By Tony Cook
Western Pacific (WP) purchased Electro-Motive Division’s (EMD) GP40-2 diesel locomotive in two groups. The first five roster members (3545-3549) came in mid-1979 with 10 more units arriving in the spring of 1980. EMD introduced its “Dash 2”-variant GP40 along with the other initial models for this series in 1972. The original GP40 model saw introduction in the mid-1960s with Western Pacific buying 44 examples (3501-3544) between 1966 and 1971, the GP40-2s saw numbering directly after the road’s collection of GP40s. EMD’s GP40 enjoyed production numbers in excess of 1,200 examples sold to U.S., Canada, and Mexico. The follow-up GP40-2 did nearly as well with more than 1,100 units produced… though it took this model longer to achieve its total (1972-1986 versus 1966-1971 for GP40 production).
ABOVE: This review’s prototype, WP 3557, sits at dawn with a GP40 and U30B at Stockton, Calif., on September 23, 1980 – Kevin EuDaly collection
The largest fleet of GP40-2s worked Chessie System’s roads with nearly 350 spread across Baltimore & Ohio, Chesapeake & Ohio, and Western Maryland rosters. Western Pacific’s collection of 15 examples ranked in size with roads like Boston & Maine (18); Detroit, Toledo & Ironton (20); Florida East Coast (24); Louisville & Nashville (17); and the interesting high short-hood steam generator GP40-2s on Ferrocarril Sonora-Baja (15).
Athearn’s 2021 delivery of Genesis GP40-2s includes fairly contemporary looking secondhand-owner roads (Canadian Pacific, Norfolk Southern, and Union Pacific), late 1980s/1990s era Southern Pacific with “speed lettering” decoration, and as-delivered Boston & Maine and Western Pacific models. This run of GP40-2s is close behind a group released in 2020 that included mostly as-delivered looks: Detroit, Toledo & Ironton; Conrail (repaint ex-Reading); Reading; and Southern Pacific.
ABOVE: WP 3555 shows a Phase II body with anti-climber pilot, and late grilles on the radiator portion of the long hood. Athearn accurately depicts this model with proper nose Gyralight, snowplow, air conditioner, Q-type fans, and other eye-catching details. – Jim Hoops photo, Kevin EuDaly collection
While these WP GP40-2s may be EMD Dash 2 units, you’ll notice the prototype pictures and models show standard Blomberg four-axle truck sideframes. As done by some railroads, Western Pacific opted to stick with this style sideframe rather than the usual shock-absorber equipped Blomberg M-type design. For some buyers, this sticking with an already in use on the railroad truck was a move to reduce maintenance costs by keeping the same design across a run of locomotives or benefiting in cost by having EMD use traded-in trucks on new equipment versus opting for new.
Noteworthy for Western Pacific’s GP40-2s is the livery provided as-delivered and on Athearn’s four road numbers (3550, 3551, 3554, and 3557) in this 2021 production. The units came decked out in Perlman Green with orange and for this collection of GP40-2s, this version of the road’s corporate image was new. Western Pacific utilized this combination of colors from the 1960s through its merger into Union Pacific in the early 1980s, but the design saw variations with some units carrying striping on the ends and other looks that differed from this late era solid orange nose presentation of the scheme.
ABOVE: This late era Perlman Green scheme is basic, but attractive with “WP” initials appearing on the nose and end of the long hood. Check out the details on the roof of this Athearn Genesis release. Up front is an accurate air horn cluster, followed by air conditioner unit (a first for new WP motive power at the time), raised plate with firecracker-style antenna with cabling back to the cab, exhaust silencer, and Q-type fans on the radiator section.
This Genesis GP40-2 was a bit of an impulse buy on a recent trip to Midwest Model Railroad in Independence, Mo. I’d gone in to get a decoder and look at recent Accurail kits and couldn’t resist this WP model and took it home (along with a Digitrax 21-pin DCC decoder). Model Railroad News‘ Ryan Crawford is reviewing a recent Atlas Master HO-scale Western Pacific GP40 and I remember liking it quite a bit and thought this GP40-2 would make a good companion in the magazine. Watch for reviews of both models this spring in Model Railroad News from Ryan Crawford and me. I bought a non-sound GP40-2 and will install Digitrax’s DH126MT decoder in the model as part of the review presentation.
ABOVE: The railroad action in Salina, Kan., was south of I-70 and always an attraction on journeys to and from Colorado. This May 1983 view is typical of the mix of interesting motive power on display at the time. WP 3554 provides a not commonly seen back view, with WP GP40 and Union Pacific GP30 sharing the same track. – Warren Sunkel photo, Kevin EuDaly collection
Athearn’s fully assembled HO-scale Genesis GP40-2 comes in standard DC version with 21-pin socket for conversion to Digital Command Control and carries a suggested retail price of $209.98. Models are also available with DCC and SoundTraxx-made Tsunami 2 audio that list for $299.98.
If you’re looking for reference on EMD’s GP40-2, Diesel Era‘s September/October 2000 (Volume 11, Number 5) and November/December 2000 (Volume 11, Number 6) presents a two-part survey of this four-axle Dash 2 model with roster information and many prototype pictures.
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