Rock Island (RI), despite its financial challenges that began developing in earnest in the mid-1960s, was a solid supporter of Electro-Motive Division’s (EMD) GP40 diesel locomotive. This 3,000-hp unit was introduced in 1966 and this four-axle option was a success with North American railroads. Production for GP40s (including GP40P and GP40TC variants) was more than 1,200 units assembled at EMD and Canada’s General Motors Diesel by the 1971 end of this model’s run.
Rock Island’s orders during the 1960s included GP40s numbered 340–396 (delivered mostly in 1966 and 1969). The road returned for 20 more GP40s in 1970 that received 4700-series road numbers (this is the group presented in this photo survey).
Research indicates all Rock Island GP40s possessed 3,200-gallon fuel tanks and all came without dynamic brakes. The proposed merger into Union Pacific’s (UP) system was in its long gestation phase that would never result in Rock Island’s salvation from its growing woes. While as a whole Rock Island didn’t become part of UP, a selection of its GP40s did make the move to the railroad in 1980, fol-lowing RI’s collapse (UP financed the purchase of Rock Island’s GP40s and thus assumed responsibility for select survivors in the 1980s)…
ABOVE: RI 4706 at Tucumcari, N.M., on November 1, 1976. This lead GP40 differs from RI 373 (second in this consist) by more than color, the 1970 group of 4700s came with EMD’s 16-645E3 prime mover versus the 16-654 in the 1966 GP40s. — Doug Edwards photo, Kevin EuDaly collection
ABOVE: RI 4710, 4704, and 4712 with Burl-ington Northern power at Teague, Texas, on March 9, 1980. By this date, the run for the Rock was concluded and the pieces were being sorted out. RI 4710 takes on a U.S. Bicentennial-like look with its mix of as-delivered red scheme and mid-1970s blue front end. — Richard Yaremko photo, Kevin EuDaly collection
ABOVE: RI 4719 and 274 at Des Moines, Iowa, on September 1, 1975. This group of GP40s included a firecracker-type antenna on the rear cab roof. — Steve Eudy photo, Kevin EuDaly collection