The Electro-Motive Division's (EMD) GP38, GP38AC and GP38-2, the fourth
entry of second-generation diesel locomotives, were extremely successful
four-axle models that would only further establish EMD as the premier diesel locomotive builder of that era. By the time the GP38/AC and later "Dash 2" models were released EMD was a veteran builder that knew what railroads were looking for, and it hit a home
run yet again with the GP38/GP38-2. There are only very minor
differences with the GP38 and GP38AC while the GP38-2 carries an updated
prime mover and newer
electronics. The locomotive looked almost identical to the GP35 thanks
to that model's standard carbody and cab design that EMD stuck with
through the 1980s. Because of the GP38's success, hundreds remain in
widespread use all across the country, particularly on regionals and
shortlines. To date, there is only one GP38 known to be officially
preserved, Tennessee, Alabama & Georgia #80 at the Tennessee Valley
A pair of Utah Railway GP38s including #2000 and #2001 sit at the yard and terminal in Ogden, Utah on June 10, 2004. The shortline now has access this far north thanks to trackage rights over the Union Pacific on the former Rio Grande.
The original GP38 was actually no different from earlier second-generation models
in terms of horsepower and was even de-rated a bit at only 2,000 hp (as
compared to the GP30’s 2,250 and GP35’s 2,500 hp). The original model was somewhat successful but not nearly so as the the later GP38-2. In any event, the GP38 carried the new 16-cylinder model 645 prime mover which replaced the 567 of the GP35 and had been EMD's standard diesel engine dating all of the way back to the original FT cab unit of 1939 (various upgrades the engine had been achieved over the years, however, making it more powerful and efficient. The locomotive featured General Motors' standard model
D77 traction that could produce the same tractive effort of the earlier
GP30 and GP35; 61,000 pounds starting tractive effort and 50,000 pounds
The GP38, which debuted in 1966 and was built through 1971, and the
later GP38-2 which was built between 1972 and 1984, followed the earlier
GP30 and GP35 (which were two of EMD’s first models what is commonly referred today as second-generation power, or those diesel locomotives that are clearly defined from early models with less horsepower and fewer other technological features). The GP38 models
were both tremendously successful with nearly 3,000 units sold (the
GP38 sold around 730 and the GP38-2 sold over 2,100). The GP38-2 model sold better, as did most "Dash 2" models,
because of its further upgrades from the original which included things
like a new type of traction motor blower duct, a modular electronic
cabinet system and bolted battery box access doors.
Railroads to purchase the original GP38 included the Detroit
Toledo & Ironton (200-206), Bangor & Aroostook (81-88), original
Norfolk Southern (2001-2007), Erie Mining (700-701), Phelps Dodge
Corporation (47-54), Texas-Mexican Railway (857-860), Missouri Pacific
(572-577), Maine Central (251-263), Clinchfield Railroad (2000-2009),
Baltimore & Ohio (3800-3849, 4800-4819), Chesapeake & Ohio
(3850-3899, 4820-4829), Pennsylvania-Reading Seashore Lines (2000-2014),
Tennessee Alabama & Georgia #80, Aberdeen & Rockfish #400,
Monongahela Railway (2000-2004), Gulf Mobile & Ohio (701-720),
Southern (2716-2822), Penn Central (7675-7939), Missouri-Kansas-Texas
(300-303), Burlington Northern (2072-2077), Louisville & Nashville
(4000-4019), and Santa Fe (3500-3560). Also, the General Motors Diesel GP38 was built only for Canadian Pacific who purchased twenty-one (3000-3020).
Conrail GP38-2 #7953 sits next to Southern Pacific SD40T-2 #8351 at the small engine terminal (originally owned by the New York Central) in Diamond, West Virginia during October of 1982.
As for the GP38AC variant, it was essentially identical to the GP38 save for its model
AR10 alternator in replace of the GM-built D32 generator allowing for
increased tractive effort. The locomotive was built between February,
1970 and December, 1971 with 261 examples built for; Norfolk &
Western (4100-4149), Illinois Central (9500-9519), Louisville &
Nashville (4020-4049), Gulf Mobile & Ohio (721-733), DT&I
(210-220), St Louis-San Francisco (633-662), Southern (2823-2878),
Pacific Power & Light Company #11, Grand Trunk Western (5800-5811),
Lehigh Valley (310-313).
Except for the later GP40 and GP40-2 models, the GP38 and
GP38-2 were EMD’s most successful second-generation Geeps and like the
earlier GP35 fit exactly what railroads were looking for in terms of
horsepower while also including the manufacturers’ excellence in quality
and reliability. Because of the model’s success, it comes as no
surprise that the unit can still be widely seen across the country from
shortlines and Regionals to Class Is. In any event, be on the lookout
for them because there are still hundreds roaming around out there! Also, of particular note about the GP38 series.
A pair of Grand Trunk Western GP38ACs including #5804 and #5802 have an eastbound freight at the yard in Durand, Michigan as they pick up additional cars during November of 1986. The GTW acquired these Geeps second-hand as well as purchasing them new.
In 1982 Trains Magazine selected Baltimore & Ohio GP38 #3802 as its All American Diesel
for the locomotive's performance, service, reliability and the fact
that it was an extremely successful design found all across the country.
The unit ended its career on
CSX as #9699. Unfortunately, even after it was planned to be handed
over to the B&O Railroad Museum upon retirement the famous Geep was
initially in danger of being sold to a leasing firm. Thankfully the
near-blunder was averted and as promised the museum received it as a
donation from CSX. Today it awaits restoration back into its original
Chessie System colors (when it received its All American status) as well as the nameplates it originally received. Today, the GP38, GP38-2, and GP38AC can still be regularly found
on small and large railroads.