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EMD "SD45" Locomotives

Last revised: February 7, 2024

By: Adam Burns

Electro-Motive was determined to win the horsepower race of the 1960s and cataloged its most powerful standard model in late 1965, the SD45. 

To achieve its goal, EMD increased the size of its new 645 power plant to 20 cylinders, which increased horsepower to 3,600.  Visually, the SD45 was unmistakable from any other La Grange product up until that time with its long frame and flared rear radiator air intakes.  The latter trait was not repeated on standard production models until the SD80MAC of 1995.

Initially, the SD45 was quite successful - and went on to sell more than 1,200 examples.  However, railroads soon realized the additional 600 horsepower was not worth the increased maintenance investment.

In addition, it was the first in EMD's line to suffer mechanical issues.  These problems were eventually addressed in the "Dash 2" variant although by then most railroads opted for the less powerful, but more reliable, SD40-2.   Ultimately, only 136 examples of the SD45-2 were produced.

Nevertheless, the SD45 could outpull almost any other locomotive then in service and was popular on western roads like the Southern Pacific, Santa Fe, and Great Northern.

Photos

A handsome Santa Fe SD45-2, #5700, shows off its Bicentennial livery in Kansas City on February 26, 1975. J. Primm photo. American-Rails.com collection.

Background

In an era when manufacturers and railroads believed evermore horsepower achieved the greatest level of operational efficiency, powerful models like the SD45, U36C, and C636 were cataloged by the industry's three major builders.

There were even one-off monstrosities like the U50/U50C, DDA40X, DD35/A, and C-855.  Ultimately, railroads realized the greater horsepower was not worth the increased maintenance investment.

In his book, "EMD Locomotives," author Brian Solomon notes that in late 1965 EMD advertised nine new models equipped with its latest engine offered in a range of horsepower ratings, sizes, and wheel arrangements.

The SD45 was the most powerful and entered EMD's catalog in December, 1965 with the unveiling of Demonstrator #4351.  The big locomotive was equipped with a 20-cylinder variant of the builder's new model 645E3 prime mover.

To accommodate the larger power plant, engineers lengthened EMD's standard frame for its six-axle models by five feet.  As Bob Hayden notes in his book, "Diesel Locomotives: Cyclopedia - Volume 2," instead of fabricating a special frame for the SD45, EMD simply made it standard for all six-axle models in the 645 line.

As a result, the less powerful SD38, SD39, and SD40 have short "porches" fore and aft.  Interestingly, these "porches" are even more pronounced on the SD40-2, which featured an even longer frame to accommodate the new HT-C truck. 

The SD45's signature feature was its flared rear radiator, which was required to provide the cooling necessary for the greater engine ouput.  Mr. Solomon notes the average cost for a new SD45, depending on options, was $290,000.

Success and Concern

Sales for the SD45 took off quickly thanks to EMD's stellar reputation. However, as the model spent time in service customers soon recognized issues with these powerful locomotives.

Most notable was the 20-cylinder prime mover, which began experiencing teething issues and had a tendency to break crankshafts.  This significant problem naturally resulted in engine failures while in service and sidelined the locomotives for an extended period.  In addition, railroads did not like the larger flared rear radiator. 

Rio Grande SD45 #5323 leads a freight through heavy snow just west of Loma, Colorado during the late 1960s. American-Rails.com collection.

SD45-2

As part of EMD's latest "Dash 2" line released in January, 1972, the SD45-2 solved its predecessors problems.  In his book, "Locomotives: The Modern Diesel & Electric Reference," author Greg McDonnell notes that EMD boasted 40 refinements with its new line.

Its most notable was the upgraded electrical system which included transistors, printed circuit boards, and solid-state modular components which replaced a labyrinth of old relays, switches, and interlocks commonly been found on all previous models. 

The new computer system controlled everything from voltage regulation, battery charging and excitation and throttle response to wheel-slip control, dynamic brakes, and the locomotive's sanders.

In this Great Northern publicity photo, new SDP45 #333 leads the "Empire Builder" in its redesigned "Big Sky Blue" livery near Montana's Glacier National Park during the fall of 1967. Author's collection.

Interestingly, the SD45-2 was the one "Dash 2" variant that actually differed visually from its pedecessor.  EMD eliminated the flared rear radiator air intakes, replacing it with the builder's common flush-mounted design - only larger to provide proper air-intake for the 20-cylinder engine.

Unfortunately, the "Dash 2" line did not see the same jump in sales as the SD40 series.  Its biggest issue appears to have been the increased maintenance and fuel appetite.  Railroads were quite happy with the slightly less powerful - and less maintenance intensive - SD40-2.  Ultimately, just 136 SD45-2s were sold.

A Northern Pacific publicity photo featuring four new SD45's just delivered from Electro-Motive at the Mississippi Street Shops in St. Paul, Minnesota in July, 1966. Author's collection.

SDP45

Cataloged in 1967, this variant was a dual-service design, which carried a steam generator for passenger assignments.  To do so required a frame five feet longer.  Only 54 were sold to Southern Pacific, Great Northern, and Erie Lackawanna.  

EL wound up with the most, 34 examples built between 1969-1970.  Ironically, the railroad did not order theirs for passenger service.  Instead, the longer frame allowed for a larger, 5,000-gallon fuel tank (enabling complete runs from New Jersey to Chicago without refueling) while the rear space intended for a steam generator contained concrete to increase tractive effort.

Erie Lackawanna SD45 #3633 is stopped with a westbound freight at the small depot in Deposit, New York during a crew change in March, 1970. Photographer unknown. Author's collection.

SD45T-2

The SD45T-2 was the original "Tunnel Motor" variant, requested by Southern Pacific for operation in the high Sierra-Nevada mountain range of Donner Pass to eliminate clean air-intake problems while operating through tunnels and snowsheds.

To correct the overheating issue, EMD redesigned the rear section by placing the air-intakes low along the walkways where they could acquire the coolest, cleanest air.  In addition, the radiators were moved to very top of the hood. 

Overall, the new design gave the locomotive a very box appearance at the rear.  No other railroads ordered the "Tunnel Motor" package; Southern Pacific wound up with 247 units, 166 of which were sublettered for subsidiary St. Louis Southwestern Railway.  In 1974, Southern Pacific returned to EMD for the less powerful SD40T-2, a model also purchased by the Rio Grande.

Data Sheet and Specifications

Entered Production12/1965 (Demonstrator #4351)
Years Produced (SD45)12/1965 - 12/1971
Years Produced (SDP45)5/1967 - 8/1970
Years Produced (SD45X)6/1970 - 2/1971
Years Produced (SD45-2)5/1972 - 9/1974
Engine645E3
Engine (SD45X)645F3B
Engine BuilderGM
Horsepower3600
Horsepower (SD45X)4200
RPM904
Cylinders20
Cylinders (SD45X)16
Length65' 9 ½"
Length (SD45X)70' 8"
Height (Top Of Rail To Top Of Engine Hood)15' 2 13/32"
Width10'
Weight368,000 Lbs
Fuel Capacity3200 Gallons
Fuel Capacity (SD45X)4400 Gallons
Air CompressorGardner-Denver
Air Compressor ModelWBO
Air Brake ManufacturerWestinghouse
Air Brake Schedule26L
TrucksC-C
Truck TypeFlexicoil
Truck Type (SD45X)HT-C
Truck Wheelbase13' 7"
Wheel Size40"
Traction MotorsD77 (6), GM
Primary GeneratorAR10, GM
Steam Generator (SDP45)Vapor-Clarkson (Model AR4125)
Auxiliary GeneratorDelco (A8102)
AlternatorD14
MU (Multiple-Unit)Yes
Dynamic BrakesYes
Gear Ratio62:15 (71 mph), 61:16 (77 mph), 60:17 (83 mph)
Gear Ratio (SDP45)59:15
Tractive Effort (Starting)92,000 Lbs at 25%
Tractive Effort (Starting)89,500 Lbs at 25% (SDP45)
Tractive Effort (Continuous)82,100 Lbs at 11 mph
Tractive Effort (Continuous)82,100 Lbs at 6.6 mph (SDP45)
Top Speed65 mph
Top Speed (SDP45)95 mph
70021348726354234y235627968307098.jpgA pair of Frisco SD45's, along with GP35 #701, at Springfield, Missouri, circa 1970. Mac Owen photo. American-Rails.com collection.

Production Rosters

SD45

Total Built = 1,260

Owner Road Number(s) Serial Number(s) Order Number Completion Date
Great Northern 400-407 31598-31605 7871 5/1966-6/1966
Electro-Motive (Demonstrator) 4351 (became Illinois Central #7000) 31693 5696 12/1965
Electro-Motive (Demonstrators) 4352-4353 (became Delaware & Hudson #802-803) 31694-31695 5696 1/1966
Atlantic Coast Line 1024-1033 31840-31849 5703 12/1966
Northern Pacific 3600-3603 31951-31954 7890 7/1966
Norfolk & Western 1700-1704 31955-31959 5705 7/1966
Norfolk & Western 1705-1730 31960-31985 7904 7/1966-9/1966
Norfolk & Western 1731-1734 31986-31989 7905 9/1966
Southern Pacific 8800-8844 31991-32035 7887 8/1966-9/1966
Santa Fe 1800-1829 32056-32085 5708 6/1966-8/1966
Pennsylvania 6105-6139 32315-32349 7928 10/1966-12/1966
Pennsylvania 6140-6169 32365-32394 7928 1/1967-2/1967
Electro-Motive (Demonstrator) 4354 (became Delaware & Hudson #801) 32462 5720 6/1966
Santa Fe 1830-1889 32506-32565 5722 10/1966-12/1966
Chicago & North Western 901-920 32624-32643 7945 2/1967-3/1967
Denver & Rio Grande Western 5315-5324 32689-32698 7951 1/1967-2/1967
Norfolk & Western 1735-1738 32699-32702 7953 5/1967
Norfolk & Western 1739-1764 32703-32728 7988 7/1967-9/1967
Southern Pacific 8845-8893 32759-32807 7954 2/1967-4/1967
Southern Pacific 8894-8934 32808-32848 7971 4/1967-7/1967
Great Northern 408-417 32988-32997 7963 4/1967
St Louis-San Francisco Railway (Frisco) 900-905 33011-33016 7967 2/1967
St Louis-San Francisco Railway (Frisco) 906 33017 7968 2/1967
St Louis-San Francisco Railway (Frisco) 907-911 33018-33022 7970 2/1967-3/1967
Northern Pacific 3604-3619 33025-33040 7978 4/1967-5/1967
Erie Lackawanna 3601-3620 33101-33120 7991 6/1967
Reading 7600-7604 33175-33179 7992 7/1967
St Louis-San Francisco Railway (Frisco) 912-913 33182-33183 5729 5/1967
Union Pacific 3600-3621 33409-33430 7975 3/1968-4/1968
Union Pacific 3622 33431 7107 4/1968
Union Pacific 3623 33432 7108 4/1968
Union Pacific 3624-3639 33433-33448 7077 3/1968-4/1968
Milwaukee Road 4000-4005 33525-33530 7052 1/1968-2/1968
Southern 3122-3159 33544-33581 7068 11/1967-12/1967
Southern 3105-3121 33582-33598 7074 12/1967
St Louis-San Francisco Railway (Frisco) 914-925 33599-33610 7080 2/1968
St Louis-Southwestern Railway (Cotton Belt) 8964-8971 33624-33631 7081 2/1968-4/1968
Southern Pacific 8935-8963 33632-33660 7082 2/1968-5/1968
St Louis-Southwestern Railway (Cotton Belt) 8972-8981 33661-33670 4/1968-6/1968 7081
Denver & Rio Grande Western 5325-5336 33757-33768 7085 3/1968-5/1968
Great Northern 418-426 33785-33793 7088 7/1968-8/1968
Pennsylvania 6170-6199, 6210-6234 33804-33858 7993 12/1967-1/1968
Pennsylvania 6200-6208 (Evens) 33859-33863 7090 1/1968
Pennsylvania 6201-6209 (Odds) 33864-33868 7091 1/1968-3/1968
Northern Pacific 3620-3629 33900-33909 7094 4/1968-5/1968
Denver & Rio Grande Western 5337-5340 33931-33934 7106 3/1968
Erie Lackawanna 3621-3634 33936-33949 7104 5/1968
Union Pacific 3640-3649 34016-34025 7077 3/1968
Milwaukee Road 4006-4009 34149-34152 7133 12/1968
Seaboard Coast Line 2010-2023 34163-34176 7123 10/1968
St Louis-San Francisco Railway (Frisco) 926-928 34245-34247 7129 10/1968
Penn Central 6235-6239 34277-34281 7125 8/1968
Southern Pacific 8982-9001 34350-34369 7138 12/1968-2/1969
Southern Pacific 9002-9007 34370-34375 7163 2/1969
Southern Pacific 9008-9030 34376-34398 7138 2/1969-4/1969
Southern Pacific 9031-9036 34399-34404 7164 4/1969-5/1969
Southern Pacific 9037-9051 34405-34419 7138 3/1969
St Louis-Southwestern Railway (Frisco) 9052-9059 34420-34427 7140 1/1969-3/1969
Chicago, Burlington & Quincy 516-530 34551-34565 7147 1/1969
Chicago & North Western 937-977 34570-34610 7148 1/1969-2/1969
St Louis-Southwestern Railway (Cotton Belt) 9060-9068 34726-34734 7150 12/1968
Southern Pacific 9069-9103 34904-34938 7170 3/1969-4/1969
Santa Fe 5590-5597 34995-35012 7175 5/1969
Santa Fe 5598-5614 35013-35019 7177 5/1969
Southern Pacific 9104-9123 35196-35215 7187 10/1969-12/1969
St Louis-San Francisco Railway (Frisco) 929-942 35477-35490 7194 9/1969-10/1969
Norfolk & Western 1765-1789 35521-35545 7199 2/1970-3/1970
Norfolk & Western 1790-1814 35546-35570 5745 12/1969
St Louis-San Francisco Railway (Frisco) 943-948 35583-35588 7204 12/1969
St Louis-Southwestern Railway (Cotton Belt) 9152-9155 35753-35756 7215 1/1970
Southern Pacific 9124-9151 35761-35788 7217 12/1969-3/1970
Southern 3160-3169, 3100-3104 36109-36123 5755 3/1970
Burlington Northern 6472-6491 36361-36380 7261 6/1970-7/1970
Santa Fe 5622-5624 36491-36493 5763 6/1970
Santa Fe 5615-5621 36494-36500 7267 6/1970
Burlington Northern 6492-6497 36794-36799 7279 8/1970-9/1970
Burlington Northern 6498-6542 37106-37150 5773 5/1971-8/1971
Seaboard Coast Line 2024-2044 37715-37735 5784 9/1971-10/1971
Colorado & Southern 868-874 38366-38372 5788 10/1971
Burlington Northern 6543-6567 5794-1/25 5794 11/1971-12/1971

Reused Serials

Owner Road Number(s) Serial Number(s) Order Number Completion Date
Southern 3120 33597 8084 4/1970

SD45-2

Total Built = 136

Owner Road Number(s) Serial Number(s) Completion Date
Erie Lackawanna 3669-3681 7381-1 thru 7381-13 10/1972
Clinchfield 3607-3616 7382-1 thru 7382-10 11/1972
Santa Fe 5625-5661 7391-1 thru 7391-37 5/1972
Santa Fe 5662-5704 72642-1 thru 72642-43 5/1973-6/1973
Clinchfield 3617-3624 73773-1 thru 73773-8 2/1974
Seaboard Coast Line 2045-2059 74601-1 thru 74601-15 8/1974-9/1974
Santa Fe 5705-5714 74603-1 thru 74603-10 5/1974

SDP45

Total Built = 52

Owner Road Number(s) Serial Number(s) Order Number Completion Date
Southern Pacific 3200-3209 32849-32858 5/1967-7/1967 7955
Great Northern 326-333 33041-33048 7979 7/1967-8/1967
Erie Lackawanna 3635-3653 34976-34994 7174 5/1969-6/1969
Erie Lackawanna 3654-3661 36658-36665 7246 7/1970-8/1970
Erie Lackawanna 3662-3668 36880-36886 7246 8/1970

SD45X

Total Built = 7

Owner Road Number(s) Serial Number(s) Order Number Completion Date
Electro-Motive (Demonstrator) 5740 34123 5740 6/1970
Southern Pacific 9500-9502 35741-35743 7288 8/1970-9/1970
Electro-Motive (Demonstrator) 4201 (became Southern Pacific #9503) 36806 5751 6/1970
Electro-Motive (Demonstrators) 4202-4203 (became Southern Pacific #9504-9505) 36807-36808 5751 2/1971

One of the Santa Fe's interesting SD45B's, #5501, was photographed here in Riverdale, Illinois on August 28, 1990. John Eagan, Jr. photo. Author's collection.

SD45X

Only seven of this variant were produced in 1970-1971.  It was an experimental design which tested EMD's new "Dash 2" upgrades and could produce 4,200 horsepower.  The model was also equipped with EMD's latest HT-C truck, which was a standard option on the SD40-2.

235920358273472352783689289078.jpgMilwaukee Road SD45 #4000 was photographed here at the company's terminal in Bensenville, Illinois in February, 1969. American-Rails.com collection.

Sources

  • Foster, Gerald. A Field Guide To Trains. New York: Houghton Mifflin, 1996.
  • 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. American Diesel Locomotive, The. Osceola: MBI Publishing, 2000.
  • Solomon, Brian.  EMD Locomotives.  Minneapolis: MBI Publishing Company, 2006.
  • Solomon, Brian.  GE and EMD Locomotives:  The Illustrated History.  Minneapolis:  Voyageur Press, 2014.

SteamLocomotive.com

Wes Barris's SteamLocomotive.com is simply the best web resource on the study of steam locomotives. 

It is difficult to truly articulate just how much material can be found at this website. 

It is quite staggering and a must visit!