Santa Fe F45's

A General History

The F45 was the freight version of the FP45. It was noticably shorter (67 feet 5.5 inches compared to the FP45's 72 feet 4 inches) due to the lack of a steam generator section at the rear of the unit. Under the cowl carbody, the locomotive was essentially an SD45 (see photo at left), with the same 20 cylinder 645E3 engine rated at 3600 hp (the F45 was also nearly two feet longer than the SD45). The F45 weighed in at 395,000 lbs and carried 4000 gallons of fuel in its underbody tank.
Santa Fe's 40 F45's, originally numbered 1900-1939, were delivered in June and July 1968. The locomotives were painted in an attractive variation of the 4-axle F-unit blue and yellow freight scheme, with yellow highlighting the windshield and a large yellow noseband. Unlike the F's, the yellow windshield band did not extend back on the carbody of the F45's. Instead, a thin yellow stripe ran beneath the radiator and dynamic brake vents and around the rear of the carbody.
The F45's were delivered with a 59:18 gear ratio which allowed them an 80 mph top speed. The last 20 (1920-1939) were delivered with through steam lines, and a few were even equipped with Automatic Train Stop equipment. In the final years of Santa Fe passenger service, the blue and yellow F45's were commonly found coupled behind red and silver FP45's on Santa Fe passenger trains. The high-speed gearing also came in handy on Santa Fe's new super fast Super C, a Chicago - Los Angeles freight with a 40 hour schedule and 79 mph top speed, inaugurated in January 1968.
In 1969/70, Santa Fe rationalized their diesel numbering system. The F45's were assigned new numbers in the 5900-series, and the physical renumbering was accomplished between March and July 1970. Amtrak took over the Santa Fe's passenger service in 1971, and in early 1973 the F45's were again called into passenger service to spell the aged and unreliable F-units that Amtrak had been using on their version of the Super Chief. F45's with steam generator cars or steam-equipped F7B units pulled the train until the first order of Amtrak SDP40F's arrived in 1973. This view by Ed Smith shows the westbound Super Chief at Gallup, NM in August 1973 with 5939 leading. The ATS shoe is just visible on the first journal of the lead truck.
In June 1972, Santa Fe introduced their new blue and yellow warbonnet freight scheme. The F45's were gradually painted into this scheme over the next several years. The units continued in general freight service systemwide.
The F45's were rebuilt at the railroad's San Bernardino, CA shops between February 1982 and November 1983. The "rebuild" amounted to a heavy overhaul, which extended the locomotives' life another 10-15 years . The F45's emerged with new 5950-series road numbers, cab air conditioners (if not already so-equipped), 60:17 gear ratios (later changed to 62:15), and smoke deflectors. The latter was an attempt to keep exhaust gasses out of the air intakes. They were only marginally successful, and were subsequently removed. The F45's also received a new designation following rebuilding: SDF45. The thinking, apparently, was that "SD" was commonly associated with 6-axle EMD power, but "F" was not. The new designation would allow employees to immediately identify an SDF45 as a 6-axle EMD.
In 1985, as the Santa Fe and Southern Pacific merger was working its way through the ICC, Santa Fe began repainting its locomotive fleet in the proposed SPSF merger scheme. Dubbed the "Kodachrome" scheme for its similarity to Kodak's red and yellow film boxes, the scheme was applied to over 300 Santa Fe locomotives, including half the F45 fleet, before the ICC rejected the merger in July 1986. The Santa Fe gradually repainted the Kodachromes back to blue and yellow, completing the task by the end of 1990. The F45's, by virtue of their wider-than-hood-unit noses, had worn a larger version of the classic Santa Fe noseband in the blue and yellow warbonnet scheme. For some unknown reason, as the Kodachrome F45's returned to blue and yellow, many emerged with smaller, hood-unit-sized nosebands. This was most obvious on unit 5989, where the "whiskers" of the noseband were not extended down the side of the nose as on most other F45's.
In the mid-1980's, it became rare to find F45's on the point of trains. Cowl locomotives in general had several undesirable characteristics as lead units, which lead Santa Fe to ban them as lead units unless no other locomotives were available. With limited rearward visibility, it was hard for a crew in a cowl to look back and inspect the train, a task which became more important with the virtual elimination of cabooses. Boarding a cowl unit involved either mounting the steep side ladders or climbing the front steps and ducking through the low nose door. Neither option was particularly desirable during rolling crew changes. Crews also complained of the deafening noise and unpleasant aroma of the laboring 20-645E3 engine wafting into the cab through the engineroom door at the rear of the cab.
Despite their shortcomings, the Santa Fe's F45's seemingly bucked the law of averages in terms of attrition. While Burlington Northern, the other large owner of F45's, had retired its fleet by the mid-1980's, the Santa Fe kept their units on the road, one and all, for nearly a quarter century. While F45's were involved in derailments from time to time, none was damaged badly enough to be written off the roster until 1992, when wreck-damaged 5963 was sent to scrap. By then, the writing was on the wall for the Santa Fe's fuel-guzzling 20-cylinder EMD power.
In February 1994, seven F45's were sold to Morrison Knudsen. These units became part of the growing MKCX lease fleet. Santa Fe markings were painted out, and the units were assigned new 5525-series numbers. One unit, (ATSF 5960/MKCX 5531) was subsequently leased to Utah Railway, becoming their 9013. The rest of the 5525-series F45's were scrapped by the end of 1998. The Utah returned the 9013 to MK's successor in October 2001. The unit next went to Metro East Industries in East St. Louis, IL, where it remained unit July 2008, when it was purchased for conversion into "GN 441" as luxury lodgings at the Izaak Walton Inn in Essex, MT. Photo by Dave Vickers, November 1999 at Provo, UT.
In April 1994, another group of 22 F45's went to MK, and were immediately leased back by the Santa Fe. These units carried MKM sublettering under their road numbers, and in 1995, most lost their Santa Fe lettering. In May 1996, as financially troubled MK began to separate itself from its rail-related businesses, 12 of these F45's were sold to Helm Financial. One unit (5982) which MK had purchased for parts was cut up for scrap. The remaining 9 units became the property of Boise Locomotive Company, a division of Motivepower Industries which, in turn, was created from the remains of MK Rail in early 1997. The BLC-owned F45's kept their Santa Fe numbers, but gained new MPEX reporting marks. In March of 1999, the Helm units were reacquired by BLC and scrapped.
In August 1994, Wisconsin Central acquired a pair of Santa Fe F45's along with 31 SD45's. Initial reports suggested that the F45's were to be used as parts supplies for the SD45's, but WC subsequently rebuilt the cowl units and placed them in service. In May 1995, four more F45's and another SD45 were sold to WC and placed in service. The F45's, numbered 6650-6651 and 6653-6656, were painted in an attractive variation of the standard WC paint scheme. They served until early 2002, when Wisconsin Central was acquired by Canadian National and the majority of WC's locomotives were sidelined. The units were sold to Railworld, and 6650, 6651, 6653, and 6656 were sent to Mexico and reportedly scrapped. WC 6654 and 6655 were spotted at Larry's Truck Electric in McDonald, OH in August 2008.

One more Santa Fe F45 was lost to tragedy. On December 14, 1994, a westbound Santa Fe train ran away down Cajon Pass and rear-ended a standing UP freight. The crew managed to jump to safety, but all four locomotives on the Santa Fe train were destroyed, including F45 5976 and FP45 96.

By the time of the BNSF merger in September 1995, only three F45's remained on the Santa Fe roster: 5953, 5970, and 5975. The units were assigned new BNSF numbers in the 6550-series, and amazingly, all three survived to be renumbered. One by one, the units fell to mechanical problems, with 6550 the last to go in May 1999. In September 1999, the 6550 was sent to Topeka and repaired for a possible return to service if traffic warranted, but the call never came. BNSF 6550-6552 were officially retired in May 2002.
Some of the MPEX F45's remained in service on BNSF through late 1999 and early 2000, when low traffic levels allowed BNSF to return the units to Boise. On January 29, 2000, MPEX 5978 and 5980 were lending their muscle to train H-BARPAS, a manifest from Barstow, CA to Pasco, WA. They were the only active F45's on the system at the time, and just four days later their leases were terminated. Most of the MPEX units were subsequently scrapped.
After lingering for a few years at Topeka, BNSF 6550-6552 found their way to the National Railway Equipment Company facility at Silvis, IL, where Merrill Price found them on July 24, 2004. They were reportedly cut up soon after.


BNSF Number3rd ATSF Number2nd ATSF Number1st ATSF NumberBuilder's Number Build DateRebuild DateRetired Date


5950: to MKCX 5525, to MPEX 5525, scrapped 7/98.
5951: to MK, to Helm same #, to Boise Locomotive Co., scrapped 5/99.
5952: to MKCX 5526, scrapped 10/96.
5953: to BNSF 6550, to NRE-Silvis, scrapped 2004?
5954: to MK, to Helm same #, to Boise Locomotive Co., scrapped 3/99.
5955: to Wisconsin Central 6650, to RailWorld, scrapped?
5956: to Wisconsin Central 6651, to RailWorld, scrapped?
5957: to MK, to Helm same #, to Boise Locomotive Co., scrapped 3/99.
5958: to MKCX 5527, to MPEX 5527, scrapped 7/98.
5959: to Wisconsin Central 6653, to RailWorld, scrapped?
5960: to MKCX 5531, to Utah Railway 9013, returned to Boise 10/01, to Metro East Industries, to Izaak Walton Inn as "GN 441," 8/09.
5961: to MK, to Helm same #, to Boise Locomotive Co., scrapped 3/99.
5962: to MKCX 5528, scrapped /95.
5963: scrapped.
5964: to MK, to Helm same #, to Boise Locomotive Co., scrapped 3/99.
5965: to Wisconsin Central 6654, to Larry's Truck Electric, status?
5966: to MK, to Helm same #, to Boise Locomotive Co., scrapped 3/99.
5967: to MK, to Helm same #, to Boise Locomotive Co., scrapped 3/99.
5968: to MKCX 5529, to MPEX 5529, scrapped 7/98.
5969: to MKCX 5530, scrapped 10/96.
5970: to BNSF 6551, to NRE-Silvis, scrapped 2004?.
5971: to MK, to Helm same #, to Boise Locomotive Co., scrapped 3/99.
5972: to Wisconsin Central 6655, to Larry's Truck Electric, status?
5973: to MK, to Helm same #, to Boise Locomotive Co., scrapped 3/99.
5974: to MK, to Helm same #, to Boise Locomotive Co., scrapped 3/99.
5975: to BNSF 6552, to NRE-Silvis, scrapped 2004?
5976: destroyed in Cajon Pass runaway 12/94, scrapped.
5977: to MK, to Helm same #, to Boise Locomotive Co., scrapped 3/99.
5978: to MK, to MPEX 5978, scrapped?
5979: to MK, to MPEX 5979, scrapped?
5980: to MK, to MPEX 5980, scrapped?
5981: to Wisconsin Central 6656, to RailWorld, scrapped?
5982: to MK, scrapped late 1996.
5983: to MK, to MPEX 5983, scrapped?
5984: to MK, to Helm same #, to Boise Locomotive Co., scrapped 3/99.
5985: to MK, to MPEX 5985, scrapped?
5986: to MK, to MPEX 5986, scrapped?
5987: to MK, to MPEX 5987, scrapped?
5988: to MK, to MPEX 5988, scrapped?
5989: to MK, to MPEX 5989, used as engine test bed at MotivePower in Boise, ID.

Photo Credits:

5900: by Bill Weibel, Argentine Yard, Kansas City, KS, September 4, 1981.
5922: by Frank Arnoldy, Argentine Yard, Kansas City, KS, February 21, 1981.
5923: by Gene McKinley, San Bernardino, CA, September, 1977.
5939: by Ed Smith, Gallup, NM, August 1973.
5962: by Ted Ellis, Holbrook, AZ, September 20, 1986.
5967: by Bill Weibel, Baring, MO, February 1, 1992.
Utah 9013: by Dave Vickers, Provo, UT, November 1999.
BNSF 6550: by John Mallory, Topeka, KS, October 10, 2002.
BNSF 6552: by Merrill Price, Silvis, IL, July 24, 2004.


Extra 2200 South, Issues 112, 113, 118.
EuDaly, Kevin, Santa Fe 1992 Annual, Denver: Hyrail Productions, 1992.
Graham-White, Sean, EMD's Classic Cowl Units, Four Ways West, 2002.
McMillan, Joe, Santa Fe's Diesel Fleet, Chatham Publishing Co, 1975.
McMillan, Joe, Santa Fe Motive Power, McMillan Publications, 1985.
Strodtz, Russell, personal communications
Withers, Paul K., "EMD's F45 & FP45 'Six Axle F Units,'" The Diesel Era, Vol. 10, No. 2 (Mar/Apr 1999).

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