EMD "SD9" Locomotives

The EMD SD9, also referred to as a "Cadillac" for the smooth, soft ride, was the builder's second model in its six-axle series and looked virtually identical to the SD7. Slightly more powerful than its predecessor and using an updated version of General Motors' proven prime mover of the time, the model 567, the SD9 was the most successful first-generation six-axle locomotive EMD produced, selling more than 500 examples (which included sales to foreign railroads). Apparently, the bump up in horsepower convinced more lines to try the locomotive. Still, the Electro-Motive Division found sales difficult with numerous future six-axle models. Until the SD40 was released in 1966 only the SD24 and SD35 sold more than 100 units for the company. As with many early model EMDs the SD9 soldiers on today, finding use in regular service on shortlines and industrial settings. There are also several units officially preserved including Colorado & Southern #839 and Southern Pacific #5428, #5363, #5468, and #5472.

A trio of Duluth, Missabe & Iron Range SD9's are seen here at Hoyt Lakes, Minnesota, circa 1960's. Thomas Hoff photo.

The EMD SD9 began production in early 1954, soon after the SD7 line was closed. The model used GM's latest prime mover of the time, the 16-cylinder model 567C which provided the SD9 a 1,750 horsepower rating, 250 more horsepower than the earlier SD7. Also, using GM's model D47 traction motors the C-C truck setup provided for a continuous tractive effort of 75,000 pounds (its starting tractive effort was nearly 91,000 pounds), which also closely mirrored the SD7. While the locomotive had the option of an added steam boiler for use in passenger service only a few railroads would include the feature with their SD9s including the Duluth, Missabe & Iron Range Railroad, Burlington, and Southern Pacific.

The Southern Pacific was one of the first railroads to take notice of the extra tractive effort EMD's Special Duty line provided, especially in mountainous operations, and purchased the most SD7s by a single company. They likewise purchased the most SD9s, buying 150 of the 471 total sold to domestic railroads (another 44 were purchased by foreign lines). While the 515 SD9s ultimately sold paled in comparison to the more than 4,000 four-axle GP9s outshopped, more railroads took notice of the latest six-axle design with more than a dozen Class Is purchasing the model.   Many of the companies that purchased the SD9 had also bought or tested at least one SD7.

Rio Grande SD9 #5309 was only a few months old when photographed here by Jackson Thode between assignments at the engine terminal in Provo, Utah in 1957. Author's collection.

In any event, buyers included the Atlanta & St. Andrews Bay Railroad (3, numbered 503–505), Baltimore & Ohio (10, numbered 765–774), Burlington (80, numbered 325–374, 430–459), Colorado & Southern/CB&Q (23, numbered 820–842), Central of Georgia (6, numbered 202–207), Chicago & Illinois Midland (5, numbered 50–54), Chicago & North Western (14, numbered 1701–1710, 1721–1724), Milwaukee Road (14, numbered 2224–2237), DM&IR (73, numbered 101–109, 111–174 although just two came equipped with steam generators), Rio Grande (10, numbered 5305–5314), Elgin, Joliet & Eastern (3, numbered 600–602), Great Northern (27, numbered 573–599), Nickel Plate Road (20, numbered 340–359), Pennsylvania Railroad (25, numbered 7600–7624), Reserve Mining (6, numbered 1220–1225), Soo Line #2381, and SP's 150 (numbered 5340–5444, 5449–5493).

EMD SD9 "Cadillac" Production Roster

Owner Road Number(s) Quantity Date Built
Atlanta & St. Andrews Bay503-50531956-1958
Baltimore & Ohio765-774101954-1955
Burlington325-374, 430-459801954-1957
Central Of Georgia202-20761955
Chicago & Illinois Midland50-5451955
Chicago & North Western1701-1710, 1721-1724141954-1955
Colorado & Southern Railway (CB&Q)820-842231957-1959
Denver & Rio Grande Western5305-5314101957
Duluth, Missable & Iron Range101-174751955-1959
Electro-Motive (Demo)559111955
Elgin, Joliet & Eastern600-60231957
Great Northern573-599271954-1958
Milwaukee Road2224-2237141954
Nickel Plate Road340-359201957
Reserve Mining Company1220-122561955-1959
Southern Pacific5340-5417, 5424-5444, 5449-54931441954-1956
Wisconsin Central (Soo Line)238111954

Rio Grande SD9 #5314 is seen here in Helper, Utah in a scene that likely dates to around the summer of 1957 when the unit was delivered. Author's collection.

Foreign lines to purchase the SD9 included Orinoco Mining of Venezuela, Korail of Korea, and Chile Exploration. Additionally, EMD demonstrator #5591 went to the Missabe Road. You can still find SD9s in service on the Algers, Winslow & Western, Nevada Northern Railway, South Branch Valley Railroad, Montana Rail Link, Port of Tillamook Bay Railroad, Black River & Western, Squaw Creek Southern Railroad, Escanaba & Lake Superior Railroad, Portland & Western, Dakota Southern, Independent Locomotive Service, Indiana Eastern Railroad, Trona Railroad, and even BNSF Railway still operates a few. 

  1. Home
  2.  ›
  3. Diesel Locomotives
  4.  ›
  5. EMD SD9


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

The amount of information found there is quite staggering; historical backgrounds of wheel arrangements, types used by virtually every railroad, preserved and operational examples, and even those used in other countries (North America and beyond). 

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

Researching Rights-Of-Way

A popular pastime for many is studying and/or exploring abandoned rights-of-way. 

Today, there are tens of thousands of miles scattered throughout the country.  Many were pulled up in the 1970's and 1980's although others were removed long before that. 

If you are researching active or abandoned corridors you might want to check out the United States Geological Survey's (USGS) Historical Topographic Map Explorer

It is an excellent resource with thousands of historic maps on file throughout the country.  Just type in a town or city and click on the timeline of maps at the bottom of the page!