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Kansas City Southern locomotives reviewed

By Chris Guss | July 19, 2021

What the smallest Class I railroad has to offer to a potential merger partner

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Red, yellow, and black diesel locomotives bring a freight train around a curve and between signals
Red, yellow, and black diesel locomotives bring a freight train around a curve and between signals
A Kansas City Southern AC4400CW and a SD70ACe lead train MLCSH-03 in Mansfield, La., on May 4, 2021. Chris Guss photo

Mergers or acquisitions of two or more railroads always bring a blending of motive power rosters. Kansas City Southern, like all Class I railroads today, relies on its fleet of A.C. (alternating current) traction locomotives for most of its operations, similar to both Canadian National’s and Canadian Pacific’s motive power philosophies.

Kansas City Southern’s grade-intensive route on its main line south of Kansas City handles bulk commodity trains, typically coal and grain, along with general merchandise freight. Distributed power is used on most trains and is necessary to get them over the steep grades through the hilly Ozark Plateau in southwest Missouri and northwest Arkansas along with the Ouachita Mountains in western Arkansas and eastern Oklahoma. Bulk trains will typically add additional A.C. locomotives at Pittsburg, Kan., and keep them for the next 310 miles, typically setting the extra power off at Wade, Ark., where northbound trains will stop and shuttle any waiting power back north to begin the cycle again.

KCS has purchased both General Electric and EMD A.C. locomotives for the past two decades and still rosters six-axle D.C. locomotives that hold down secondary roles on heavy tonnage trains primarily on its secondary routes in Alabama, Louisiana, and Mississippi. For local duties systemwide, KCS relies on its sizable fleet of GP38-2s and GP40-2s. Much of its fleet now wears the attractive Belle paint scheme introduced in 2003 on its business train F units and on freight locomotives beginning in 2007. Several Progress Rail SD70ACe-T4s are on the property and KCS has purchased 50 former BNSF Dash 9-44CWs, a practice long held by KCS, buying both new and second-hand power over the years. Its fleet of Mexico-based KCSM locomotives frequently operate into the U.S. with primarily SD70ACe, AC4400CW, and ES44AC models found on run-through trains crossing the border.

You can review the full Kansas City Southern locomotive roster at

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