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What If? More Like a Why Not?

Like all rail enthusiasts, we love a good "What If." Below is one from famed internet artist wdtx1402, which envisions a former Erie Lackawanna SD45M as a commuter locomotive for the MBTA.

Now, that's not as far-fetched as you might think. Recently, Metra followed in the footsteps of railroads like commuter predecessor Chicago & North Western when it converted EMD SD70Ms for commuter service. These units have recently started showing up on its trains and we should expect to see more in the near future.

The C&NW, of course, put Head-End-Power generators in the rear of a number of its freight-service F7s to pull HEP-equipped bi-level gallery cars and became a mainstay of Chicago-area commuter rail for several decades. A few of these units even briefly found work in New Jersey for NJ TRANSIT, who together with West-of-Hudson partner Metro-North also converted a number of freight locomotives--EMD GP40s--for commuter service, by contracting with Morrison-Knudsen and Conrail for what would become the GP40FH-2, GP40PH-2A, and GP40PH-2B classes. Oh, and let's not forget the former C&NW U30C which became U34CH #4183, as Metro-North's contribution to the U34CH fleet.

And the fantasy locomotive below? Well, it was built for the Erie Lackawanna Railroad as part of the second order of SD45M units which came in the 1960s. The SD45M was an SDP45, but without the steam generator that would have been used to supply heating for passenger cars on most commuter and long-distance trains of that day (hence why the designation is different). However, while Great Northern and Southern Pacific did have steam generator-equipped SDP45s, the EL used their versions for the larger fuel tank which is reputed to help them limit purchases of diesel fuel in Chicago, where Cook County had (and continues to have) a substantial tax on that fuel.

Had things going differently, it wouldn't have been a big stretch to put a HEP generator where the artist has envisioned in the rendering below. And, considering that MBTA gave a similar treatment to a group for former CN GP40-2W and GP40-2LWs, this "What if" is much more of a "Why Not?" (Photo Credit: wdtx1402)

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