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Norfolk & Western’s High-Hood SD40-2 Units

Norfolk & Western 1627 (EMD 73638-3, 73638, built September 1973) at Armstrong Yard in Kansas City, Kan., in December 1985. An all-weather window addition appears on the cab side, and was a common feature on this group of SD40-2s. — Mark Hall photo, Kevin EuDaly collection

Norfolk & Western’s High-Hood SD40-2 Units

DEM 2023-02By David Baer/photos by the author and Kevin EuDaly Collection

General Motors’ Electro-Motive Division (EMD) produced more than 4,000 SD40-2 diesel locomotives from the model’s introduction in early 1972 until the last unit was built in 1984. Considered by many to be among the finest EMD models ever offered, many SD40-2s are still going strong in 2023. One of the SD40-2 variant models built by EMD was the high-hood option, with 138 built between December 1972 and June 1979, for Norfolk & Western (N&W) and Southern Railway.

These two railroads were the only buyers for high-hood SD40-2s. While Southern Railway placed nine orders for EMD’s high-hood SD40-2, Norfolk & Western placed only one order for this style SD40-2. All told, N&W purchased 163 SD40-2s, but only 11 were built with high hoods (N&W 1625–1635). Surprisingly, 10 of these units are still active on Norfolk Southern (NS), with their as-built high hoods intact.

Norfolk & Western High-Hood SD40-2

ABOVE: Norfolk & Western 1626 at Provo, Utah, on November 2, 1982. Research suggests Rio Grande leased motive power around the time the road acquired use of Missouri Pacific’s line from Pueblo, Colo., to Kansas City, Mo., following the Union Pacific merger with MP and Western Pacific. This SD40-2 (showing its as-delivered “NW” lettering) was among the locomotives on lease, until the group of ex-Conrail GP40s went into service for Rio Grande.  —Ryan Ballard photo, Kevin EuDaly collection

From Four- to Six-Axle EMDs
Norfolk & Western remained committed to coal and thus steam power into the early 1950s; the road built its last new steam locomotives in 1952. As the North American rail industry progressed into the diesel era, the economic advantages of diesel-electric locomotives were hard to ignore… even for coal-friendly N&W. In 1955, the railroad placed its first order for diesels. EMD became N&W’s preferred locomotive manufacturer, building 306 GP9s in the late 1950s: N&W 500-521; 620-699; and 710-914. When EMD upgraded its GP9 into the GP18 model, N&W continued to buy, picking up 48 GP18s (915–962) between 1959 and 1961. All N&W GP9s and GP18s were built with high short hoods (not an uncommon characteristic for either Geep).

As EMD began production of its second-generation diesel units with the 1961 introduction of the GP30, N&W signed up for 44 units (522–565) built during the summer of 1962. Like the earlier GP9s and GP18s, N&W GP30s came with high short hoods. When EMD upgraded the GP30 into the GP35, N&W placed two orders for this four-axle unit. Built in late 1963 and 1964, N&W 200–239 came with high short hoods.

Norfolk & Western High-Hood SD40-2

ABOVE: NS SD40-2’s 1620 leads an eastbound light engine move across the Grand River in Painesville, Ohio, on February 11, 1997, with SD40-2 1623 (EMD 73638-8, 73638, built September 1973) as the second unit. Like the N&W’s two orders of SD40’s, the N&W SD40-2s were built with three brake cylinders per side.Todd Novak photo, David Baer collection

Norfolk & Western continued to purchase four-axle units into the late 1960s. The merger with Virginian in 1959 brought the first six-axle diesel locomotives units to N&W’s roster. More six-axle units followed with the 1964 merger with Nickel Plate Road and Wabash. In 1965, N&W placed its first order for new six-axle locomotives, buying 80 examples of EMD’s SD35. The units came in three orders (all built in 1965) and carried road numbers 1500-1579. Like their four-axle cousins, these SD35s came from the factory with high short hoods.


In 1965, EMD introduced its new 645 line and N&W purchased 60 GP40s (1329-1388) and 60 GP38ACs (4100–4159), all with high short hoods. Also, from EMD’s 645 catalog intro-duced in the mid-1960s, N&W bought six-axle SD40s (placing two orders for 45 units, built in 1966 and 1971) and SD45s (115 examples delivered in four orders spanning mid-1966 through early 1970). N&W’s SD40s were numbered 1580-1624, falling into the 1500-series begun with the road’s SD35s. The flared-radiator SD45s took up residence starting in the 1700-series (1700–1814). All three of these EMD six-axle diesel locomotives style were bought with the high-short-hood option…

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