For a time, the GP60M was the face of the Santa Fe. In the 1990s, it was the hotshot engine for high-speed LA-Chicago "Super Fleet" service. Emblazoned with the Santa Fe's newly revived warbonnet paint scheme, the GP60M was a darling of the road's publicity department. One new engine was even painted in a light blue warbonnet scheme, to help German container shipping company Maersk advertise its services. After several days of photography on Cajon Pass in the southern California mountains, the engine was returned to the Topeka shops and repainted in regular Super Fleet colors.
Behind the cab, the GP60M was a conventional EMD GP60 - an historic engine in its own right. At 3800 hp, it was the last and most powerful of Electro-Motive's 4-axle GP series, which stretched back four decades to the 1949 GP7. While the GP60 sold reasonably well, at over 300 units, the 6-axle road diesel would soon become the standard American freight engine.
But while the GP60 marked an end, it also heralded a beginning. It was the first EMD "third generation" diesel, with microprocessors replacing the maze of wires and relays in earlier diesels. The onboard computer managed a range of locomotive functions, from engine performance to cooling system operation and braking.
Up front, however, the GP60M was a Santa Fe original. Its wide-nosed Safety Cab, designed by a Santa Fe cab committee in cooperation with EMD, made life safer and more comfortable for the train crew. It was a direct response to union negotiations in the 1980s that resulted in longer crew districts and, thus, more time in the cab. The starting point for the new design was the Canadian National's new safety cab, which the Santa Fe committee had studied intensively, even borrowing a CN SD50F for a Chicago-LA round trip (after somewhat heated negotiations with U.S. customs at the border!). Further design work was accomplished using a plywood and plastic mockup cab built at the Santa Fe's San Bernardino shops.
The cab committee's final design, also known as a comfort cab, departed from existing practice in a number of ways. It featured a desktop workstation for the engineer - one of the CN innovations that had impressed the committee the most - as well as more comfortable chairs, improved lighting, teardrop front windshields for better visibility, and a desktop and second speedometer for the conductor. To make room for a front cab door, the headlight was moved off-center to the left.
The first engines with the new cab arrived in May 1990. In total, Santa Fe took delivery of 63 GP60M's, and was the only road to roster that model. In coming years, however, the wide-nosed comfort/safety cab would become the standard look of the American diesel. For 2017, this pioneering fast freighter returns to the Premier lineup in original warbonnet Super Fleet colors, plus three paint schemes worn by the GP60M's during their long careers with Santa Fe successor BNSF.
Did you know?
The Santa Fe was also the only road to roster the cab-less GP60B, in an era when B-unit diesels had become a rarity.