Rivet Counter HO Scale EMD SD40T-2, Rio Grande
The unique SD40T-2 “Tunnel Motor” was the backbone of the Southern Pacific and Rio Grande fleets during the 1970s and 1980s. They were distinguished by the see-through radiator grilles at the rear of the locomotive.
Our Rivet Counter series model is the first and only SD40T-2 to feature a completely hidden rear driveshaft and gear tower so the “tunnel” is completely see-through without any visible obstructions.
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- Version 1 – SXT31796 and SXT31797
- Series SP 8489-8498, blt. January 1978
- Operating LED walkway-mount ditch lights added to front anticlimber
- Rear snowplow removed
- Cab roof steel bell on tripod mount
- Version 2 – SXT31798 and SXT31799
- Series SP 8499-8573, built November 1978- March 1979
- Underframe mounted bell
- Deleted SP lighting package (hole in nose at former location of UDE light)
- Blanked front and rear class lights
- Modified cab L-Window
- Operating LED Prime PM-8911 Stratolite beacon
- Front tall SP plow
- Large “blunt” front anticlimber
- 88” low short hood with wheel handbrake
- Late cab sub-base “split” doors with lift-off hinges
- Bolted battery doors with wide louvers
- Nathan P-3 Horn with clearance bracket
- Cab with bolted side window panels, sunshades, and long sunshade tracks
- Small mirrors mounted fore and aft of cab side windows
- Vapor Air Conditioner
- Cab roof antenna conduit and antenna ground plane on dustbin with whip antenna base
- Early electrical cabinet “zig-zag” seam
- Welded ECAFB (late)
- Intermediate inertial intake grills
- Extended-range dynamic brake housing with batten strip and late (latched) radiator fan access doors
- See-through etched-metal radiator intake screens
- Etched-metal radiator exhaust grills with radiator shutters visible underneath
- Detailed see-through radiator intake compartment with front and rear bulkheads, floor treadplate, and fan motor detail
- Front straight uncoupling lever with loop handles
- Rear angled uncoupling lever
- 3-hose MU hose clusters with silver gladhands
- Front notched pilot faces with lifting slots
- SP-style 4-hole jacking plates
- Prime Air Filter
- Highly detailed 4,400-gallon fuel tank with front and rear fuel fillers
- Detailed HT-C trucks with Hyatt bearings, sanding lines and brackets, late center axle snubber, and D-77 traction motor and air duct details
- Speed recorder on first axle
- Specially-designed low-profile drivetrain means the rear gear tower and driveshaft are completely hidden
- Multiple road numbers
- Printed and LED lighted number boards
- Dimensionally accurate truck centers
- Correct stepwell angles and dimensions
- Scale sectioned treadplate detail on the walkways
- Underbody frame rail with separate plumbing and traction motor cables
- Accurate hood door and long hood detail
- Accurately profiled dynamic brake housings
- See-through dynamic brake intakes with resistor grid detail
- Detailed cab interior with separate floor, rear wall, seats, and standard AAR control stand
- Sliding cab windows
- Factory-applied wire grab irons, wire lift rings, windshield wipers, snowplows, horns, coupler cut levers, trainline hoses with silver gladhands, sand hatch covers, and much more
- Semi-scale coupler buffer equipped with ScaleTrains.com durable metal semi-scale E Type knuckle couplers
- Directional LED headlights
- All-wheel drive
- All-wheel electrical pick-up
- Motor with 5-pole skew wound armature
- Dual flywheels
- Printing and lettering legible even under magnification
- Color matched to Tru-Color Paint colors whenever possible
- Operates on Code 70, 83 and 100 rail
- Packaging safely stores model
- Minimum radius: 18”
- Recommended radius: 22”
- DCC & sound equipped locomotives also feature
- ESU-LokSound v5 DCC & Sound decoder with “Full Throttle”
- Dual cube-type speakers
- EMD 16 Cylinder 645E3 prime mover
- ESU designed PowerPack with two super capacitors
- Operates on both DC and DCC layouts*
- DC/DCC & sound ready locomotives also feature
- Operate using a DC power pack
- DCC ready with 21-pin connector
SP and EMD would collaborate on finding a solution to the problem. One idea that was tested in the late 1960s was “Elephant Ears”, large sheet-metal airfoils, applied to the radiator intakes of various members of SP’s large SD45 fleet. While effective at their intended purpose of directing a greater volume of cooling air towards the radiators, and reducing overheating problems, they were a maintenance hassle that blocked easy access to numerous hood doors. Engine crews also disliked them, as they could be an impediment on the walkways. A more permanent solution would be found in 1972, with the delivery of the first SD45T-2 to SP. Cataloged by EMD as an extra-cost option of their basic SD45-2 … “SD45-2 with cooling system modifications”, as described in EMD product manuals from the early 1970s … the SD45T-2 built upon the basic principle of the elephant ears, but in a permanent package. A success, SP would order a “T-2” variant of the SD45T-2s cousin, the SD40-2.
For the SD40T-2, the basic SD40-2/45-2 frame was stretched several feet to allow for an enlarged radiator compartment at the rear of the long hood. Instead of the traditional placement of the radiator fans on the long hood roof, above the radiator cores and intake grills, the T-2 design placed the radiator fans and a diffuser assembly inside of the hood, below the radiator cores, and above a large, open radiator intake area placed at walkway level, resulting in faster, more efficient cooling. SP 8300, built in 1974, would be the first SD40T-2, whose fuel-efficient sixteen-cylinder 16-645E3 prime mover would prove to be more popular than the thirsty twenty-cylinder 20-645E3 used in the SD45T-2.
The SD40T-2 quickly became a fixture on the Southern Pacific, with a total of 240 units built for SP (and its Cotton Belt subsidiary) between 1974 and 1980. Built in multiple groups over that time period, they would exhibit various customer option differences, as well as EMD production differences. The first SD40T-2s, SP 8300-8306, and 8350-8356, were equipped with 116” long extended low short hoods to house Locotrol electronic equipment for remote control helper operations. Subsequent deliveries of units equipped with extended “snoot” low short hoods would measure 123” in length, reflecting EMD design changes across the product line. All SP/SSW units featured a large air conditioner housing on the cab roof (a welcome relief in the arid southwest), a 3-chime Nathan P3 airhorn offset to one side of the number board housing, and in the case of the Locotrol-equipped snoots, additional antenna ground planes and related cable conduits on the cab roof.
And of course, the units would be equipped with SP’s traditional Pyle-National “Gyralite” signal light package; while the SP 8300-8306, 8350-8356 only had signal lights on the front, changes to signal light policy saw all subsequent orders equipped with these safety appliances front and rear. The dual clear Gyralite assembly was intended to supplement the standard dual sealed-beam headlights as an attention-getter for motorists and pedestrians, while the single red-lensed Gyralite was meant as a safety feature for other trains. Tied into the brake system, when brake pressure suddenly dropped, in an emergency brake application, as might happen when brake lines parted in a derailment or other mishap, the red Gyralite would automatically illuminate, extinguishing other headlights in the process, as a warning to trains on adjacent tracks that the train was in emergency, and to be wary of derailed equipment possibly fouling the tracks.
In the Rockies, coal hauler Rio Grande faced similar operating challenges as SP in regards to long tunnels and heavy grades, such as the massive Moffat Tunnel, stretching over 6 miles long. Liking what it saw in the SD40T-2, Rio Grande would order them as well, taking delivery of its first units in 1974. Painted black with Aspen gold striping on the ends, sidesill, and number board box, a total of 73 units would be delivered to the Grande. Eschewing cab air conditioning, Rio Grande optioned a dual Mars light, later Gyralite, assembly mounted in the low short hood, and most distinctively, requested a 4,000 gallon fuel tank, in contrast to the longer 4,400 gallon tank specified on all SP/SSW SD40T-2s.
Popular with engine crews and maintenance forces alike, the SD40T-2 would form the backbone of the SP and Rio Grande locomotive fleets well into the 1990s. Physical changes would appear to their fleets over the years; as a cost-cutting measure during the mid 1980s, as SP was struggling during an economic downturn, as well as the failed SPSF merger, the distinctive Gyralite signal lights, with their electric motors and moving parts, started to be removed, replaced by Prime Stratolite “digital” rotary beacons on the cab roof. Also deleted were the expensive engineer’s side “L” front cab windows, replaced by cheaper, more standardized pieces of impact-resistant glazing.
On Rio Grande’s fleet, changes were subtle; following the success of their SD50s, beginning in 1985, Rio Grande began to retrofit their SD40T-2 with Positive Traction Control, or PTC (different from the definition of PTC in the 2000s), which promised increased tractive effort on par with the newer SD50s. The retrofit consisted of wheelslip sensors added to all axles, as well as an electronic control cabinet added to the walkway behind the cab, on the conductor’s side. By 1989, the SP/SSW and Rio Grande SD40T-2 fleets would become one, with the purchase of Southern Pacific by Rio Grande Industries, with the better-known Southern Pacific name being used as the corporate image for the combined companies.
Into the 1990s, the SD40T-2s soldiered on. In 1991, the SP “Speed Lettering” paint scheme was introduced, with elements taken from both SP and Rio Grande. With a backlog of tired units needing overhauls and fresh paint, only a relatively small number of SP and Rio Grande SD40T-2s would be repainted into the striking new livery, but they looked sharp amongst a sea of grungy locomotives. While the new livery showed promise for a railroad that had struggled throughout the 1980s and was seemingly getting back on its feet in the 1990s, it was to be short lived, as Union Pacific would acquire Southern Pacific in 1996, with the merger taking effect on 9-11-96. As with past merger acquisitions, UP quickly absorbed the combined SP/SSW/DRGW SD40T-2 fleet, with many receiving coats of UP Armour yellow and gray. Others would receive new UP-system numbers in the form of a “patch” over their old numbers.
Into the 2000s, as newer, more fuel-efficient locomotives came online, the SD40T-2s that had served so well for over thirty years slowly started to fade from use on the UP. However, not all were to meet the scrapper’s torch; some would be sold, and go on to careers with shortline or regional railroads, such as KCS and Wheeling & Lake Erie. While far removed from the western tunnels and snowsheds they were designed for, these venerable machines soldier on for their new owners, and should continue to do so for years to come.