General Electric's 65-Tonner

U.S. Navy 65-Tonner #65-00599 at Tacoma, Washington in 1989. (Tom Hirsch photo)

The U.S. Government had been traditionally the single biggest buyer of small locomotives. From mid-1941 to the end of World War II, the U.S. War Department purchased nearly 140 new 65-ton locomotives from General Electric. Although the U.S. Military acquired a small number of additional 65-Tonners during the Korean Conflict, the real emphasis was placed on larger locos with greater capacity. The assumption here is that as newer weapon systems grew bigger and heavier, larger locomotives were needed to haul them.

The end of hostilities in 1953 resulted in many of the small, medium and large locomotives being placed in storage, and later made available to common carriers and industrials through public auction. Although they swapped their military garb for more colorful attire, many 65 center cabs are still in service across the U.S., or rest proudly in museums.

Here are a few tips to help distinguish a GE 65-tonner from an 80-tonner.

Spotting Features
U.S. Army #7189

Columbus, Oh in November 1969 (Ray Sabo photo **)


Early 65-Tonner (Introduced in 1940)
  1. Produced 1940 to 1948
  2. Resembles 44-Tonner at first glance
  3. Thin deck plate added to frame
  4. Headlight above shutters with thin "clerestory" along hood roof
  5. Radiator shutters at front of hoods (early production version only)
  6. A "front porch"
  7. Trucks with four coiled springs

Twin Branch

Sharonville, Ohio on 8 October 1973. (Dan Dover photo **)


Most Common 65-Tonner (Introduced in 1948
  1. Produced 1948 to 1958
  2. Resembles 44-Tonner at first glance
  3. Headlight above shutters (no Clerestory along roof)
  4. No radiator shutters on front of hoods
  5. Three hood doors ahead of steps
  6. Large "front porch"
  7. Trucks with four coiled springs

Arcade & Attica #113

Attica, New York (Joe Bishop photo)

Narrow Hood 65-Tonner (Introduced in 1958)
  1. Produced 1958 to 1976
  2. Squarish cab with small windows above hoods
  3. Narrow hoods with shutters & edgier look
  4. Small end platform
  5. Engine exhaust pipe moved well forward on hood
  6. Trucks with six (or four) coiled springs

Notes and Reference sources:
  • Critters, Dinkys and Center Cabs by: Jay Reeed
  • The Second Diesel Spotters Guide by Jerry A. Pinkepank
  • Locomotive Encyclopedia (1956) by Simons-Boardman

** Photo from R. Craig collection

Formatted by: R.Craig

New: 1 November 2019

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