephant-style behind three GP60’s on the Golden State route on June 25, 1997. The westbound train is just entering Alamogordo, NM, and it’s 9 months after the UP merger.
SP8248 SP No. 8248 is in the middle of the consist of an eastbound train leaving Tucson on Feb. 5th, 1988. It was part of an order that arrived in 1980, as are the units above and below.
SP8264 SD40T-2 No. 8264 is third on a westbound intermodal at Granite, CO on 10/22/1992. This image is a detail from a larger image– I didn’t have a zoom lens back then…This unit was a full UP repaint, and I caught it in Houston on 10/17/2007 as UP No. 2397 (almost exactly 15 years after this photo).
SP8270_1995 SD40T-2 No. 8270 is leading a westbound freight through Tucson on March 12, 1995.  The interesting consist also included a D&RGW tunnel motor and a speed-lettered SD40M-2 in an SD45 carbody.  If you look closely you can see the primer-colored cab door, which is distinctive to this unit.  (I recently discovered I had never posted this unit’s identity; the number is extremely hard to make out so I had to rely on other clues.)

Built May 1980.

SP8321-081796 Snoot No. 8321 is westbound at Cotopaxi, CO on 8/17/96, three weeks before the UP merger.
SP8341 SD40T-2 No. 8341 is running fourth on the same train as 8321 above, at Cotopaxi on 8/17/1996.  It’s so grimy that the number is barely visible!  Contrast with the pristine CP hoppers running just behind.
SP8355 SD40T-2 Snoot No. 8355 is helping out with the Ski Train on 2/19/1994. It’s proof that fresh paint does not a reliable locomotive make. She stalled near tunnel 12 (note the puffs of smoke from the stack). As a result, the GP40M on the point is pulling the whole train, plus the dead 8355, so we’re making barely 5 mph on the 2% grade. After limping into Crescent siding a couple of miles ahead, we were met by two speed-lettered units cut from a train up at Pinecliffe, which assisted us the rest of the way to Winter Park. Interesting day. Yes, the train was a bit late that day…
JV_4 SD40T-2 No. 8491 is running fourth on a westbound manifest at Johnson Village, CO On 2/18/1994. It’s been repainted into Speed Lettering and had the usual modifications. Also note the nose of SD45R No. 7557, a Kodachrome unit. You can see where the signal light and upper headlights were removed, and a beacon added. No ditch lights at this time for her, though.
SP8495 SD40T-2 No. 8495 is the trailing unit on a westbound drag freight at north Tucson, March 13, 1995. She’s been repainted and modified in the usual ways. The bell is still over the cab, though– See this photo.


Two views of SD40T-2 No. 8496, here leading a westbound intermodal train at Granite, CO, on the Central Corridor route. These are cropped from larger images.  (10/22/1992)
SP8497 Grand Junction SD40T-2 No. 8497 sits on the readyline at Grand Junction on March 7, 2002. It has the usual Speed Lettering modifications, including SP-style ditch lights and relocation of the horn. The low nose plainly shows the original SP light bracket.  NEW PHOTO
SP8506-Tucson-1988 Here’s an extract from a larger image of SD40T-2 No. 8506, entering Tucson on 2/05/1988. Sorry about the power pole. Note that she still sports the full light package. It was still about eight months until the RGI merger would be finalized.
SP8519 SD40T-2 No. 8519 is on the point of a dead manifest train in the siding at Silt, CO on 8/04/1998. The paint is pretty far gone on this unit…
SP8532-Sedalia-2001-04 SD40T-2 No. 8532 is running fourth on the MDVPU manifest on April 26, 2001. It’s rolling through Sedalia, CO, at about 5:00 PM. It’s in the company of three D&RGW tunnel motors; all four units are having miles worked off so they can be retired sooner by UP. Nevertheless, it was great to see four tunnel motors together in 2001.
SP8550_88-12-24 SD40T-2 No. 8550 is westbound on the Moffat on Christmas Eve, 1988. She’s surrounded by four D&RGW GP40-class units as she emerges from tunnel 1. It’s only about 3 months since the merger, and she’s still in SP configuration. I compensated the photo a little bit for the shadow…
SP8560 1994 SD40T-2 No. 8560 heads up a westbound empty coal train at the east portal of Moffat Tunnel on 11/25/1994. It’s freshly shopped and repainted (sparkling clean). In a somewhat-unusual move, the hole where the nose beacon was removed has been plated over.
Rollins_1998 A post-merger shot of what looks like No. 8560, second on a rare autorack train tied down at Rollins siding on the Moffat (12/26/1998). Still looking pretty good in the Speed Lettering.(Identification based on comparison of other photos of speed-lettered units in this series. Best match is here, a shot taken just 5 months earlier. It only took me 24 years to get a positive ID!)

This was one of those days that we had gotten cold and tired and just didn’t bother to get better portraits…

SP8568 In this detail from a larger frame, dusty SD40T-2 No. 8568 leads a westbound train of auto racks through Glenwood Springs on the afternoon of June 29, 1995.
Jump to: Others SD40T-2s SD70Ms
Tunnel Motors: SD45T-2
SSW9164 SSW SD45T-2 No. 9164 comes into Tucson from the east on 2/05/1988. The two quickest ways to differentiate between a 40 and a 45 are: (1) the 45’s nose is pushed out onto the front porch, and (2) those little panels above the open grille on the rear. The 45 has three; the 40 has two.

(This image newly updated and enlarged)





Four photos of SD45T-2 No. 9362.

Here, it is the last unit on a four-place swing helper, shoving an eastbound coal train out of Glenwood Springs on 6/29/1995. It has been repainted in Speed Lettering, so technically this SSW unit is now SP. The next unit ahead is an SP SD40R, then D&RGW tunnel motor No. 5366 (making all the smoke), then Rio Grande SD50 No. 5515. It looks great on video, believe me!

The top three images are screen captures from video, hence the lower resolution (bottom shot is 35 mm film).

UPDATE: As of 2019 this unit was working on the Missouri and Northern Arkansas RR, still in this paint scheme.  Photos appeared in a Facebook group (SD40T-2 & SD40-2 Tribute).

SSW9372-930314 Cotton Belt SD45T-2 No. 9372 is on the point of Amtrak No. 5, the California Zephyr, on March 14, 1993. The train is several hours late, which may be why this six-axle brute is leading it up the hill. Mechanical problem? Power shortage?
Moff01 One of my all-time favorite photos is of SD45T-2 No. 9398, running light in the fog at tunnel 1 on the Moffat line. It’s also a full repaint in Speed Lettering. The date is 7/20/1994.
SSW9401 This image, a detail from a larger frame, shows a pair of SD45T-2’s in Fraser, CO. No. 9401 is a Cotton Belt unit that’s been redone in Speed Lettering (including having the horns moved and ditch lights added). The other unit is SP SD45T-2R No. 6850, one of a group rebuilt from the as-delivered SD45T-2’s circa 1988.
SPL purchased a total of 25 SD70M’s between June and August 1994. These were numbered 9800-9824. Per the SP website, they were used primarily on the “I-5 Corridor” between LA and Portland. However, they occasionally wandered elsewhere on the system for testing. Acquired just two years before the UP merger, they were the last order of road power that SP made from EMD.

In the photos below we see three SD70M’s being tried out on the Moffat in Colorado during November 1994, where 2% grades and 10,000-ton trains were the norm. (Photos taken 11/22/1994 at Tolland)

SP9805_1994_11 No. 9805. Today it’s the middle of three units in the consist.

Built June 1994.

SP9809_1994_11 No. 9809, running third. They are remarkably clean, considering the weather, which makes me believe they had only just arrived in the Tunnel District.

Built June 1994.

SP9816_1994_11 No. 9816 was the leader. At this point in time, ditch lights were still something of an innovation; most locomotives did not have them yet. New ones did, of course, and these guys were quite new.

Built July 1994, hence only 4 months old in this image.

Jump to: Others SD40T-2s SD45T-2s SD70M

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