Locomotive ID

Railroadforums.com is a free online Railroad Discussion Forum and Railroad Photo Gallery for railroaders, railfans, model railroaders and anyone else who is interested in railroads. We cover a wide variety of topics, including freight trains, passenger and commuter railroads, rail news and information, tourist railroads, railway museums and railroad history.

bhil3

New Member
I will confess my ignorance here, I don't know a dash 9 from a dash 8 from an Alco from a GE from anything else from looking at them. Is there some forum, book, or place I can learn to distinguish the different engines from one another?
 

Eastern Railfan

Ferroequineologist
To piggyback on what Jon said, if you have a specific railroad's locomotive that you are trying to identify you can do that by selecting that railroad's roster and then looking up the number.
 

stlgevo51

Steam Chaser
I would try locophotos.com to see good roster shots of locomotives. I really don't like Railroad Picture Archives' search tool. A book I found helpful was Field Guide to Modern Diesel Locomotives, published by Kambach (I think) a few years back. It has most of the major diesel types with the exception of anything after 2002-2003. But after those years, it gets pretty simple.
 

grizz1213

New Member
To piggyback on what Jon said, if you have a specific railroad's locomotive that you are trying to identify you can do that by selecting that railroad's roster and then looking up the number.
I agree rrpicturearchives is the best! Everytime I want to find out what something is I look it up on that site.
 

bhil3

New Member
Thanks everybody for the replies. Just got back home after the long trek home, but will certianly start checking the sites out tomorrow.
 

maersksealand3329

Son of a Conrail fan
I learned the hard way by accually looking at the locomotives and learning the spotting features that distingush it from something else. I learned from some of the old heads out in the field when I was just learning. Now I can tell you a Dash-9 from a SD40.

Here are a few more sites:

www.trainweb.org/csxphotos (I check this site to confirm the CSX stuff I see here in Lima, Ohio)
www.nslocos.com (good NS locomotive site by Mike Ray)
www.nsdash9.com (very good Ns site by Chris Toth)
www.railpictures.net (even though I DO NOT agree with some of their slections, its pretty good for findiong cerrtain things)
www.locophotos.com (good for nearly anything, from history's to serial numbers, love this site)

There are more out there, but I hope these are a good start for you.
 
Last edited by a moderator:

robjacox

New Member
Except when some railroads put "their" model designation on the unit instead of the "builder's" model designation.
Or the painters put on the wrong model. I don't think even the BNSF refers to their GP39E/M/V's as a "GP39-2", like is stenciled on the sill of this unit.

Either way, it is not a reliable way to ID a locomotive model, as this is NOT a GP39-2!
 

CSX 700

New Member
Except when some railroads put "their" model designation on the unit instead of the "builder's" model designation.
Thats very true Stan. Take the GE model ES44AC. Well, on BNSF they use the standard GE designation of ES44AC. On CSX this model is classed as ES44AH. On UP its even more complicated, classed C45ACCTE. So you have 3 railroads with the same model of locomotive but 3 different classifications. There are so many more cases out there just like this one too. It gets even deeper when you start looking into various rebuilds.

Bryan Jones
Brooks,KY
 

ARG_4001

New Member
Like wise with BNSF (Dash9-44-CW) and ATSF (C44-9W)

A decent way which I learnt was picking an era which I'm interested in. I chose 1980 onward. Look at the 2 locomotive builders from then (EMD & GE) and start off with what was on offer. SD40-2/GP40-2 from EMD the Dash7 series from GE.

Then look chronologically at the release of all new models from the builders.

Starting at the SD40-2, the next unit released was the SD50. What looked different on this? I go for 3 features per loco.

Then when the SD60 was released, compare that with the SD50.

...ditto wit the SD70 series. Compare it with the SD60.

Loco builders don't really change their look too dramatically when a new model is released. The only exception is the launch of the SD70ACe/SD70M-2.

Trust this is of some help. Use those provided websites and search for loco models in chronological order .
 

MP36er

Spelling DOES count.
Or the painters put on the wrong model. I don't think even the BNSF refers to their GP39E/M/V's as a "GP39-2", like is stenciled on the sill of this unit.

Either way, it is not a reliable way to ID a locomotive model, as this is NOT a GP39-2!
BNSF has reclassified all the GP39Vs and GP39Es as GP39-2s. They weren't modified in any way, though, as far as I know.
 

robjacox

New Member
BNSF has reclassified all the GP39Vs and GP39Es as GP39-2s. They weren't modified in any way, though, as far as I know.
Sounds (in)convenient. A real GP39-2 has a turbo'ed 12-645E, AC alternators, and factory Dash-2 wiring and controls.

The GP39E/M/V's have turbo'ed 16-567's (with "E" power assemblies?), DC traction generators (unless they got alternators in the remanufacturing), and custom Dash-2 electrical systems. (They were all rebuilt from GP30's and GP35's). Other than a 2300hp rating, they don't have much in common.

There was a section in Pinkepank & Marre's "2nd Diesel Spotters Guide" titled "The hazards of diesel spotting". If only they knew what we'd be dealing with 35 years later!
 

Abilene Ks Railfan

Active Member
Thats very true Stan. Take the GE model ES44AC. Well, on BNSF they use the standard GE designation of ES44AC. On CSX this model is classed as ES44AH. On UP its even more complicated, classed C45ACCTE. So you have 3 railroads with the same model of locomotive but 3 different classifications. There are so many more cases out there just like this one too. It gets even deeper when you start looking into various rebuilds.

Bryan Jones
Brooks,KY
Yeah,UP uses their own designations on the GE models, they use the standard EMD model descriptions on those units. On the CSX ES44AH,what does the "H" stand for?
 

Phoebe Snow

Frequent rail passenger
But many of those differences in how railroads label them really do identify limitations or restrictions. As mentioned the H for heavy, implying it may not be able to go places a regular AC4400 can. Or the CTEs which have different software to make them suitable for low Tractive Effort assignments, situations where problems arise when high tractive effort of normal AC4400 units are assigned by mistake.

The Dash944CW and C44-9W designations offer no difference in capabilities, and is one of those dumb, confusing, marketing-only things that devalues the significance of making sperate classes where actual differences in capabilities exist.
 




RailroadForums.com is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to amazon.com

RailroadBookstore.com - An online railroad bookstore featuring a curated selection of new and used railroad books. Railroad pictorials, railroad history, steam locomotives, passenger trains, modern railroading. Hundreds of titles available, most at discount prices! We also have a video and children's book section.

ModelRailroadBookstore.com - An online model railroad bookstore featuring a curated selection of new and used books. Layout design, track plans, scenery and structure building, wiring, DCC, Tinplate, Toy Trains, Price Guides and more.

Affiliate Disclosure: We may receive a commision from some of the links and ads shown on this website (Learn More Here)

Top