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EMD "SD90MAC" Locomotives

Last revised: July 24, 2023

By: Adam Burns

The SD90MAC was Electro-Motive's most powerful locomotive on a single frame. The model was developed after the company's successful SD70 line and cataloged by the builder at the same time as the less powerful SD80MAC (rated at 5,000 horsepower).

The mid-1990s were the era of the high horsepower race between EMD and General Electric, as each had been dueling for bragging rights dating back to the 1970s when GE finally came into its own as a locomotive builder.

Unfortunately, as their pace quickened proper development was allowed to slip to the point that neither the SD90MAC nor the AC6000CW were highly reliable locomotives. EMD's model.  

In particular, it was plagued with reliability issues; so much so that the company abandoned the use of the H engine and reequipped with the locomotive with a more reliable prime mover.

Today, most of the original SD90MACs have either been retired, traded in, or rebuilt while SD9043MACs remain in regular use with various companies, particularly Union Pacific which continues to utilize some of the units.

Horsepower

The SD90MAC and it’s related models are, to date, the most powerful locomotive produced by EMD. The model hit the catalog in 1995 and EMD opted not to use its 16-cylinder 710G3B engine but the newly designed 16-cylinder H-engine (sometimes giving the model the name of SD90MAC-H), which allowed for the locomotive’s very powerful 6,000 horsepower.

Aside from the prime mover the SD90MAC was essentially the same as the SD70 series and SD80MAC (it was also the same length as the SD80MAC at just over 80 feet).

The '90MAC was so new when EMD first cataloged it that the 16-cylinder 265H engine it was designed to use was not even ready for production.

As such, the builder was forced to use the above mentioned 710G3B for a short time if railroads wanted or needed their orders in a hurry. These units were reclassified as the SD90-43MAC.

Reception

While the SD90-43MAC sold fairly well with Union Pacific, which purchased over 300 of them (it began receiving the locomotives in October, 1995), the original SD90MAC did very poorly mainly because the engine was not properly tested and was prone to constant mechanical trouble.

The original was also purchased by UP, along with Canadian Pacific and their total production ended at just 40 units. While over 400 units of the series have been produced (almost all of which are SD90-43MACs) the SD90MACs themselves were not well received by railroads because their lack of reliability and constant mechanical troubles (for instance, recently a set of SD90MACs went to work on the Appalachian & Ohio Railroad in central West Virginia only to be taken off the railroad due to mechanical problems).

Perhaps the only bright spot of the SD90MAC was that it featured EMD's highly successful HTCR-II truck (high-traction, six-axle, radial), which could steer itself into oncoming curves instead of just following the rail which greatly reduced wear to both rail and truck/axle components.

For Union Pacific it completed its order of SD90-43MACs in January 1999 with a total of 309 units numbered 8000-8308. Additionally, Canadian Pacific purchased another 61, numbered 9100-9160 and CIT Leasing bought 40 numbered 100-139.

These locomotives were all built November, 1999 and February, 2000.  These is a slight variation with the original SD90MACs in that early versions featured a Phase I safety cab while later models were equipped with the Phase II design that allowed for better visibility, which located the train crew higher off the ground.

The SD90MAC's also offered the highest tractive efforts of EMD model aside from the experimental "DD" series; 200,000 pounds starting effort and 137,000 pounds continuous.

Data Sheet and Specifications

Entered Production (SD9043MAC)10/1995 (Union Pacific #8000)
Entered Production (SD90MAC-H and SD90MAC-H II)8/1996 (Union Pacific #8160)
Years Produced (SD9043MAC)10/1995 - 2/2000
Years Produced (SD90MAC-H and SD90MAC-H II)8/1996 - 12/1999
Engine (SD943MAC)710G3B-ES
Engine (SD90MAC-H and SD90MAC-H II)265H
Engine BuilderGM
Horsepower (SD9043MAC)4300
Horsepower (SD90MAC-H and SD90MAC-H II)6000
RPM (SD9043MAC)950
RPM (SD90MAC-H and SD90MAC-H II)1000
Cylinders16
Length80' 2"
Height (Top Of Rail To Top Of Cab)15' 7 ½"
Width10' 3"
Weight (SD9043MAC)415,000 Lbs
Weight (SD90MAC-H)420,000 Lbs
Weight (SD90MAC-H II)425,000 Lbs
Fuel Capacity5000 Gallons
Air CompressorGardner-Denver
Air Compressor ModelWLASC
Air Brake ManufacturerWestinghouse
Air Brake Schedule26L
TrucksC-C
Truck TypeHTCR-II
Truck Wheelbase13' 7"
Wheel Size40"
Wheel Slip Control SystemEM2000es (EMD)
Traction Motors1TB2830 (6), GM
Primary GeneratorTA22/CA88, GM
Auxiliary GeneratorGM (A8589)
AlternatorCA7A
MU (Multiple-Unit)Yes
Dynamic BrakesYes
Gear Ratio70:17
Tractive Effort (Starting)185,000 Lbs at 33% (SD9043MAC)
Tractive Effort (Starting)200,000 Lbs at 33% (SD90MAC-H)
Tractive Effort (Starting)205,000 Lbs at 33% (SD90MAC-H II)
Tractive Effort (Continuous)137,000 Lbs at 12 mph
Top Speed70 mph

Production Roster

SD90MAC-H

Owner Road Number(s) Quantity Order Number Serial Number(s) Date Built
Union Pacific8160, 82012956626956626-1 thru 956626-28/1996 - 10/1996
Union Pacific8102-85076956649956649-1 thru 956649-42/1997 - 10/1997
Union Pacific8508-852114966715966715-1 thru 966715-144/1998 - 1/1999

SD90MAC-H II

Owner Road Number(s) Quantity Order Number Serial Number(s) Date Built
DemonstratorsGM90-GM912976804976804-1 thru 976804-26/1998
Canadian Pacific9300-93034986903986903-1 thru 986903-412/1999
Union Pacific8522-856140976833976833-1 thru 976833-164/1999 - 11/1999

SD9043MAC

Owner Road Number(s) Quantity Order Number Serial Number(s) Date Built
Union Pacific8000-802425936449936449-1 thru 936449-2510/1995 - 3/1996
Union Pacific8025-807450956613956613-1 thru 956613-506/1996 - 10/1996
Union Pacific8075-8178104966714966714-1 thru 966714-1041/1997 - 9/1997
Union Pacific8179-82868976800976800-1 thru 976800-81/1998 - 7/1998
Union Pacific8287-830822976800976800-109 thru 976800-13010/1998 - 1/1999
Canadian Pacific9100-911112976841976841-1 thru 976841-1210/1998 - 1/1999
Canadian Pacific9112-916049976842976842-13 thru 976842-6111/1998 - 12/1999
CITX100-12526986927986927-1 thru 986927-2611/1999 - 12/1999
CITX126-13914986927986927-27 thru 986927-4012/1999 - 2/2000

SD89MAC

Owner Road Number(s) Quantity Order Number Serial Number(s) Date Built
Demonstrator*GM921996135996135-16/2000

* This testbed model featured a 265H engine, de-rated to 12 cylinders and boasted 4,300 horsepower.  It was ultimately never sold.


While GE's version, the AC6000CW also had reliability issues, its problems where not nearly as magnified as the SD90MAC.

The designation of the SD90's "MAC" is as follows; the "M" was EMD's designation for the wide, safety cab the locomotive featured while the "AC" regarded the alternator that it featured allowing for increased tractive effort, the model TA22CA8.

For railroads, the horsepower race between GE and EMD was a learning lesson that highly powerful, single locomotives is not always a good thing even if they are reliable due to the fact that if a unit goes down so does most of your train's power supply. As such, today the generally accepted horsepower rating for locomotives is between 4,000 to 4,500. 

Sources

  • Foster, Gerald. A Field Guide To Trains. New York: Houghton Mifflin, 1996.
  • 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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