General Electric's 45-Tonner

The above scene was captured at the U.S. Gypsum quarry in Alabster, Michigan on 24 May 1967. (R. Craig photo)


General Electric's 45-Ton locomotive was designed primarily for industrial users, as such the federal government's "90,000 Pound" law of 1937 had no applicability. The earliest version of the four-axle locomotive was built in 1939 and featured a thin-plate frame and two side-rod trucks; it weighed only 43 tons. The following year, the builder standardized on a thicker frame for future center-cab switcher construction in the 44-ton to 80-ton range. However, the 45-ton model was the only GE locomotive to feature single traction-motor trucks with side rods; buyers of new 45-tonners were also given the option of internal chain-driven trucks.

Total GE production of the 45-tonner reached slightly less than 350 units; the first of the 360-400 horsepower models appeared late in 1940. During WWII, a large number of 45-tonners were gobbled up by the U.S. Military, including many with "drop-cabs" for low clearance.

Here are a few tips on how to readily identify GE's 45-ton industrial switchers.


Pre-WWII Model

Wabash #51

St. Thomas, Ontario (3 September 2003)

Rabo Sabo photo (R. Craig collection)

ACF Industries #Y69

St. Louis, Missouri (9 April 1971)

R.R. Wallin photo (R. Craig collection)

Spotting Features - 43-Tonner
  1. Thin frame deck
  2. Headlight mounted above windshields
  3. Small lip on cab and and hood roofs
  4. Narrow hood with small screened grille
  5. Front handle rail extends from sides of hood
  6. Square cab windows
  7. Side-rod trucks
  8. Steps centered on trucks

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Spotting Features - Earliest 45-Tonners

  1. Thicker frame
  2. Headlight mounted high on nose
  3. Smooth corners on hoods and cabs (sometimes)
  4. Shutters instead of small screens
  5. Handrail entire width of locomotive at front and rear
  6. Rounded-corner cab windows
  7. Side-rod trucks
Standard Center Cab (Post 1946)

Aurora Elgin & Fox River #5

Elgin, Illinois (20 October 2018)

Robby Cragg photo

IMC #1

Orrington, Maine (5 October 1970)

George Turnbull photo (R. Craig collection)

Penn Dixie no-#

Petoskey, Michigan (August 1969)

P. Dennis Custer (R. Craig collection)

Spotting Features
  1. Standardized Thick frame
  2. Headlight relocated to spot above shutters
  3. Smooth corners on cab and and hoods
  4. Shutters at front of hoods
  5. Handrail entire width of locomotive at front and rear
  6. Small "front porch" (not present on 44-tonners)
  7. Side-rod or internal chain & sprocket trucks
Drop Cabs

U.S. Air Force

Kansas City, Missouri (6 November 1966)

Mac Owen photo (R. Craig collection)

Spotting Features

  1. Standard frame
  2. Dropped cab with no windows above hoods
  3. Smooth corners on cab and and hoods
  4. Shutters at front of hoods
  5. Side-rod or internal chain & sprocket trucks
  6. Handrail supports protrude at hood front
  7. Air compressor box in front of cab on footboard
  8. Generally, locomotive closely resembles 44-tonner, but weights 45-tons
Post 1989 Center Cab

Lehigh Portland Cement no-#

Miami, Florida (19 June 1971)

Photographer Unknown (R. Craig collection)

Spotting Features

  1. Thin raised deck platform
  2. Narrower hoods with shutteers
  3. four low vents on each side of hood
  4. Squarish cab with small windows above hoods
  5. Handrail entire width of locomotive at front and rear
  6. Engine exhaust moved well forward on top of hood
  7. Side-rod or internal chain & sprocket trucks
  8. Small "front porch"


Notes and Reference sources:
  • The Second Diesel Spotters Guide by Jerry A. Pinkepank
  • Locomotive Encyclopedia (1950-1952) by Simons-Boardman
Formatted by: R.Craig

New: 1 October 2019


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