David Lotz updated May 4, 2012


David Lotz's Tags


Browse Articles » How-To Text View Magazine View

  • EL's Best Became Conrail's Biggest: SDP45

    SDP45 and SD45 team up running eastbound over Starrucca Viaduct. Photo by Victor Hand.
    Prototype Modeler - January-February 1985 - Page 26 width=

    BY THE PM STAFF - Model Photography by JIM SIX

    The right locomotive for the right service at the right time

    SDP45 No. 3644 poses in the Erie Lackawanna yard at Hammond, Ind., in July 1969, shortly after delivery from EMD. The SD45-series of locomotives introduced the 20-cylinder 645E3 diesel engines, the largest employed in U.S. railroading. The locomotives were rated at 3600 h.p. and were distinguished by flaired radiators (a spotting feature that was not continued on SD45-2's). The EL color scheme consisted of gray, maroon, yellow and black - in shades that are marketed by the major model railroad paint manufacturers. - Photo: John H. Kuehl
    Prototype Modeler - January-February 1985 - Page 27 width=

       Superlatives such as "largest" and "biggest" haven't been as prominent a part of the lexicon of the diesel motive power age as they were of the steam era, when railroads took turns - with ample encouragement and drum-beating by their publicity people - wresting such titles from one another with the introduction of the latest monster steam locomotive.

       Nevertheless, just about every modeler and railfan is aware of the fact that Union Pacific's distinctive DDA40X's are the largest diesels in the world. And the introduction of the elongated "tunnel motors" over a decade ago elicited a share of comment, just as the overall dimensions of such new power as the SD50 and C39-8 haven't gone unnoticed today.

       An eyebrow-raiser of the late 1960's was the SDP45, which was simply an SD45 with a frame lengthened to 70 feet, 8 inches to accommodate a steam generator for passenger service. As such, the locomotive went into service on the Southern Pacific and Great Northern. Perhaps the most interesting ironies, then, were that the largest order for SDP45's wasn't for passenger service, and that the SDP45's went on to become the biggest diesels on the property of the new rail giant in the East, Conrail.

       At this late stage in the locomotive's career, such notoriety had little impact on Conrail itself, but it did have recognition among Eastern train-watchers, with significant import for modelers with designs on the railroad. In fact, the lure of these locomotives continues to grow as they (as of press time) roll off still more miles on the Norfolk & Western.

       Let's recap the history of these unique locomotives before we tackle our modeling project. Built for Erie Lackawanna and financed by Dereco, Nos. 3635-3653 (19 units) were delivered by EMD in May and June of 1969 while Nos. 3654-3668 (15 units) came in July and August of 1970. Although the "P" in SDP45 stood for passenger, EL's version wasn't intended for passenger service (and hence didn't have a steam generator) but utilized the longer SDP45 frame to permit installation of a larger (5000 gals. vs. the standard 4000 gals.) fuel tank. This fuel tank in turn permitted the SDP45's to make Erie's entire New York-Chicago run on TOFC trains without a fueling stop. Since Nos. 3635-3653 and 3654-3668 didn't carry steam generator equipment, the rear hood had the same beveled appearance as standard SD45's (and not the flat hood-end of the steam generator equipped SDP45's).

       Make no mistake about it, the glory years of the SDP45's definitely occurred on the Erie Lackawanna. Although EL was in bankruptcy and Penn Central was facing bankruptcy and perhaps because of it - keen competition existed for long-distance piggyback service. And in this fight, EL still had to be regarded as the underdog compared to its giant rival. Yet EL met the challenge head-on (this was the era in which Norfolk & Western "loaned" John Fishwick to the EL, where he built a reputation that would lead him to the presidency of the N&W) and in particular challenged PC in the New York-Chicago TOFC market.

       Erie Lackawanna had a slight advantage in route miles across the East, cutting through New Jersey, Pennsylvania and New York states while PC went north and then west in New York State to cling to the Water Level Route. Once in the Great Lakes region, however, the advantage reversed as EL tracks dipped to the south through Ohio and Indiana while PC claimed a more direct northerly shot into Chicago along the shore of Lake Erie and across the top of Indiana.

    Above: In the final week before the Conrail merger of April 1, 1976, SDP45 No. 3641 and General Electric U33C No. 3317 move an eastbound EL freight along the Delaware River near Hale's Eddy, NY, over the one-time Erie main line. Although the big SDP45's made their mark on piggyback trains, there were enough on the roster to take their turns on general merchandise trains. Photo: Harold A. Edmonson

    Right: Details such as the grabirons and lift hooks show up in this view of the beveled rear end of the EL SDP45. A "normal" SDP45 had a squared-off end, a ventilation grille, and a steam generator inside the extended section. - Photo: John H. Kuehl

    This view offers a graphic comparison between the hood ends of an SD45 and EL SDP45. Besides the EL's obvious difference of the lengthened section behind the flaired radiators of the SDP45, note the difference in height between the normal radiator fan guards and EL's low-profile fans. No. 519 is a Burlington unit sporting the livery resulting from the first Burlington Northern merger attempt. - Photo: John H. Kuehl

    Early in their career, the SDP45's also found their way into pool service. Here Nos. 3640 and 3639 head west out of Burlington Route's Clyde Yard at Cicero, Ill. (west of Chicago) behind Union Pacific GP30's on Sept. 11, 1969. - Both photos. John H. Kuehl
    Prototype Modeler - January-February 1985 - Page 28 width= Prototype Modeler - January-February 1985 - Page 29 width=

    EMD and the EL SD's-A Closer Look

       Electro-Motive's production of 20-cylinder six-axle power for Erie Lackawanna was spread over five years and could be said to fall into four major "groupings."

       The first major grouping included SD45's 3601-3634, which were actually built in two lots. The first lot - 20 locomotives numbered 3601-3620 - was built in June 1967 (EMD order No. 7991). For all intents these were standard SD45's, with the standard 66-foot 6-inch frames (over endplates) carrying 4000-gallon fuel tanks, which were the largest of the standard "optional" tanks EMD offered. However, Erie Lackawanna stipulated a lower clearance height for the locomotives, and therefore they received minor modifications, including lower fan guards, that would keep the locomotive height to approximately 15 feet, 2 1/8 inches and make them just slightly different from other SD45's. All ensuing locomotives in the major groupings would conform to this height. The second lot of SD45's in the first grouping - 14 locomotives numbered 3621-3634 - was built in May 1968 (EMD order No. 7104; and no, the lower number for a later production run is not a mistake).

    Prototype Modeler - January-February 1985 - Page 30 width=



          SD40T-2 chassis
          Flexi-coil truck frames (2 pair)
          SD40-2 shell assemblies (2)


           Short handrail stanchions (24)
           Long handrail stanchions (10)
          No. 675-000265 brake wheel
      Detail Associates:
           No. 1003 headlights (2)
           No. 1202 bell
           No. 1402 EMD drop steps (2)
           No. 1505 EMD m.u. stands (2)
           No. 1508 m.u. hoses (10)
           No. 1803 Sinclair radio antenna
           No. 2202 grabirons (11)
           No. 2204 cut-levers (2)
           No. 2206 eyebolts (metal lift rings) (15)
           No. 2306 signal box (CR only)
           No. 2718 radiator grilles (2)
           No. 2807 speed recorder drive
           No. 3001 sand filler hatches (2)
           No. 3201 air reservoir tanks (2)
      Details West:
           No. 107 dynamic brake vent and electric cab filter set
           No. 139 air filter set
           No. 166 fuel fillers (4)
           No. 172 lights (2)
           No. 190 Leslie air horn
      Precision Scale:
           No. 3967 windshield wipers (6)
           No. 3976 traction motor blower housing
           No. 3978 exhaust stack
           No. 3980 exhaust stack base


           No.5 couplers (2)
            .015" piano wire or brass wire for handrails (3 feet)
            .010" sheet styrene
            .015" sheet styrene
            Assorted 48" roof-top fans

       The addition of a small group of SD45's not part of the major groupings took place in March 1969, when EL traded three General Electric U33C's to the Delaware & Hudson for the only three SD45's D&H owned, a trio of former demonstrators that had been built in 1966 and sold to the railroad in November 1967. On the EL, the units continued to display the numbers D&H had given them: 801-803.

       Meanwhile, Erie Lackawanna apparently was discovering that when SD45's were pushed to the limit on the priority Chicago-New York freights they might starve for fuel just short of their destinations. Theoretically several hundred gallons of fuel might remain in a tank, but the fuel lines were located off the very bottom of the tank to avoid ingesting "sludge." The solution to the problem was, of course, the SDP45's, the second of our major groupings. Delivered in June 1969 according to EMD records (order No. 7174), locomotives Nos. 3635-3653 had a lengthened frame 66 feet, 6 inches over endplates (45 feet, 7 inches over bolster center lines) that accommodated a 5000-gallon tank 24 feet, 7 inches long by 10 feet, 3 1/4 inches at its widest point.

       When Erie Lackawanna decided to reorder the locomotive, EMD decided that it had erred in giving the locomotives the designation SDP45; the locomotives did not have passenger paraphernalia and therefore should not have been called "P's." Spec sheets were long out, however, and 3635-3653 would remain SDP's. The mistake would be remedied, to EMD's satisfaction if not to general awareness, with the second lot of these locomotives.

       Thus Nos. 3654-3668, delivered in August 1970 according to EMD (order No. 7246), became the third major grouping, designated by EMD as SD45m's, with the "m" standing for modified. The units were basically the same, of course, but there were minor differences. The SD45m's sported snowplow pilots (front only). The SDP45's had dual controls (although photos are rare, they did run long-nose first) while the SD45m's did not.

       The fourth and final grouping consisted of SD45-2's Nos. 3669-3681 built in November 1972 (EMD order No. 7381). EL was reluctant to give up the virtues of the 5000-gallon fuel tank, but a different bolster configuration for new HT-C trucks meant a new type of accommodation had to be worked out with the SD45-2 frame (which measured 64 feet, 8 inches over end plates and 43 feet, 6 inches over the bolster center lines). The solution was to relocate the left and right air reservoirs to inside the long hood behind the air compressor and use the vacated space to reconfigure the fuel tank. The new 5000-gallon tank would be a standard (for an SD45-2) 20 feet, 10 inches long by 10 feet, 3/8 inches wide but would contain a 9 1/4 inch-high raised section that snuggled under the frame and effectively filled in (with extra fuel capacity) the area where the "torpedo tubes" usually were.

       Even EL's initial advantage was deceiving: the railroad had to climb the Pocono Mountains (over the ex-Lackawanna main), and once over the mountains, a 60-mph speed limit prevailed. Yet EL trains Advance Croxton 99 (westbound) and New York 100 (eastbound), plus Croxton 99 (westbound) and Second New York 100 (eastbound) operating over the former Erie main line, successfully competed with PC's trailvans, often equaling or beating their times.

       The performance of the SDP45's played no small role in this success. The big EMD's combined the virtues of 60-mph speed capability over the flatlands with outstanding pulling power (a typical consist was 60 cars pulled by 2 units) over the Poconos. Plus...that big fuel tank saved precious minutes that would have been lost in mid-route refueling. The mountains took their toll in diesel fuel - the units consumed far more fuel in the first 200 miles to Binghamton, N.Y., than over any other 200-mile stretch on the railroad - but thanks to the big tanks, the SDP45's usually reached their destinations with 500-600 gallons to spare.

       Perhaps the most fitting tribute to the big SD's was made - indirectly - by United Parcel Service, probably the most demanding railroad shipper in the United States. Right up until the Conrail merger, all of the UPS New York - Chicago business was routed over the Erie Lackawanna (on Croxton 99 and Second New York 100 using the ex-Erie main line through Pt. Jervis, where pick-ups were made), despite repeated attempts by Penn Central to lure the traffic away. As hard as PC tried, EL's service was just too good.

       Within weeks of the Conrail merger on March 1, 1976, the SDP45's were shifted off the ex-Erie Lackawanna main line to ex-Penn Central tracks, especially to the former Pennsylvania Middle Division. Here they were treated as any other six-axle power. The world political situation (read oil), old age and changing technology had finally rendered them obsolete for the type of service for which they were purchased.

       Today new fuel efficient four-axle locomotives haul Conrail's piggyback trains at speeds up to 70 mph. Six-axle power, including a number of ex-EL SD45's, are restricted to 65 mph (although new SD50's are occasionally allowed to operate at 70 mph). Thirteen remaining ex-EL SD45-2's are restricted to 40 mph (they share truck design features with the trucks that were on derailed Amtrak SDP40F's, and although CR has had no direct problems, precautionary restrictions are in effect), which means they're mainly used in slow freight and mineral traffic.

       As for the SDP45's, they fell into place as ordinary Conrail locomotives: 33 of the 34 (No. 3637 - presumed damaged - did not go to CR), renumbered 6667-6699, eventually roamed the system wherever six-axle power was used; some served time in storage during the recession; most if not all were repainted in blue; and they were dependable power right to the end.

       The "end" came in the middle of 1984. Upon expiration of their equipment trust, which had been financed by Norfolk & Western's Dereco unit, 18 locomotives from the 1969 order, Nos. 6667-6684, were turned over to the N&W on June 18. Recent sightings have placed them in operation, still in CR blue, at various points on the N&W, including Bellevue, Ohio. Thus the legend not only lives on, but grows, and provides the modeler with still more opportunity and rationale for employing the SDP45 on the model layout. Meanwhile, Nos. 6685-6699 remain on the CR roster, assigned to Enola but confined to storage as of press time, presumably awaiting expiration of the 1970 equipment trust.

    Sharp-eyed readers will note that the model pictured in this article was built before some of the individual sub-assemblies shown in the drawing were commercially available. Now that such components are available, follow the drawing and text instructions when kitbashing your SDP45.
    Prototype Modeler - January-February 1985 - Page 31 width=

    Above left: After the roof was sanded smooth, fairings were formed from 0.10" styrene and fitted at the rear of the radiator grilles. They were cut out with scissors and cemented in place using liquid Testors Plastic Cement.

    Above: Detailing of the rear hood proceeds with the addition of the grabirons and roof fans. A sheet of .010" styrene was cut a scale 5 feet, 6 inches by 18 feet, 6 inches and "clipped" at both sides at one (the rear) end. The sheet was aligned over the radiators and cemented in place on the roof. Radiator fans (more information on these is contained in the photo caption on the next page describing the finished model) were cemented in place on the styrene sheet, while dynamic brake fans were cemented directly on the roof.

    Above: The chassis was modified to clear the new body shell. Shown is the cut that was made using an auger bit in a motor tool.

    Right: The fuel tank was lengthened by wrapping it in sheet styrene cut to the proper length. The ends were capped with pieces of styrene that were then trimmed to the general shape with scissors and filed to the exact contour.
    Prototype Modeler - January-February 1985 - Page 32 width=

    Above: To create the SDP45 nose, a notch was cut into the side of the GSB SD40-2 nose on the fireman's side for the brake wheel, and then the nose and cab were installed forward on the new lengthened frame.

    Above right: The kitbashed shell is just about ready for painting following the addition of such details as the grabirons, battery box covers, antenna, horn and train control box.

    Right: On the featured model, Athearn HT-C trucks from the SD40T-2 were used and "back dated" to the earlier Flexicoil type by filling in the center holes and carving away some of the hump in the center of the sideframe. Recently, however, Athearn has released new plastic sideframes of the proper Flexicoil configuration which are recommended.

    Left. The finished model, replete in Conrail blue paint, was numbered 6667 after the first SDP45 on CR's roster. The model deploys normal-height roof fans, reflecting the fact that during shopping by Conrail the original EL low-profile fan guards were often interchanged with those from other EMD's. In fact, it was not uncommon to see units with a mix of low-profile and normal-height fans.

    Below: If anything, the SDP45 looks even more massive in the Conrail livery than Erie Lackawanna paint. No. 6682 is being serviced for a westbound run at Conway, Pa., in August 1983. Note the train control box added by Conrail to the nose walkway.
    Prototype Modeler - January-February 1985 - Page 33 width=

    HO Scale SDP45

        The easiest way to stable one of these locomotives is to purchase one of the several nice brass replicas that have recently reached our shores. But many modelers would rather have the satisfaction of putting together the replica with their own hands. A few modeling articles have presented various methods of kitbashing the SDP, but all stopped short of today's standard of scale hood widths (motor technology didn't permit the slim motors that in turn permitted prototypical hood widths on HO-scale models). Also, previous kitbashes relied on the difficult task of lengthening the chassis.

       Enter Athearn' s new SD40T-2. When compared to the Athearn SD40-2 , it is noticeably longer, with a frame that is the exact length needed for modeling the Erie Lackawanna stretched 45.

        There are essentially two considerations when kitbashing locomotives - the chassis and the shell. Now that the chassis is handed to us in the form of the SD40T-2, the remaining obstacle is obviously the body shell. Several shells are utilized to produce one new shell: An Athearn SD45 shell supplies the major section of the long hood including the dynamic brake blisters; two GSB SD40-2 shells supply the frame (walk ways), cab and short hood, and long hood extension. The details for the shell are commercial parts from Precision Scale, Detail Associates and Details West.

        Begin by purchasing all the items necessary to construct the locomotive (refer to the bill of materials). Where practical, use only "undecorated" parts, which saves the time and aggravation of stripping paint. Separate all assembled components, placing unneeded items in your save-for-later box. Make sure you have all the paint and decals you'll need.

        It's advisable to acquire sufficient photography for use as a guide in performing any kitbash. In this way you won't repeat the mistakes made by others. You should probably model a specific locomotive right down to its number. Also, if your heart is set on more than one locomotive, build them together. Considerable savings in time and labor can be realized in doing two at once, rather than first one and then the other. Of course, on the debit side, this means you can also make the same mistake twice, so be careful.

        Study the exploded-view drawing to see how the new shell will fit together; it's kind of like building a model airplane kit. Anyone with a background of assembling such kits should have a good feel for the procedures used in the particular project.

        Let's proceed with a step-by-step description on how to first "create" your "kit" and then assemble it.

        1. Carefully saw the superstructure (nose, cab and hood) away from the walkways of the SD45 frame. We discard the SD45 frame because the walkways will be too narrow to support the new hood.

        2. Cut the cab and beveled end from the long hood. We're discarding the cab and beveled end because they don't match the new narrow hood we'll be creating.

        3. Saw the long hood down the center of the roof, splitting it into two halves. Cut away all roof fixtures.

        4. Remove the cabs from the GSB SD40-2 shells (they pop out).

        5. Saw the superstructures (nose and long hood) away from the walkways.

        6. Saw free the rear section from one of the GSB long hoods. This will be used to extend the long hood of the new SDP45 (see drawing).

        7. Next we create an extended frame by combining sections of the two GSB frames / walkways. Sections are cut from the front and rear of one of the GSB frames. The midsection is removed from the other frame (see drawing for scale dimensions). Butt the pieces together and apply liquid cement (Testors Plastic Cement was used on our model). Be careful in handling the frame because it won't have structural strength until the hood and cab are applied.

        8. The cab on an SDP45 sits closer to the front of the frame than does the cab of an SD40-2 (SD40's in fact are noted for their extended "porches"). Therefore we must reposition our GSB nose and cab a scale 2 feet, 2 inches closer to the front on our extended frame. This will create an open gap immediately behind the cab on both walkways. Fill these gaps with walkway sections from one of the discarded GSB frames as indicated in the drawing. This completes the frame except for some underside trimming that might have to be done later to accommodate the chassis.

       9. On our model the superstructure was assembled from front to rear because of the critical fit of the cab against the raised portion (fireman's side) of the walkway. Therefore we should complete our work on the nose next. This entails making a notch on the fireman's side for the nose-mounted brake wheel. The location of these brake wheels was another distinguishing feature of the real SDP45's. At the time our model was assembled a prototype wasn't close enough to take actual measurements, so the notch size was estimated from photographs. A motor tool or jeweler's saw can be used to cut the notch into the nose. The top of the notch is beveled, so make this cut at an angle. Back the resulting opening with sheet styrene (we used .010") and cement in place.

        10. Cement the nose and then the cab in place on the frame.

        11. File or sand the cut edges of the roof of the long Athearn hood until the hood width is narrowed to match the width of the GSB hood extension. At the same time, square the edges between the hood halves and the GSB hood end. When everything looks like it will fit perfectly, cement the two hood halves together and place on the frame. Test-fit the hood end on the frame. When both are perfectly aligned, cement in place.

        12. Fill all holes in the roof with body putty. Allow sufficient time to dry and sand smooth. We've been able to sand such surfaces perfectly smooth and square by firmly holding (you might want to use tape) a large sheet of sandpaper on a flat table surface and moving the entire model-upside down - back and forth over the paper.

        13. Fabricate and attach fairings to the dynamic brake blisters (demonstrated in the photo). Add radiator fans and other roof-top details.

        14. At this point, the shell doesn't yet fit the chassis. As shown in the photo, the Athearn SD40T-2 cast metal underframe has to be notched so that it fits within the new body shell.

        15. Another major feature of the SDP45 is the long fuel tank. The fuel tank of the Athearn SD40T-2 is cast as part of the metal underframe. We extended this tank a scale 1 1/2 feet on each end using .015" sheet styrene. Begin by roughing the surface of the metal tank with medium-grit sandpaper - to provide a good surface to which cement can bond. After cutting the styrene to the proper length, hold it against the upper surface of the fuel tank and wrap it around to the underside, marking the sheet with a pencil at the approximate center of the tank. Using a straightedge, extend the mark the full length of the plastic, and then cut along the mark. We placed a bead of ACC cement along the length of the upper surface of the fuel tank and immediately positioned the styrene over the bead, cementing it on the fuel tank. Once sure of the fit, release the tension to allow the bead to dry firmly in place (approximately 10 minutes). Then begin wrapping the sheet around the fuel tank, applying ACC at close intervals. Repeat the procedure for the other side of the fuel tank with another piece of styrene. We were able to make a nearly perfect butt fit at the underside seam by cutting the second piece to overlap the first, marking it at the seam with a pencil and trimming with scissors. Cap the ends with sheet styrene and trim to the proper shape (see photo).

       16. From this point, proceed as you would with any other undecorated locomotive kit. Add details as indicated in the photos, including the brake wheel to the notch in the side of the nose. Alter the truck sideframes to represent the earlier flexi-coil type. Finish the project with one of the several paint variations that can be prototypically applied. The original Erie-Lackawanna scheme may be what you are after, or even the EL scheme with the name painted out and white "CR's" applied.

    Article Details

    • Original Author Prototype Modeler Staff
    • Source Prototype Modeler
    • Publication Date Janaury-February 1985

    Article Album (1 photo)

    Share - Report
1 comment
  • Fred Stratton
    Fred Stratton Interesting side point about the placement of the air horns on the EL SD's. It seems the fuel tanks on these units had a tendency to "bottom" out on some diamonds and turnouts. To correct this, the frames were "shimmed" to gain more cl...  more
    June 4, 2012