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EMD "SD35" Locomotives


Last revised: January 23, 2024

By: Adam Burns

The SD35 introduced Electro-Motive's so-called "35 Line" which began with the GP35 of 1963.  In his book, "Vintage Diesel Locomotives," author Mike Schafer notes this line introduced EMD's basic carbody appearance - notably the Spartan Cab - that would continue through the 1980s.

The SD35 was a 2,500 horsepower, six-axle, locomotive - part of EMD's Special Duty line - that provided signficantly greater tractive effort than its four-axle counterpart.   

Produced between June, 1964 and January, 1966, it was a transitional model in the EMD catalog, boasting one of the final variants of the builder's legendary 567 prime mover.

Ultimately, only a few railroads purchased the model although as the builder continued to refine its product - and the industry transitioned away from four-axle products - its future variants witnessed unprecedented success.


720774650013819109490158.jpgWith 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.


While railroads remained committed to four-axle models in general road service that sentiment was beginning to change by the 1960s and it could be seen in increasingly higher sales for EMD's Special Duty line.

The SD35 began production in June, 1964 and ultimately sold some 360 examples during a very brief production run of only 19 months. The model followed the earlier SD7, SD9, SD18, SD24, and SD28; all sold only modestly but, as the SD9 foretold, the future looked bright for the series.

Following the SD35, the later SD40 sold more than 1,200 examples while its Dash 2 counterpart was of the best selling models EMD ever cataloged.

The locomotive utilized General Motors' tried and proven 16-cylinder model 567D3A prime mover, which could produce 2,500 horsepower.  In his book, "EMD Locomotives," author Brian Solomon notes a 390,000 pound SD35 offered 97,540 pounds of starting tractive effort.  

It was more than 30,000 pounds better than a comparable GP35 and its greater footing largely explains why railroads moved away from comparable four-axle variants. 

Spartan Cab

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 (otherwise known as the Standard Cab), became an industry classic with a low, short nose and front windshield. 

This design could partially be seen on the earlier GP30 which featured a hybrid-like cab between the Spartan and EMD's very first low-nose design with an angled nose.

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.

While the SD35 was intended for freight service also offered the model with an optional steam generator for passenger/commuter service.

Classified as an SDP35 this variant was offered as a dual-service platform during an time when the public was abandoning trains for other transportion modes. They featured none of the aesthetic touches of, say, an E9 but could handle a heavy freight train when not pulling a passenger consist.

Data Sheet and Specifications

Entered Production6/1964 (Demonstrator #7715)
Years Produced (SD35)6/1964 - 1/1966
Years Produced (SDP35)7/1964 - 9/1965
Engine BuilderGM
Length (SD35)60' 8"
Height (Top Of Rail To Top Of Cab)15' 8 ½"
Width10' 3"
Weight360,000 Lbs
Fuel Capacity3000 Gallons
Air CompressorGardner-Denver
Air Compressor ModelWBO
Air Brake ManufacturerWestinghouse
Air Brake Schedule26L
Truck TypeFlexicoil
Truck Wheelbase13' 7"
Wheel Size40"
Traction MotorsD67 (6), GM
Primary GeneratorD32, GM
Auxiliary GeneratorDelco (A8102)
Steam Generator (SDP35)Vapor-Clarkson (model AR4125)
MU (Multiple-Unit)Yes
Dynamic BrakesYes
Gear Ratio62:15 (71 mph), 61:16 (77 mph), 60:17 (83 mph), 59:18 (89 mph)
Tractive Effort (Starting)90,000 Lbs at 25%
Tractive Effort (Continuous)50,000 Lbs at 12 mph (SD35)
Tractive Effort (Continuous)82,100 Lbs at 6.6 mph (SDP35)
Top Speed71 mph - 89 mph

Production Rosters


Total Built = 360

Owner Road Number(s) Serial Number(s) Order Number Completion Date
Electro-Motive (Demonstrator) 7715 (became Atlantic Coast Line #1000) 29035 7715 6/1964
Atlantic Coast Line 1001-1003 29036-29038 7715 6/1964
Baltimore & Ohio 7400-7419 29408-29427 7738 7/1964-10/1964
Chesapeake & Ohio 7420-7431 29428-29439 7739 9/1964-11/1964
Atlantic Coast Line 1004-1010 29594-29600 7752 11/1964-12/1964
Southern Pacific 4816-4844 29830-29858 7761 12/1964-4/1965
Western Maryland 7432-7436 29890-29894 5675 12/1964
Central Railroad of New Jersey 2501-2510 29974-29983 7777 5/1965
Central Railroad of New Jersey 2511-2512 30298-30299 7777 6/1965
Pennsylvania 6000-6039 30388-30427 7795 2/1965-6/1965
Louisville & Nashville 1200-1210 30432-30442 7805 4/1965-6/1965
Louisville & Nashville 1211-1221 30443-30453 5690 7/1965-8/1965
Atlantic Coast Line 1011-1023 30518-30530 7815 9/1965
Baltimore & Ohio 7437-7440 30706-30709 7828 9/1965
Chesapeake & Ohio 7428 30740 7830 8/1965
Chesapeake & Ohio 7425 30741 7841 8/1965
Norfolk & Western 1500-1520 30761-30781 7819 6/1965-8/1965
Norfolk & Western 1521-1529 30782-30790 7820 8/1965
Central of Georgia 215-224 30796-30805 7837 1/1966
Southern 3000-3060 30806-30866 7833 9/1965-12/1965
Southern 3061-3099 30867-30905 7838 12/1965-1/1966
Norfolk & Western 1554-1559 31136-31141 7853 11/1965
Norfolk & Western 1560-1579 31142-31161 7854 11/1965-12/1965
Norfolk & Western 1530-1553 31162-31185 5698 10/1965-11/1965


Total Built = 15

Owner Road Number(s) Serial Number(s) Order Number Completion Date
Louisville & Nashville 1700-1703 30454-30457 5691
Atlantic Coast Line 550 30531 7816 9/1965
Union Pacific 1400-1409 30671-3068 7824 8/1965-9/1965

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

Only 35 were built between July, 1964 and September, 1965.  Buyers included 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 steam generator for passenger use (the generator was housed in the open, rear porch space). 

When production had ended on the series in January, 1966 eleven different Class Is had purchased the model with Southern Railway owning the most (100).


  • Foster, Gerald. A Field Guide To Trains. New York: Houghton Mifflin, 1996.
  • Service Department, Electro-Motive Division. General Motors Locomotives, SD35 - SDP35 Operating Manual. La Grange: General Motors Corporation, 1964. 
  • Marre, Louis A. Diesel Locomotives: The First 50 Years, A Guide To Diesels Built Before 1972.  Milwaukee: Kalmbach Publishing Company, 1995.
  • Pinkepank, Jerry A. Diesel Spotter's Guide.  Milwaukee: Kalmbach Publishing Company, 1967.
  • Schafer, Mike. Vintage Diesel Locomotives. Osceola: MBI Publishing, 1998.
  • Solomon, Brian.  EMD Locomotives.  Minneapolis: MBI Publishing Company, 2006.
  • Solomon, Brian.  GE and EMD Locomotives:  The Illustrated History.  Minneapolis:  Voyageur Press, 2014.


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It is quite staggering and a must visit!