Santa Fe's Lone GP40

There have been some interesting locomotives produced over the years that Santa Fe, for one reason or another, chose to ignore. They bought road locomotives primarily from EMD through the first decades of dieselization, ignoring most of the exotic offerings from Baldwin and Fairbanks Morse and sampling only a few models from Alco. No Alco Century-series locomotives ever graced the Santa Fe roster except indirectly; subsidiary Toledo Peoria & Western owned a pair of C424's. In more recent times, even some fairly good-selling models from EMD managed to evade Chico's roster, with perhaps the most glaring example being the 4-axle EMD 40-series, the 3000 hp GP40 and GP40-2. A combined total of more than 2000 of these models were sold over a 20 year period to dozens of railroads large and small, but Santa Fe was not among them. Having bought big on GP30's and 35's in the early 60's, the Santa Fe was apparently ready to concentrate on high horsepower 6-axle locomotives by the time EMD's 1965-line came out. The road acquired respectable fleets of SD40's, SD40-2's, SD45's, and SD45-2's, as well as comparable 6-axle locomotives from GE through the 1960's and 70's, but it would be 1978 before Santa Fe would finally purchase 4-axle locomotives of greater than 2500 hp.

It's probably fitting, then, that the one GP40 that did ultimately wind up on Santa Fe's roster was a third hand, orphaned unit that shouldn't have needed to be built in the first place. In 1969, several GP40's that EMD had built for Milwaukee Road and Penn Central turned up with frame cracks. EMD quickly built 20 additional GP40's to substitute for the defective units until the cracked frames could be remedied. EMD #11-26 came out in solid black for use by Penn Central, and 2068-2071 came out in Milwaukee colors for use by that road. Milwaukee ultimately purchased all of its "loaner" GP40's, and PC bought all of theirs except for one, #21. EMD sold that unit in July of 1969 to the Toledo Peoria & Western, a shortline running through Illinois and Indiana south of Chicago that was jointly owned by Santa Fe and PC. By October 1969, EMD 21 had been renumbered to TP&W 1000, but the locomotive had to wait six more years before trading its black paint for TP&W orange and white. The roster of the "Tip-Up" was full of oddballs and single-unit classes, so the 1000 was right at home. While the road had plenty of EMD power, 1000 was the only GP40. It was also the most powerful unit on the roster, and the only one with dynamic brakes.

By 1983, Santa Fe had acquired 100% control of the TP&W, and at the end of that year, they absorbed the line completely. Santa Fe cast off most of the Alcos and smaller EMD power, but kept the medium horsepower, 4-axle EMD's. GP40 #1000 was renumbered to Santa Fe 3461 in January 1984, just above Santa Fe's GP35's and below the Santa Fe numbers assigned to TP&W's GP35's (3462-3464). Santa Fe was in the process of remanufacturing its GP35's at the time of the "merger," and the TP&W locomotives were included in the program. In August 1984, the ATSF shops at San Bernardino, CA rebuilt GP40 3461, derating it to 2500 hp to match the rating of the GP35's, and giving it a coat of Santa Fe blue and yellow paint. The locomotive emerged with yet another road number, ATSF 2964, which put it just above the rebuilt GP35's. The locomotive joined Santa Fe's large fleet of less-than-3000hp 4-axle roadswitchers, and fell into the jack-of-all-trades role common to this type of locomotive: switching, local assignments, and occasional road freights.

On January 28, 1988, the 2964 was working in Southern California when it was destroyed in a firey collision at Pico Rivera, CA. Santa Fe's only GP40 had worked for the railroad just four years.

San Bernardino, CA, April 1986. Photo by John Lewis.

Only GP40? Well...sort of. It turns out the 4-axle units Santa Fe bought in 1978, the ones that finally broke the 4-axle, 2500 hp threshold, carried the model designation "GP40X." The designation is a little misleading, as the locomotives were really experimental versions of the GP50 (hence the X for eXperimental). Where the GP40 had a 16-645E3 prime mover rated at 3000hp, the GP40X's used the 16-645F rated at 3500hp, the engine later incorporated into the GP50. Unlike the GP50, the GP40X's also sported flared radiators, the likes of which hadn't been seen since the SD45. Thus, in spite of the "GP40" in its designation, its hard to accept the GP40X's as "real" GP40's.

Ironically, the railroad that bought no true GP40's ended up with the largest fleet of GP40X's: 10 units (#3800-3809) out of a production total of only 23. There were reports in the early 90's of a planned program to convert the Santa Fe GP40X's into cabless B-units, but the units survived intact and mostly unscathed except for the usual Santa Fe headlight relocation to the nose after 1988. Unlike the ill-fated 2964, all 10 Santa Fe GP40X's survived through the BNSF merger, becoming BNSF 3030-3039.


  • EuDaly, Kevin, Santa Fe 1992 Annual, Denver: Hyrail Productions, 1992.
  • McMillan, Joe, Santa Fe Motive Power, McMillan Publications, 1985

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