GP15D & GP20D
A rare pair of Geep diesel locomotives, the GP15D and GP20D, looked like sure winners, but sank with hardly a ripple when they hit the market in the early 2000s.
Locomotive builder MotivePower, Inc., based in Boise, Idaho marketed a light road-switcher concept in the early 2000s that should have appealed to railroads looking to replace older EMD Geeps, Alco RSs, and Baldwin RSs, among others. An aggressive team soon became frustrated as orders were few and far between. Perhaps it was due to railroads not wanting to add another builder’s products to its roster, or the Cummins prime mover humming inside the long hood.
Then EMD became involved, and announced it would market two new switcher/light road switcher designs — the GP15D and the GP20D. Not the original GP20 mind you, but a new model with a D on the end.
Through conversations with an EMD sales representative, I learned that MotivePower and EMD teamed up to market the units as an EMD product in the United States and MotivePower would continue to market them as the original MP1500D and MP2000D models elsewhere. The GP15D was fitted with a Caterpillar 3512, and the GP20D the more robust Caterpillar 3516. EMD added a few accessories of their own including updated onboard electronics.
Twenty GP15Ds were built between 2000 and 2004 and sold to CIT Group, a financial services company known in railroad circles as CEFX that leased them to railroads. The GP20D did a little better with 40 units produced in 2000 and 2001. All went to CIT Group (CEFX) and, like the GP15Ds, were leased out to operating railroads.
While outwardly looking almost identical, you can spot one model from another by the dynamic brake blisters on the long hood. The GP20D has them, the GP15D does not.
How did they work? Just fine. But producing a nicely running diesel locomotive does not mean the railroads are going to clamor for it. Perhaps marketed at the wrong time, perhaps filling a need that the builder thought was there but the railroads did not.
That being said, if you own a short line looking for motive power, you would do well if one of these two models was on the market.
Updated on Sept. 25: Four should be 40 units.