Prototype Profile: The EMD GP38-2

Prototype Profile: The EMD GP38-2

This week we start a new series of blogs, the Prototype Profile. This will be a monthly blog taking an in-depth look at some aspect of prototype railroading, with some tips as to how you could use the information for your model railroad. In Prototype Profile: The EMD GP38-2, we’ll be taking a look at the EMD GP38-2 diesel locomotive, it’s history, different versions, and how you can model it!

SOU5216Southern GP38-2 5216 by Jay T. Thomson; used with permission

The GP38-2 is a four-axle diesel locomotive built by the Electro-Motive Division of General Motors. It was powered by the EMD 645E 16-cylinder engine, producing 2000 horsepower. Production began in January 1972 and ceased in July 1986. A total of 2,213 GP38-2s were built during that time period. The GP38-2, along with the earlier GP38 and GP38AC, were EMD’s most popular locomotive until the GP40-2 captured the title. Part of the Dash 2 line by EMD, which was an improvement over older models in terms of electronics and other internal mechanics, the GP38-2 was specifically an improvement over the older GP38, which was built between January 1966 and December 1971.

CRR2009Clinchfield GP38 2009 by Jay T. Thomson; used with permission

There were a couple variations of the GP38-2 built. Southern Railway had their order constructed with their signature high short hood (as seen in the photo at the top of the page) while Canadian National had a portion of their order constructed with the recently developed Canadian safety cab (wide cab). Of the total GP38-2s built, the vast majority are still in service today. Some railroads have started to rebuild their GP38-2s, giving the units extra life.

EMD_GP38-2W_CN_4769Canadian National 4769 by Peter Van den Bossche; used under the Creative Commons license

With so many GP38-2s still on the rails, modeling opportunities for this unit abound. There are dozens of different versions you could easily model, from the ones seen in the photos above to units that have been sold to shortline railroads or have entered fleet lease service with one of the numerous locomotive leasing companies. The photo below is a GATX Corporation lease unit. It was originally built for the Baltimore and Ohio, became a CSX unit after Chessie System and Seaboard System merged, ended up in the GATX lease fleet and is now working back on CSX rails. This would make a great modeling project!

GMTX 2675 by Jay T. Thomson; used with permission

Another good potential modeling project would be the Rarus Railway 2011. Rarus 2011 started off as a Missouri Pacific unit, was absorbed into the Union Pacific, and then later sold to the Montana Western, and now belongs to the Rarus/Butte, Anaconda & Pacific.

Rarus2011Rarus 2011 by the author; used with permission

The EMD GP38-2 is a popular and well-known diesel locomotive. It is common on almost all North American railroads and would be a great addition to your model railroad. If you’re looking to add one or more GP38-2s to your layout, take a look at our store. There you’ll find several HO scale GP38-2s similar to the types seen in the photos in this blog. They can be used as is, straight from the box, or if you’ve got the talent and inclination, with a little paint, lettering, and weathering you can make them more resemble the prototypes.

I hope you enjoyed Prototype Profile: The EMD GP38-2. Next month, we’ll take a look at High Speed Grain Elevators.

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Robert Thomson

Robert W. Thomson is a life-long railfan, the son of a former L&N Railroad B&B gang foreman, and an amateur photographer. He was born and raised in southeast Tennessee but now lives in Butte, Montana with his wife, Connie and cat, Charlie. Robert has worked as a park ranger, underground mine tour guide, freelance roleplaying game writer, and ran his own roleplaying game publishing company until selling it in 2012.

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