Railroads & Locomotives Locomotives EMD’s GP30 model forges forward

EMD’s GP30 model forges forward

By Chris Guss | May 7, 2024

Over six decades and this unique design is still hanging on

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EMD’s GP30

red and white SOO train
Soo Line GP30 No. 700 is currently part of the operable collection of the Lake Superior Railroad Museum in Duluth, Minn. It was visiting St. Paul, Minn., on display for Train Days at Union Depot in 2019. Chris Guss

The unmistakable look of EMD’s GP30 model, with its humpback design applied from the automotive styling group of General Motors in Detroit, was a popular model when introduced in the early 1960s. During its short production life from 1961 to 1963 over 900 copies were built for almost 30 customers. As was the norm back then, many variations of the locomotive were specially built for its customers, from high hoods to short hoods and cabless versions built with and without steam generators for Union Pacific as well.

Like all early locomotive models, increasing horsepower output in newer locomotives pushed the GP30 to secondary roles over time, then off many rosters completely. Of the Class I railroads today, only BNSF has the GP30 design still on its active roster. BNSF merger partners Santa Fe and Burlington Northern both rostered the model prior to the merger, with all ATSF and BN GP30 locomotives undergoing extensive rebuilding and upgrading primarily in the 1980s while retaining their unique appearance. Santa Fe retained the GP30 model designation while Burlington Northern classified theirs as GP39Ms. A second rebuilding program for these locomotives was completed by BNSF, changing the look of some GP30s after completion.

BNSF’s roster today is mixed with locomotives that look almost exactly like an as-built GP30, some only retain the familiar hump on the long hood behind the cab, while others emerged from overhaul with its signature hump completely removed.

In addition to BNSF, a number of short lines still roster the GP30. Most GP30s on short lines are primarily from a group of former Santa Fe GP30s that BNSF disposed of years ago. Short line railroads that use this distinctive design today include Greenville & Western, Arkansas-Oklahoma, Indiana Northeastern, and Reading & Northern. A few short lines like Ft. Smith Railroad and Georgia Southwestern have former CSX slug sets with the unpowered slug created from former GP30s.

There are a surprising number of GP30s preserved across the country, just under 20, spread across a range of original owners, with some in operable condition to power excursion trains or photo freights. It’s good to know this unique design still hangs on over six decades after being built.

3 thoughts on “EMD’s GP30 model forges forward

  1. ON CSX we had them reworked as slug units….maybe a couple that still ran…all gone now I think.

  2. The GP30 was my favorite EMD locomotive. It’s good to know they can still be found out on the road and in museums.

  3. While certain locomotives can be tricky to state with certainty one can never miss with the GP30! Yeah! I remember being in the cab of one (SP) while it waited on a westbound coming down Beaumont Pass in 1964. Great memories. Too bad that young railfans today will find that thrill be be few and far between.

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