Norfolk Southern (NS) locomotive 3809, an EMD SD38, in Buckeye Yard at Columbus, Ohio, June 2002. Click to enlarge.

(MeRyan, CC BY 2.0 <>, via Wikimedia Commons)


EMD logo.


The EMD SD38 is a 6-axle diesel-electric locomotive built by General Motors Electro-Motive Division between May 1967 and October 1971. It had an EMD 645 16-cylinder engine generating 2,000 horsepower (1.5 MW), compared to the turbocharged EMD 645E3 V-16 engine that produced 3000 horsepower. Aside from the 3-axle trucks and a longer frame to accommodate them, the SD38 was identical to the GP38; the SD38 had the same frame as the SD39, SD40 and SD45. 52 were built for American railroads, one was built for a Canadian railroad, four were exported to a mining firm in Jamaica and seven were exported to a mining firm in Venezuela. The SD38 was succeeded by a Dash 2 version called the EMD SD38-2.


Original Owners

Railroad: Bessemer and Lake Erie Railroad

Quantity: 3

Road numbers: 861-863

Notes: 862 was sold to DMIR. Later was bought back by BLE. Still is a SD38 and is the only one of it kind of CNs roster.
Detroit, Toledo and Ironton Railroad 5 250-254 To Grand Trunk Western 6250-6254; 253 and 254 still in service as Reading and Northern Railroad Nos. 2003 and 2004.


Railroad: Elgin, Joliet and Eastern Railway

Quantity: 6

Road numbers: 650-655

Notes: 650 sold to CITI Rail in 2011, 654 sold to Hartwell railroad in 2011, 651–653, and 655 sold to DMIR in 1992/1993.


Railroad: Kaiser Bauxite

Quantity: 4

Road numbers: 5101-5104

Notes: Jamaica/Now called Noranda Bauxite Limited (NBL)


Railroad: McCloud River Railroad

Quantity: 3

Road numbers: 36-38

Notes: 36 & 38 on MCR property as of July 2017, 37 Now On Dakota Southern Railway


Railroad: Orinoco Mining Company

Quantity: 7

Road numbers: 1021–1027

Notes: Venezuela


Railroad: Penn Central

Quantity: 35

Road numbers: 6925-6959

Notes: All went to Conrail with same road numbers. Later, 21 to Norfolk Southern, 13 to CSX.


Railroad: RFFSA (Brazil)

Quantity: 45

Road numbers: 3601-3645

Notes: SD38M - 34 units in service


Total Units: 108

Additional Notes: An M version of SD38 was built for the Brazil Federal Railways (RFFSA - Rede Ferroviária Federal S. A.).

Forty of a passenger version, the SDP38, were built for the Korean National Railways in May-July 1967. The units were numbered 6351–6390.

None have been preserved as of January of 2021.



Type and origin
Power type: Diesel-electric
Builder: General Motors Electro-Motive Division (EMD)
Model: SD38
Build date: May 1967 – October 1971
Total produced: 108
​• AAR C-C
Gauge: 4 ft 8+1⁄2 in (1,435 mm) standard gauge
Fuel capacity: 3,200 US gal (12,000 l; 2,700 imp gal)
Prime mover: EMD 645E
Engine type: V16 diesel
Cylinders: 16
Performance figures
Power output: 2,000 hp (1.5 MW)