Railroads & Locomotives Locomotives Illinois Central’s EMD SD40A diesel locomotive

Illinois Central’s EMD SD40A diesel locomotive

By Brian Schmidt | January 28, 2024

EMD built 18 SD40A locomotives for the Illinois Central in two batches in 1969 and 1970

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The Illinois Central’s EMD SD40A diesel locomotive resulted from the railroad’s desire to increase fuel capacity.


Two-tone EMD SD40A diesel locomotive in profile
The extra-long frame and fuel tank is quite noticeable on Illinois Central SD40A No. 6017. The hood is also extended behind the dynamic brake blister. Bud Bulgrin photo


“Customer modifications to production units aren’t all that unusual, don’t usually result in more than minor engineering and construction revisions, and seldom are dignified by a separate builder’s class,” wrote former Trains Managing Editor Wally Abbey in the January 1971 issue. “However, the IC SD40’s received the official designation SD40A.”


EMD built 18 SD40A locomotives, Nos. 6006-6023, for the Illinois Central in two batches in 1969 and 1970. Mechanically, the SD40A is an SD40, producing 3,000 hp with a 16-cylinder 645 prime mover. However, the SD40A has a longer frame, borrowed from the 3,600-hp SD45, which provided an extra 1,000-gallon fuel capacity compared with the standard production SD40. Additional spotting features for the units were dynamic brakes and L-shaped cab windows.


The idea of buying a locomotive for greater fuel capacity was not limited to the IC, either. Erie Lackawanna purchased 19 EMD SDP45 units, which were built on longer frames than the standard SD45, without steam generators for the same purpose. Nos. 3635-3653 were delivered in 1969, around the same time as the IC’s SD40A units.


No. 6012 was wrecked in 1989 and rebuilt, renumbered the 6024, one higher than the last in the original fleet. Five units were sold to Helm Leasing and No. 6024 went to National Railway Equipment in 1992.


The 1990s saw drastic changes to the Illinois Central’s SD40A diesel locomotive fleet. In 1995, the 12 remaining units were rebuilt to SD40-2R standards, which saw removal of the dynamic brakes (and their related blisters on the long hood) and the replacement of the distinctive L-shaped cab windows with the later four-piece design. A number of units made it onto the Canadian National roster in the 21st century only to be scrapped in 2010.


Two units, Nos. 6009 and 6014, ended up with Indiana Boxcar Corp.

3 thoughts on “Illinois Central’s EMD SD40A diesel locomotive

  1. So come the questions: Why did the EL go with the SDP-45 (later reclassified as SD-45M to avoid a potential pricing problem) instead of an SD-45A? And then later, why not build the SD45-2 on an SDP-45 frame: SD45A-2? I’m sure it all it all came down to money.

  2. The longer frame under the SD40A comes from the SDP45, not the SD45 as stated above. The SD40 and SD45 share the same frame.

  3. No. 6014 was shipped to the Madison Railroad in Madison, IN. It is going to be repaired and repainted for operation on the shortline

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