EMD "SD70" Series Locomotives

Last revised: December 29, 2022

By: Adam Burns

The SD70 series was a rebound for Electro-Motive following the issues surrounding its SD50 series. This recovery first began with the SD60 (and its variants) as the model sold more than 1,000 examples allowing EMD to regain some of the reputation that it lost with the SD50.

Although the SD70 could not regain EMD's dominance as the number one locomotive builder, it was still a very successful design with a few thousand different versions of the model operating around the country today (including the SD70M, SD70I, SD70M-2, SD70MAC, and SD70ACe). The SD70 actually hearkens back to the days of the SD40 model and its successes. 

It has become so successful that EMD continuous to catalog the locomotive today with the SD70ACe series. Today, thousands of SD70s, and their variants, remains in operation on numerous Class Is around the country. They may not be as common as General Electric models but they are certainly still out there in large numbers.

Photos

Electro-Motive SD70M demonstrators #7002 and #7001 were photographed here by Ken Church in Council Bluffs, Iowa on October 28, 1993. Author's collection.

Development

After relative failures with the SD50 and SD60, EMD finally got back on track with the SD70, which was released in 1992, albeit at the cost of having already lost first place in the market to GE.

The locomotive featured EMD’s 16-cylinder 710G3B engine and was rated at 4,000 horsepower although that was not its biggest selling point.

Learning from the failures of the earlier models EMD upgraded its computer systems and microprocessors to be more easily maintained and introduced perhaps the biggest selling point of all; new, radial trucks.

Featuring the HTCR truck (high-traction, six-axle, radial) it could steer itself into oncoming curves instead of just following the rail which greatly reduced wear to both rail and truck/axle components.

Not surprisingly railroads absolutely loved such a feature, which perhaps more than other reason made the SD70 series so successful.

Many railroads have already stated that a significant reason why they buy EMDs today is just for the steerable trucks, an option GE does not offer with its locomotives. One other particular upgrade with the SD70 series was its vastly improved tractive effort.

Electro-Motive SD70M demonstrator #7023 test on the Union Pacific; June 19, 1996. Location not listed. American-Rails.com collection.

At a rating of 175,500 pounds starting and 137,000 pounds continuous the SD70 offers a 40%-60% increase in tractive effort over the SD60 model making it ideal for heavy drag service.

While the original SD70 model was only marginally successful (it only sold over 100 units) later releases, such as the SD70M, SD70MAC, and SD70I were extremely successful. Essentially there is little difference between the designs in terms of overall mechanics and layout.

SD70M

The SD70M carries the new wide "safety" cab design (also sometimes called a comfort cab it is technically known as the North American Safety Cab) as the original SD70 was built with the Standard Cab purchased only by Norfolk Southern and Illinois Central (NS takes a particular liking to the Standard Cab and carries many in its fleet).

The SD70M has, by far been the most successful SD70 design with over 1,500 built, most of these for Union Pacific who purchased over 1,400 of them!

CSX SD70MAC #4519 in Rose Lake, Illinois; September 27, 2008. Paul Wester photo. American-Rails.com collection.

SD70I

The SD70I is similar to the SD70M in that its differing feature involves the cab. The “I” designation refers to the unit having an isolated cab (EMD calls it the Whisper Cab) from the main prime mover and other mechanical gear. Extremely quiet the feature works quite well although only a few dozen were purchased, all by Canadian National.

SD70MAC

Across the industry the most successful SD70 has been the SD70MAC. The MAC carries the same wide-cab design as the SD70M except that it also features AC (alternating current) traction motors.

Different from the traditional DC (direct current) traction motors AC is much more simple, reliable and easier to maintain albeit it costs far more.

This added cost, however, has not deterred railroads and over 1,000 have been built mostly for CSX and BNSF Railway (BNSF’s predecessor Burlington Northern also purchased a few hundred of them).

Norfolk Southern SD70M #2616, still in primer gray, has been pressed into freight service early. It is seen here at Taylor, Pennsylvania on August 30, 2003. Reuben Brouse photo. American-Rails.com collection.

SD70ACe

The newest release of the SD70 line is the SD70ACe (most in the industry simply call them SD70 "Ace" or "Aces"). Rated at 4,300 hp and carrying AC traction motors, looking similar to the SD80 and SD90 in terms of its flared rear radiator grill, the boxy-nosed unit is meant to comply with the EPA’s latest environmental regulations and since its debut in 2005 has been fairly successful with a few hundred of the units built to date.

BNSF Railway SD70MAC #9869 was photographed here by Tom Farrell at Galesburg, Illinois on March 25, 2000. The unit was about two years old at the time. American-Rails.com collection.

SD70M-2

Lastly there is also the SD70M-2 design, which looks virtually identical to the SD70ACe, and in reality is in virtually every way except for the name.

They are given the “Dash 2” designation simply to differentiate them from the SD70M model but aside from this are identical to their sister SD70ACe. Norfolk Southern is the largest purchaser of the unit (over 100) with Florida East Coast, CN and others chipping in with a few more.

Data Sheet and Specifications

Entered Production4/1993 (Norfolk Southern #2501)
Years Produced (SD70)4/1993 - 2/1999
Years Produced (SD70M)7/1992 - 7/2007
Years Produced (SD70M-2)11/2004 - 2/2011
Years Produced (SD70I)7/1995 - 11/1995
Years Produced (SD70MAC)11/1993 - 11/2004
Years Produced (SD70ACe)4/2003 - 5/2015
Engine710G3B
Engine (SD70MAC)710G3C-ES
Engine BuilderGM
Horsepower4000
RPM904
Cylinders16
Length74' 0"
Length (SD70M-2)74' 2"
Height (Top Of Rail To Top Of Cab)15' 7 ½"
Width10' 3"
Weight415,000 Lbs
Weight (SD70M-2)390,000 Lbs
Fuel Capacity5000 Gallons
Fuel Capacity (SD70M-2)4900 Gallons
Air CompressorGardner-Denver
Air Compressor ModelWLASC
Air Brake ManufacturerWestinghouse
Air Brake Schedule26L
TrucksC-C
Truck TypeHTCR-II
Truck Wheelbase13' 7"
Wheel Size40"
Traction MotorsD90TR (6), GM
Traction Motors (SD70MAC)1TB2630 (6), GM
Traction Motors (SD70M-2)D100 (6), GM
Primary GeneratorAR20, GM
Primary Generator (SD70I)AR20/CA7, GM
Primary Generator (SD70MAC)TA17/CA7A, GM
Primary Generator (SD70M-2)AR20AB, GM
Auxiliary AlternatorA8589 (GM)
AlternatorCA7A (GM)
Wheel Slip Control (SD70I, SD70M)EM2000es (EMD)
MU (Multiple-Unit)Yes
Dynamic BrakesYes
Gear Ratio70:17
Tractive Effort (Starting)175,500 Lbs at 33%
Tractive Effort (Starting)163,500 Lbs at 28% (SD70M-2)
Tractive Effort (Continuous)137,000 Lbs at 12 mph
Tractive Effort (Continuous)113,000 Lbs at 12 mph (SD70M-2)
Top Speed70 mph

Production Rosters

SD70

Owner Road Number(s) Quantity Date Built
Conrail2557-2580241998
Illinois Central1000-1039401995-1999
Norfolk Southern2501-2556561993-1994

SD70M

Owner Road Number(s) Quantity Date Built
Alaska Railroad4325-4328 (SD70M-T1)42007
Electro-Motive (Demo)7000-700231992
EMD Leasing7003-7024221995
Ferrominera Orinoco (Venezuela)1052-105762002
New York, Susquehanna & Western4050, 4052, 405431995
Norfolk Southern2581-2648682000-2004
Southern Pacific9800-9824251994
Union Pacific3779-3973, 4000-4074, 4089-4999, 5103-52311,3102000-2004

SD70M-2

Owner Road Number(s) Quantity Date Built
Canadian National8000-8024, 8800-89641902005-2011
CIT Group/Capital Finance Inc. (CEFX)140-14232004
Electro-Motive (Demo)GM74-GM7632004
Florida East Coast100-10782006-2008
Norfolk Southern2649-27781302005-2006

SD70I

Owner Road Number(s) Quantity Date Built
Canadian National5600-5625261995

SD70MAC

Owner Road Number(s) Quantity Date Built
Alaska Railroad4001-4024251999-2004
Burlington Northern9400-9499, 9504-9710, 9713-97163111994-1995
Burlington Northern Santa Fe8800-8989, 9711-9712, 9717-99994751995-2000
Conrail4130-4144151998
CSX700-774, 4701-48302051997-2004

BNSF Railway SD70MAC #9809 in Kansas City; April 17, 1999. Lon Coone photo. American-Rails.com collection.

EMD has been very successful with the SD70 despite losing first place to GE and has now given their competitor stiff competition to its similar models the AC4400CW and new Evolution Series™. 

Also, for information about Electro-Motive's Special Duty series please refer to the production rosters listed above.

In any event, while GE models are now as common as the SD40 series once was be on the lookout for the SD70 designs, there are plenty of them out there to spot, particularly the unique SD70ACe and SD70M-2s!

Sources

  • Foster, Gerald. A Field Guide To Trains. New York: Houghton Mifflin, 1996.
  • Marre, Louis A. and Pinkepank, Jerry A. Contemporary Diesel Spotter's Guide, The: A Comprehensive Reference Manual To Locomotives Since 1972.  Milwaukee: Kalmbach Publishing Company, 1989.
  • Marre, Louis A. Contemporary Diesel Spotter's Guide, The: A Comprehensive Reference Manual To Locomotives Since 1972, Including Rebuilding, Upgrading, And Leasing Programs (2nd Edition).  Milwaukee: Kalmbach Publishing Company, 1995.
  • McDonnell, Greg. Locomotives: The Modern Diesel & Electric Reference, 2nd Edition. Buffalo: Boston Mills Press/Firefly Books, 2015.
  • 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.
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