Classic and Iconic: The Electro-Motive GP30

Written by: Gary Dolzall

Coming soon to TS2015: One of North America’s most classic, iconic, and successful second-generation diesel locomotives – the Electro-Motive GP30 in Union Pacific livery.

The Electro-Motive GP30 was both extraordinarily
successful and iconic, and, as Gary Dolzall reports,
the famed locomotive is coming soon to TS2015!

It was 1961 and the great North American diesel locomotive horsepower race was on in earnest. In the early 1960s, three builders – the Electro-Motive Division of General Motors; Alco (the American Locomotive Company); and General Electric – were each chasing a share of the lucrative U. S. market for mainline diesel freight locomotives. And as for the railroads, they had an appetite for ever-more horsepower.

Four-axle (B-B) freight diesels remained the “standard” choice of the U. S. railroads in the early 1960s, although along with added horsepower was coming expanded interest in six-axle (C-C) diesels that would eventually come to dominate the North American market in the decades ahead. When it came to those four-axle standard-bearers, General Electric had very substantially upped the ante with the mid-1959 introduction of its 2,500-horsepower U25B, first of the famed “U-Boats.” Alco countered with its 2,400 horsepower RS27 (also known as the DL640) late in 1959. Electro-Motive, then secure in its position as market leader, took a more measured approach, introducing the 2,000-horsepower GP20 at the end of 1959 (although it is also a worthwhile side note that EMD introduced its 2,400-horsepower, six-axle SD24 in mid-1958).

Alco’s RS27 created only modest interest (only 27 were sold), but GE’s U25B was generating both a lot of buzz and a considerable number of orders (nearly 500 U25Bs would eventually be constructed). And so, by 1961, market-leader or not, EMD needed to answer GE’s challenge. And EMD did so with the GP30, which debuted in July 1961.

Mechanically, the GP30 was evolutionary, certainly not revolutionary. It was very much akin to the GP20, the major performance change being that EMD’s engineers squeezed another 250 horsepower out of the immensely successful two-stroke 567D-series, V-16 power plant. Thus, the GP30s horsepower – 2,250 – did not match that of the U25B, but, as is said, it was deemed “close enough.” And in fact, so it proved.

What was different – remarkably so – about the GP30 was its styling. Along with its horsepower, the GE U25B had brought to the market a new panche of styling (at least for a road-switcher) and EMD felt a need to match it. And so, when it came time to style the new GP30, Electro-Motive called in General Motors’ Automotive Styling Center. What resulted was a relatively rounded-edge cab styling with a roof “hump” that sprang from the cab, encased the air intake system and a heightened electrical cabinet, and then extended back as far as the dynamic brake blisters. The styling was unique – and was destined to become iconic.

Electro-Motive formally introduced the GP30 with a demonstrator unit dressed in white, red, and black which wore the number 1962, symbolic of when standard production would begin. And, as EMD hoped, the orders rolled in: Between 1961 and the end of GP30 production in November 1963, nearly 1,000 GP30s would be built. And indeed the names on those orders represented a “who’s who” of U. S. railroading: The 29 original buyers of the GP30 included Union Pacific, Santa Fe, Southern Pacific, Great Northern, Burlington (CB&Q), Pennsylvania, New York Central, Baltimore & Ohio, Southern Railway, Louisville & Nashville, and more. Indeed, it was only because the GP30s immediate successor, the 2,500-horsepower GP35, came along so quickly in October 1963, that the GP30s production numbers did not climb substantially higher (more than 1,200 GP35s, which replaced the GP30s unique carbody styling with what would become EMD’s long-lived “Spartan cab” design, would be built through 1966).

Among the GP30s constructed, there were a number of fascinating variations: Union Pacific, the model’s biggest single customer, purchased 112 standard GP30s and 40 GP30B cables “boosters.” Thirteen of UP’s GP30Bs carried steam-generators and it was not uncommon for lash-ups of GP30s and GP30Bs (or GP30Bs working in tandem with UP EMD SDP35s) to power Union Pacific’s secondary passenger and mail trains as well as its hottest piggyback trains. Southern Railway (the GP30’s second-largest buyer with 120 units) specified high noses, as did Norfolk & Western (44 units). And the GP30s of three railroads – Gulf, Mobile & Ohio; Milwaukee Road; and the Soo Line – rode on AAR-style trucks from trade-in units rather than the standard EMD Blomberg trucks. The GP30 was, it turned out, very much a creature of the U. S.; only a pair were sold north of the border, serving the Canadian Pacific.

An interesting aside to the GP30 story is that in 1962, Union Pacific’s new GP30s were assigned 700- and 800-series road numbers, including number 844. That resulted in UP’s famed FEF-3 excursion steam locomotive being renumbered from 844 to “8444.” It was not until 1989, when UP GP30 844 was retired, that the big 4-8-4 reclaimed its original road number.

The GP30, given its mechanical attributes and production numbers, turned in a long and highly successful career – a career which continues today. Several major roads, perhaps most notably Santa Fe and Burlington Northern (which inherited the GP30 fleets of both Great Northern and the CB&Q) put the GP30 through expansive rebuild programs that further extended their lives. Through mergers and second-hand sales, the GP30 has appeared in countless road names and liveries, including many short lines and regional railroads such as the Wisconsin Central, Reading & Northern, Aiken Railway, and Cimarron Valley Railroad. Not surprising, considering its iconic status among train-enthusiasts, the GP30 is already well represented, too, among preserved diesels, with at least 20 examples in museums or on tourist lines, including the likes of magnificently restored Conrail GP30 2233 (originally a PRR unit) at the Railroad Museum of Pennsylvania in Strasburg, Pa. And yes, that “other” 844 – UP GP30 844 – lives on at the Nevada State Railroad Museum.

In collaboration with partner programme member DTM, Dovetail Games now will bring the classic and iconic Electro-Motive GP30 to the rails of TS2015. Available soon in Union Pacific livery, this new DLC includes both the standard GP30 and Union Pacific’s unique GP30B model. The pack also includes a superb range of era-appropriate freight stock, including piggyback flats and trailers; UP boxcars, hoppers, and covered hoppers, and a Union Pacific CA-4 caboose, all of which provide the opportunity to create highly realistic and authentic scenario. Four career scenario for the Sherman Hill route will accompany the UP GP30 DLC, and there is no doubt this iconic and famous EMD diesel locomotive will be a favorite with creators of Steam Workshop scenario! – Gary Dolzall

The distinctive EMD GP30 served for a “who’s who” of American railroads, including the Baltimore & Ohio. In 1968, a pair of B&O GP30s teamed up with two B&O F-units to roll freight westbound across Indiana. All photographs and screenshots by Gary Dolzall.

Hotshots: Long into their careers, GP30s served on priority trains. Santa Fe GP30 2777 (above) leads a five-unit lash-up of EMD and GE diesels climbing famed Edelstein Hill in Illinois in 1986, and (below), white-faced GP30 2832 hustles one of the hottest trains on the railroad, BN transcon Train 3, along the road’s famed “racetrack” west from Chicago.

Southern Railway, along with Norfolk & Western, specified high noses on their GP30s. Still wearing its Southern livery, GP30 2533 (above) was at work for successor Norfolk Southern in this 1988 scene. Among the GP30s that rode on trade-in AAR-type trucks were those of Soo Line, and Wisconsin Central 713, sleeping away the night at Waukesha, Wisconsin (below) in 1989 was an ex-Soo Line hand-me-down.

The Union Pacific GP30 is coming soon to TS2015, accompanied by UP’s unique GP30B, a Union Pacific CA-4 caboose, and a variety of UP freight rolling stock. (Some screenshots may depict equipment while still in development).

Doing what they were born to do, a matched set of Union Pacific “A-B-B-A” GP30s race the UP’s priority “Super Van” piggyback train across the high desert on TS2015’s Cajon Pass route.

Even in silhouette against a dusk sky, the shape of the iconic GP30 is unmistakable.

Union Pacific specified some of its GP30Bs be equipped with steam generators, allowing the GP30s to on occasion work UP secondary passenger and mail trains. UP GP30 800 and two GP30Bs are readying to head a mail train west out of Cheyenne on the TS2015 Sherman Hill route.

The Union Pacific GP30 DLC, created by DTM in collaboration with Dovetail Games, will include career scenario for the TS2015 Sherman Hill line, including “Cement and Coal for Denver” (above), and “Empty Stock to Granite,” below. And many additional captivating scenario for the iconic GP30 will soon be available at Steam Workshop.

Profile photo of Gary Dolzall

Gary Dolzall