EMD "SD35" Locomotives

Last revised: March 8, 2022

By: Adam Burns

The EMD SD35 was one of the builder's first second-generation models, released during the mid-1960s.

While the locomotive was not as successful as some of its other designs it did sell a few hundred examples during an era when railroads were only starting to realize the benefits of six-axle power.

New features of the SD35, which dated back to the SD28 of 1965 was a redesigned frame and new Spartan Cab, commonly known as the standard cab. 

While EMD was experiencing growing competition from General Electric it was still in its prime and would make another run of phenomenal success during this time with models like the GP35, GP38 series, SD40 series, and others.  

About a dozen major railroads purchased the SD35 and a number of these remain in service. One example is known to be formally preserved, Baltimore  & Ohio #7402 at the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad Museum, as well as the variant SDP35, Seaboard Air Line #1114 in Hamlet, North Carolina.

With a friendly wave from the engineer in the cab of Norfolk & Western SD35 #1555 running long-hood forward, a westbound pig train rolls through Hamburg, New York on June 2, 1974. Doug Kroll photo.

The EMD SD35 began production in the early summer of 1964. It followed six-axle designs like the SD18, SD28, and SD24 which which saw relatively few sales.

The locomotive utilized General Motors' tried and proven 16-cylinder model 567D3A prime mover, which could produce 2,500 horsepower featuring GM's D67 traction motors that could achieve a starting tractive effort of 90,000 pounds and 50,000 pounds continuous (the continuous rating was actually quite a bit less than what the SD24 offered). Perhaps the most noticeable trait of the SD35 was its carbody.

Beginning with the 35 series EMD used a "simplified" design, which became standard on virtually all new models until the FRA-mandated safety cab went into effect during the late 1980s/early 1990s.

Conrail SD35 #6041 and SD45-2 #6666 work helper service shoving on a westbound freight climbing Horseshoe Curve as the train passes the Visitors Center in August, 1982. At this time Pennsylvania 4-6-2 #1361 (K-4s) was still on display. Rob Kitchen photo.

The long hood was not significantly different from earlier models but the cab, which EMD referred to as the Spartan became an industry classic with a low, short nose and front windshield. 

While the SD35 was designed for freight service railroads could purchase one with a steam boiler for passenger/commuter operations this option, classified as an SDP35.

Only 35 of this variant were built between July of 1964 and September of 1965 by the Seaboard Air Line (20), Atlantic Coast Line (1), Louisville & Nashville (4), and Union Pacific (10).

They remained the same length as the SD35 but included the above mentioned boiler for passenger use (the boiler used the open, rear porch space). 

While not wildly successful, the locomotive sold relatively well and paved the way for the venerable SD40 series. When production had ended in early 1966 eleven different Class I railroads purchased the model with Southern Railway owning the most, 100.

General Motors SD35 #1565 (originally a Norfolk & Western unit built in 1965) mingles with early CSX power at Cumberland, Maryland on October 28, 1990. Wade Massie photo.

Others who purchased the locomotive included the Atlantic Coast Line (24, numbered 1000-1023), Baltimore & Ohio (24, numbered 7400-7419, 7437-7440 the railroad employed them in West Virginia for use in coal drag service), Central of Georgia (10, numbered 215-224), Jersey Central (12, numbered 2501-2512), Chesapeake & Ohio (12, numbered 7420-7431, L&N (22, numbered 1200-1221), Norfolk & Western (80, numbered 1500-1579 also used in coal drag service), Pennsylvania (40, numbered 6000-6039), Southern (100, numbered 3000-3099), Southern Pacific (29, numbered 4816-4844), and Western Maryland (5, numbered 7432-7436). 

Of note, EMD's demonstrator #7715 was picked up by the ACL. Today, places you can find SD35s in regular service include Montana Rail Link, Squaw Creek Southern Railroad, and Norfolk Southern has converted former N&W #1530 into a test locomotive.

EMD SD35 Production Roster

Owner Road Number(s) Quantity Date Built
Atlantic Coast Line1000-1023241964-1965
Baltimore & Ohio7400-7419, 7437-7440241964-1965
Central Of Georgia215-224101966
Central Railroad Of New Jersey2501-2510101964-1965
Chesapeake & Ohio7420-7431, 7425 (2nd), 7428 (2nd)141964-1965
Electro-Motive (Demo)771511964
Louisville & Nashville1200-1221221965
Norfolk & Western1500-1579801965
Southern Pacific4816-4844291964-1965
Southern Railway3000-30991001965-1966
Western Maryland7432-743651964

SDP35 Production Roster

Owner Road Number(s) Quantity Date Built
Atlantic Coast Line55011965
Louisville & Nashville1700-170341965
Seaboard Air Line1100-1119201964
Union Pacific1400-1409101965

Norfolk & Western SD35 #1546 leads a manifest freight eastbound out of the Bluefield, West Virginia terminal during November of 1980. Rob Kitchen photo.

For more reading on Electro-Motive locomotives the book EMD Locomotives from author Brian Solomon highlights the history of EMD from its earliest beginnings in the 1920s to its phenomenal successes in the mid-20th century.

 It concludes by discussing the company's decline into second spot behind General Electric in the late 20th century and eventual sale by General Motors in 2005. The book features 176 pages of EMD history and is filled with excellent photography and illustrations. 

Another good title the author has written is entitled, GE And EMD Locomotives:  The Illustrated History, which provides a general history of both company's locomotive lines over the years.  As with all of Mr. Solomon's books expect a well-researched and written publication with crisp photography.

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