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Six axle comfort cabs on shortlines

By Chris Guss | July 11, 2022

Precision scheduled railroading, AC traction push older units to shortlines

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Overhead image of a yellow locomotive leading a freight train on a multi-track mainline.

Six axle comfort cabs on shortlines: Comfort cabs took North America by storm in the late 1980s with the introduction of the design on EMDs’ SD60M and GE’s C40-8W. While Canadian operators had been using the design since the early 1970s on both four and six-axle locomotives, it wasn’t until the SD60M and C40-8W arrived that the new standard for six-axle cab design would sweep the industry like wildfire for decades to come.

Overhead image of a yellow locomotive leading a freight train on a multi-track mainline.
WAMX SD60M No. 6030 leads an empty Wisconsin & Southern tank train at Rondout, Illinois, on June 9, 2022. The locomotive was built as Union Pacific No. 6200 in July 1989. Chris Guss photograph

Over the years, a number of smaller railroads would order six-axle comfort cab locomotives new such as Iowa Interstate, Montana Rail Link, Ontario Northland, Cartier and Quebec North Shore & Labrador, but the second-hand market saw relatively few of these due to the Class One railroads still holding onto the majority of their purchases. The Class I trend of AC traction, distributed power and Precision Scheduled Railroading in the past several decades have made many of these original comfort cab fleets expendable and have been trickling down to the second-hand market with more frequency. Gone are the days where regionals and short lines were exclusively standard cab domains, with more and more acquiring larger six-axle power, many of which have the comfort cab design.

The following is a list of some of the short line and regional railroads that have six-axle comfort cabs operating on their property as of June 2022.

EMD SD60M
Allegheny Valley Railroad
Austin Western
Buffalo & Pittsburgh
Hudson Bay Railway
Indiana & Ohio
Kansas City Terminal
Ohio Central
South Kansas & Oklahoma
Stillwater Central
Wisconsin & Southern
Yadkin Valley

EMD SD60I
Terminal Railroad Association

EMD SD70M
Central Oregon & Pacific
Lake State Railway
New York, Susquehanna & Western

EMD SD70M-2
Florida Gulf & Atlantic
New Brunswick Southern/Maine Northern/Eastern Maine
Providence & Worcester
Vermont Railway

SD70MAC
Paducah & Louisville
Evansville & Western
San Luis & Rio Grande

EMD SD70ACe
Arkansas & Missouri
Montana Rail Link
North Shore Mining

EMD SD70ACe-P4
Tacoma Rail

EMD SD9043MAC
Indiana Rail Road

GE C40-8W
Pan Am/Berkshire & Eastern
Washington Eastern

GE C44-9W
Arizona & California

GE AC4400CW
Lake Superior & Ishpeming

GE AC6000CW
Western New York & Pennsylvania

GE ES44AC
Iowa Interstate
Savatrans

MK Rail MK50-3
Kyle Railway

7 thoughts on “Six axle comfort cabs on shortlines

  1. This a great list I knew there were some, but had NO idea so many “little” roads had them. Good job by “Trains”.

  2. Another driving force here is PTC. Many of the older locomotives would take an extreme amount of money to retrofit to PTC. Shortlines can get already equipped units from Class 1 RRs or leasing companies way easier. A lot of the older power’s age is beyond usefullness. In some locations, corrosion is also a major factor and locos are well past structural standards.

  3. One correction to the list:. New York, Susquehanna and Western currently has ex-NS SD70M-2s. They had 3 SD70Ms that they got in the late 80s/early 90s, but sold them to NS around 2012, when NS brought them to alleviate a motive power shortage.

  4. I may be the only one out here who doesn’t understand the significance of the term “comfort cab.” In my mind, it evokes images of plush seats and springs to make the crew’s work space more comfortable. Could you elaborate for people like me?

  5. Not sure how you classify the Alaska Rail Road but they currently roster 28 – SD70MAC’s.

    Thanks.

    Doug Johnson

  6. James Croft, I too have often wondered about this so here’s a brief description that I found from regarding Santa Fe’s upgrade to comfort cabs.
    “Enter the comfort cab with its spacious state-of-the-art, desk top control console, redesigned instruments and brake and throttle levers, wide windshield and even a spongy floor covering that is easier on the feet. A digital speedometer dominates the panel. Naturally, there is baseboard electric heating, as well as air conditioning that evenly distributes temperatures…”

    For more info just search for “what is a comfort cab on a train locomotive”. There are some pretty good descriptions.

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