Still Serving: EMD’s GP38-2 “Workhorse”

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The blue & gray lightning striped livery of the Delaware & Hudson was a railfan favorite. Today only 2 remain and soon, they too will be covered in Canadian Pacific’s bright red paint. #7303 rests at Taylor Yard just two days before the Norfolk Southern takeover of the yard and the line.


Even though EMD introduced the GP38-2 in 1972, its story actually begins almost a decade earlier in the mid-1960s as it was during this time that the railroads were replacing older, first-generation diesels with fewer, more powerful units.

The problem with these newcomers, though powerful, was that these 3,000-3,600 h.p. monsters weren’t all too suitable for use on many secondary jobs…. Jobs which the earlier F-units and GP7/9s excelled at and were well suited. This led to the GP38 in 1966 which at 2,000 h.p., had more in common with its older brethren and quickly replaced them on branch lines and in yards.

The “Dash 2” line saw some 40 improvements to the original GP38 such as a redesigned non-turbo 16-cylinder, two-cycle model 645E prime mover and a new solid-state electrical cabinet among other things.

In all, more than 2,200 GP38-2S were built for 59 customers in the U.S., Mexico, and Canada…. And many are still serving the rail industry to this day!


The Southern Railway was one of 2 railroads that ordered high-hood GP38-2s. The other was Nacionales De Mexico. Norfolk Southern inherited all of the ex-Southern Geeps and has been systematically rebuilding them with low-short hoods. (Note) In keeping with Southern tradition, its geeps were geared to run long-hood forward.

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Two Canadian Pacific GP38-2s run light to rescue a disabled Train 458 on May 28, 2015.

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Like most of EMD’s offerings, the GP38-2 had a 6-axle variant. The SD38-2 such as Reading & Northern #2003 shown working Taylor Yard on November, 30 2015. #2003 is also notable as once having an elaborate 20th anniversary paint scheme back in 2003…. Hence the locomotive number!

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EMD’s GP38-2 “Workhorse”

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Author:Railfan AC

AC is a U.S. Air Force Veteran, a long haul trucker, a transportation enthusiast and a lifelong lover of trains. AC's mission is to travel America documenting American railroading in the 21st century while educating those who want to know about the importance the railroads play in our daily lives including, but not limited to, the movement of goods, services and more.

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