Sep 2, 2016
The SD38 was not one of the most popular road switchers that EMD produced during the late 1960s and into the early 1970s. In April 1970 Penn Central received 35 units from EMD (PC 6925-6959), nearly half of all SD38's produced. In 1976 all 35 locomotives were passed onto Conrail (CR 6925-6959) and the fleet remained intact until 1999. EMD designed the SD38 as a slow-speed, short-distance locomotive for heavy haul service. They were locomotives best suited to the slow, heavy work of hump or yard service.
The SD38 was a six-axle locomotive riding on the same frame as used on the SD45 and other smilar SD Series locomotives. The SD38 produced a mere 2,000hp and had the lowest per axle horsepower rating of any contemporary locomotive other than the SW1000 and SW1001. To further increase the units' tractive effort, Penn Central equipped their SD38's with the largest available fuel tank--4,000 gallons. This gave the PC/CR SD38 a tractive effort rating identical to an SD40, and slightly lower than an SD45 or SD40-2.
The combination of low horsepower, extremely low minimum continuous speed, and high tractive effort ratings clearly designated the SD38 as the perfect locomotive for yard/hump service, a job the locomotive performed for many years on Penn Central and Conrail.
EMD did produce the SD38 with a number of variations, depending on what the purchasing railroad desired. The Penn Central, for example, ordered their SD38's without dynamic brakes, though they did order them with paper air filters. All units arrived with footboards, though Conrail eventually cut them off, replacing them with a plate across the pilot. You will need to check individual units concerning the plating, since they were not all the same. Furthermore, Conrail never equipped these locomotives with safety features, such as ditch lights and anticlimbers, as found on other road switchers. Over the years, Conrail modified or simply altered some units. For example, a Railroad Model Craftsman article states that CR 6957 had been in a derailment. As a result, Conrail repaired the end of the frame and handrails, but the end railings extended lower than when built originally.
Penn Central used their SD38's in yard and hump service, whereas Conrail primarily used their units only in hump service, though only three units (CR 6931, 6932, and 6936) did not have Standard or Pacesetter Hump Control hump duty equipment. I assume Conrail used these three lone SD38's in yard duty. Furthermore, all units, except the mentioned three, were equipped to operate as "mother units" for either 4-axle slugs (MT-4) or 6-axle slugs (MT-6), providing control for the slugs.
The listing below is based on Conrail Locomotive Data Book info. The Conrail numbering series is given, if the units were equipped with standard or pacesetter equipment, and if the units were equipped to be mother units for MT-4 or MT-6 slug units.
Comprehensive SD38 Roster [Download PDF Version ]
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