The General Motors EMD GP7 Locomotive

Written by Mike Brazeau

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General Motors Electro-Motive Division (EMD) built the GP7 4 axle Diesel road switcher from October, 1949 through May, 1954. EMD needed a new design to compete with ALCO, Baldwin and other companies that were already building road switches of their own. They needed a general-purpose locomotive that could do yard switching, freight hauling and easily go in both directions. The GP series (or "Geep" as it was nicknamed) was the answer. They delivered their first GP7 to the Chicago & North Western Railroad in 1949 and by 1954 had produced a total of 2,724 units for service in the United States, Canada and Mexico. An EMD 567B sixteen-cylinder engine powered them.

The GP7 replaced the ill-fated BL2, of which only 58 were built over a one-year period. Geeps were highly successful due to their dependability and ease of operation and maintenance. Good visibility, a nearly full-length catwalk and easy engine access made the GP series a favorite for the both the operating and maintenance crews. The success of the GP series Diesel locomotives was crippling to EMDs competitors and companies like Lima-Baldwin-Hamilton (which was a product of the merger of Lima Locomotive Works and the Baldwin-Hamilton Company in 1950) ceased production in 1956 and Fairbanks-Morse in 1958 (building locomotives in Mexico until 1964).

The Santa Fe, Chesapeake and Ohio; Missouri Pacific and New York Central were among a few of the railroads to place the largest orders for the GP7. The GP9 replaced the GP7 in January, 1954 and was a higher horsepower version that expanded on an already good thing. Many rebuilt or restored units are still in operation today with shortline railroads and train museums. Quite a feat for a 50+ year old design in an industry where a life span of less than 20 years is usually the norm.

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