EMD Open Houses: Part 2 - 1978 & 1989

Generally speaking, the 1978 Open House featured an entirely different set of road names as compared to those present at the 1972 event. (Marty Bernard photo)


EMD introduced nearly a dozen new locomotive models in both four and six-axle configuations, during the 1960s and early 70s. They ranged from the slightly popular GP20 with the 16V-567 engine producing 2000-hp to the burly SD45-2 with the 20V-645 engine that had a 3600-hp out-put. The year 1974 ushered in a change of pace, a stark contrast that lasted close to ten years, without one major new model introduction. Instead, the LaGrange builder was focused on fulfilling the railroad industry's orders for new locomotives, especially GP38-2s and SD40-2s. It was clearly a period of product improvement and new technology development. However, EMD was proud of its achievements and choose to showcase its progress in locomotive technology and manufacturing processes with employees, families and the general public. The opportunity came on 10 June 1978, and Marty Bernard was on-hand to record the scenes.

Held on 21 September 1989, EMD's 75th Anniversary celebration was for many a return to the past, a sentimental journey or a time warp. It was the most heavily advertised in advance and, not surprising, the best attended open house of all prior open events. As had been promised, EMD used the occasion to showcase several historic and notable locomotives from from the past, including the first FT 103 diesel freight unit. There were also present day locomotives, demonstrators, equipment exhibits, in-plant demonstrations, and even vintge movies. As might be expected, the railfan community turned-out in large numbers, and the sound of camera shutters reverberated throughout the plant complex.

Let's pause and take a look back at both of 1978 and 1989 open houses. If you missed the first part of the this photo essay, here is a link to EMD Open Houses (Part 1).

New: 1 July 2019


1978 Employee Open House

The production of 23 new GP40X models between December 1977 and June 1978 was perhaps the only notable news to come out of the LaGrange builder's office during the latter part of the 1970s and early 1980s. The 3500-hp model employed a V16-645 engine that was installed in ten ATSF prototypes, including #3801. (Marty Bernard photo)

EMD's "40-2" series was well regarded by railroads large and small; total production at 5100+ (four and six-axle units combined) surpassed all other second generation models by industry builders. Four GP40-2s wait outside the paint shop to donn the uniform and colors of new owner Conrail. (Marty Bernard photo)

Two GP38-2s stand outside the EMD paint department. The pair of locos were probably built for the Clinchfield RR, based on the date of the photo and corresponding EMD records. The snow-plow pilot supports that theory; all second-generation power owned by the Clinchfield came from the factory with a snow-plow pilot. (Marty Bernard photo)

A visit to the erection hall netted a couple of new four-axle geeps being assembled. There are clues that suggest the new locomotives are GP39-2s. For starters, there is the presence of a 2300-hp V12-645E, turbo-charged prime-mover; the spacing of the two 38" fans on the long hood, and lastly a single turbocharger exhaust stack. (Marty Bernard photo)

The locomotive Cab Assembly department routinely handles the fabrication of two-window spartan cabs that are installed on the frames of GP38-2s and GP40-2s, as well as three-windows safety cabs for SD60Ms. (Michael Metalis photo)

The physical beginning of a new locomotive takes place in the Frame department, where fuel tanks are installed, snow plows applied and couplers added along with required mechanical rigging. (Michael Metalis photo)

Two 1500-hp switchers in standard EMD attire are parked close to loco servicing facilities. One of them is MP15AC #115 built in 1975; the other is SW1500 #114. The nine original SW1500 demonstrators (#106-114) were sold to shortline or terminal railroad operators. The #115 was later sold to Georgetown RR. (Willaim Johnson photo)

Clearly one of the most unusual units available for the curious was a 40-year-old Alco-built S1 switcher, with Blunt trucks. Ex-Chesapeake & Ohio #9168 had been trade-in fodder years earlier on new locos. Reportedly, the old Alco's was used exclusively as a test-scale car. (Marty Bernard photo)

Southern Railway GP40X #7000 stands beyond the plant while undergoing one of several 645F engine load test procedures. (William Johnson photo)

While out "exploring," photographer Bill Johnson encountered an ex-RF&P E8A which has the exhaust system tied in to one of the plant's out-buildings.

An export SD38-2 model waits in the paint department for finishing touches. The six-axle locomotive is one of two being built (#10 and 11) for Estrada de Ferro Jari in Brazil. The export unit rides on wide-gauge trucks (1600mm). (William Johnson photo)

Norfolk & Western placed five orders for SD40-2s between 1973 and 1980. The #6173 pictured here is part of a 50-unit group (#6139-6188) assembled during the middle of 1978. The new 3000-hp locomotives featured bath-tub 4000-gallon fuel tanks. (William Johnson photo)


1989 - 50th Anniversary of the F-unit

Star of day-long program was Electro-Motive Division's FTA and FTB #103 -- The locomotive had revolutionized railroading like none other. Built in 1939 by EMD predecessor Electro- motive Corporation, the historic cab-unit stood gleaming in its original colors for the faithful. The FTA had also been present at the 50th Anniversary, but wore Southern Railway dress and carried #6100. (R. Craig photo)

The 1989 Open House marked the first time in perhaps 30 years that the FTA/B #103 duo had been re-united. The FTB had been owned by the Virginia Museum Of Transportation in Roanoke; and the FTA was the property of the National Museum of Transportation in St. Louis. Both of the 1939-vintage locos were cosmetically restored to their original as-built appearance. (R. Craig photo)

Chicago Indianpolis & Louisville's (Monon) fleet of nine BL2s were built in April 1948 and pre-dated the GP7 model by sixteen months. Besides their birthplace at EMD, the two four-axle road-switchers shared one other thing in common -- the 1500-hp V16-567B diesel engine. Monon #32 was one of 58 BL2s built, and only one of four known to still be operational; the 34-year veteran is still active at the kentucky Railway Museum. (R. Craig photo)

On loan from the Reading Company Technical & Historical Society, GP30 #5513 had been part of an order for 20 new EMD-built locomotives. It was among the first to wear the railroad's new imitation gold and green corporate atire. In 1976, it became part of Conrail as #2181, but never lost its original paint scheme. Total production of the GP30 model reached 946 units with most being placed in high-speed freight service. (R. Craig photo)

The Great Northern Historical Society was one of several railroad museums and technical organizations participated in the EMD celebration. GN SD45 #400dubbed "Hustle Muscle," was the Society's representative. The 3600-hp locomotive was the first production model of the popular six-axle freighter. (R. Craig photo)

"War Bonnet"-attired Atcheson Topeka & Santa Fe FP45 #101 (2nd) drew its share and more of photographers and admirers. A kodachrome sky made the six-axle passenger hauler sparkle and gleam as only ATSF's red/silver/yellow could. The locomotive was re-numbered #92 and donated to the Illinois Railway Museum. (R. Craig photo)

The 1960s and 1970s might be viewed as the high-water mark for locomotive manufacturer's deployment of new model demonstrators. Alco, EMD, GE and Montreal locomotive Works all had new models that the builders were anxious to showcase on North American railways. EMD dispatched scores of demonstrators during the two-decades, including SD45X #5740. The 4200-hp loco was built in June 1970. (R. Craig photo)

EMDs GP60 Demonstrators #5, 6 & 7 were the first to feature micro-processor controls. The new third-generation model was delivered in three variations: Standard cab GP60 (294 built), cab-less GP60B (23-built) and safety cab GP60M (63 built). The three demonstrators were sold to CSX and became 6897, 6898 & 6899 respectively. (R. Craig photo)

EML GP38-2 #837 was originally built for Penn Central as #8037 in 1972; it went to Conrail years later still wearing #8037. In 1987, it became the property of EMLX (the leasing arm of GM in the late 1980s. From there, the four-axle road-switcher went to UP in 1998 as #1968/ 468. It also spent time as an LLPX lease unit, prior to joining the lease fleet at GMTX. (R. Craig photo)

Through-out 1989 and 1990, the erection bays at the LaGraange plant were filled with SD60Ms, while EMD worked to complete Union Pacific's first order for the new 3800-hp road-switcher (#6085-6268). While the #6200 was outside basking in the sun, the shell of sister #6205 was inside the assembly hall being raised and lowered for visitors by a 200-ton capacity crane. (David Wilson photo)

Chicago & North Western #1518 was the first GP7 built and ex-EMD Demonstrator #100; it also has the dubious distinction of being the only locomotive to appear at multiple open houses, wearing the colors of its original owner.(R. Craig photo)

The winners by a nose -- well, not exactly. In terms of sales, all of the locomotive models pictured were well embraced by the railroad industry, except the GP60. From left to right, the models are GP7, GP38, GP40, SD40, GP60 and SD45. (R. Craig photo)

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