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  • Building a Union Pacific SD60M from a Rail Power Products kit
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  • Union Pacific SD60 and SD60M
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    Union Pacific SD60 and SD60M

    Author: John Oxlade, Salfords, Surrey, UK (EMail: )

    Prototype information:

    The SD60; which was introduced in 1984, was EMD's first locomotive to use the then new 710 series engine. EMD promoted the (3800 hp) SD60 as a replacement for SD40s and SD40-2s, arguing that three SD60s could replace four SD40-2s. In early 1989, the Union Pacific became the first customer for the new "North American Cab" which was available as an option for the first time on the SD60. "Conventional cab" locos are called SD60s, "North American Cab" versions are referred to as SD60Ms. Apart from the cab, the locomotives are mechanically the same. Additionally, the handbrake has been moved from the low hood (on SD60s) to the rear of the long hood (on SD60Ms).

    The UP originally ordered 85 SD60s and 281 SD60Ms, making it the owner of the largest fleet of these locos (366 in total). After the merger with the C&NW in 1995, the UP inherited an additional 55 SD60s, making a grand total of 421 locos. Neither the SP nor the D&RGW had any SD60(M)s that would have passed in to UP ownership as a result of their merger in 1996.

    UP's SD60(M)s have been moved away from Powder River Basin coal traffic as newer AC locomotives have been delivered which are better suited to the slow, heavy coal trains. Otherwise, SD60(M)s are seen all over the UP system on all manner of duties. They are frequently to be seen in multiple with GE Dash 8-40C(W)s on piggyback and double-stack container trains. Although they are mechanically the same, it is preferred to marshal 'wide-cab' locomotives as the leading unit if there are 'normal' cab locos in the consist.

    SD60 #6012

    SD60s: Union Pacific's initial order for 60 SD60s arrived between February and May 1986 and started a new number series. These were loco numbers 6000-6059. This was the period when GE's Dash 8-40C model was enjoying great success, and a large percentage of UP loco purchases in this period were for the Dash 8 rather than EMD's SD60 model. However, 25 further SD60s were delivered between February and June 1988 (numbers 6060-6084) lettered for the Missouri Pacific, which had been merged in to the UP along with the Western Pacific in 1982.

    When originally delivered, UP's SD60s had the horn located over the headlight, clasification lights and a warning beacon on the cab roof. By the early 1990s, the horn had been moved back to a position over the engine compartment, the beacon was removed, ditch lights were fitted, and the classification lights were blanked off.

    The 55 ex-C&NW SD60s were renumbered below the 'original' UP SD60s and took numbers 5945-5999.

    SD60M #6088, from the original (SD60M) order for 25 units.

    SD60Ms: During the manufacturing life of the SD60M, various modifications took place that are most readily visible in differing styles of cab. Enthusiasts have identified these phases as differing models, but EMD have only ever distinguished between SD60 and SD60M.

    UP's SD60Ms are numbered sequentially immediately after the SD60s.


    UP #6098 is representative of a Phase Ia SD60M. #6098 is from the first batch of UP SD60Ms (numbers 6085-6109) delivered between January and February 1989. As originally built, these locos did not have the small window in the nose door. After delivery, the roof mounted warning beacon was removed, the nose door window was added, and ditch lights were installed.

    Phase Ia spotting features:

    • The cab has a three piece windshield
    • One louver below the cab on the left side
    • A flat-sided, nose.
    • Left-side handrail dips down between cab and blower housing.

    UP #6110 shows the Phase Ic body of loco numbers 6110-6215. These locos came in three batches: 6110-6159 (delivered in April and May 1989), 6160-6209 (delivered in June and July 1989) and 6210-6215 (delivered in June 1989). These locos were also delivered with beacons, and no nose door window, receiving this and ditch lights in the early 1990s.

    Phase Ic spotting features:

    • The cab has a three piece windshield
    • Three louvers below the cab on the left side
    • A flat-sided, nose.
    • Left-side handrail dips down between cab and blower housing.

    UP #6241 displays the Phase Id body of locos numbered 6216-6268. Locos 6216-6267 were delivered between September and November 1990. Number 6268 was shipped in December 1990, and was fitted with Integrated Cab Electronics (ICE). These locos were never equipped with amber warning beacons, and had the nose door window from new.

    Phase Id spotting features:

    • The cab has a three piece windshield
    • Three louvers below the cab on the left side
    • A nose that has a second taper on the top (you can see the edge of the nose dips down towards the numberboard).
    • Left-side handrail is level between cab and blower housing.

    Note also that the handrail next to the front step has changed shape from Phases Ia and Ic. Phases Id and IIa are different.

    UP #6271 has a Phase IIa body (which is unique to the UP), and is representative of UP's last two orders of SD60Ms. Locos 6269-6315 were delivered between November 1991 and April 1992, and 6316-6365 were delivered between August and October 1992.

    Phase IIa spotting features:

    • The cab has a two piece windshield
    • Three louvres below the cab on the left side
    • A nose that has a tapering side to improve visibility
    • Left-side handrail is level between cab and blower housing.

    SD60Ms numbered 6269-6279 have carried safety award plaques on the sides of the nose.

    All SD60(M)s have now been fitted with ditch lights.

    As of late 1999 / early 2000 the UP started plating over or blanking off the nose doors on many of it's locos. There were reports of material entering the nose during impacts (usually with road vehicles on grade crossings), so the windows are being blanked off as a safety precaution.

    HO-scale model SD60s & SD60Ms:

    Life Like Proto 2000

    Life Like released an SD60 late in 2000. The first run was available in UP livery (and also C&NW for pre-merger enthusiasts), and was typical of a 6000 series loco with classification lights (i.e. as delivered). The model is typical of a Proto 2000 model with separate grab irons, see through walkways and fans, etc. The model is exceptionally heavy but strangely runs rather slowly - a review in Model Railroader magazine at the time commented that it would not run at its scale maximum speed. The second run of the model in early 2001 was also available in UP livery but these were ex-C&NW locos in the 5900 number range and sported the short-lived "We will deliver" slogan. The only obvious difference with the second series models was that they did not have classification lights in the short hood.

    Life Like have also produced both 2- and 3-window versions of the SD60M with phase specific variations per road number.

    Originally, I thought Life Like did not get the shades of Armour Yellow and Harbour Mist Grey quite right, however, Steve Orth (a noted UP enthusiast) has contacted me, and in his own words: "I, along with another noted UP modeller, provided information and direction to Larry Grubb of Lifelike on the colors for these models." ... "Upon buying a painted version, I compared the model to my official UP color control cards, dated January 1979, which are still in their little black envelope to protect them from light." ... "I can assure you that the yellow used by Lifelike is the closest rendition of Armour Yellow used on a factory painted model to date. My eyes can not detect any difference between the drift card and the model. As I am sure you are aware, colors do not scale well, which accounts for some differences in opinions. Lighting varies in everyone's house, and there have been plenty of incorrect Armour Yellows up to this point. I compared the colors under diffused sunlight.". Both the yellow and grey are noticeably different to the shades used by other manufacturers, with the grey being especially darker.

    "Shade of paint aside", the models are to be thoroughly recommended.

    Rail Power Products

    RPP produce (undecorated) body shells and chassis for an SD60, and also Phase Ic and Phase IIa SD60Ms. To complete these "kits", the builder will need to add trucks, wheels, motor, transmission and a large assortment of detailing parts to model a specific prototype. A lot of work is required, and the end cost can be quite high. Follow this link to see how to build a Union Pacific SD60M from a Rail Power Products kit. It is possible to produce a very accurate representation of almost any of the UP's SD60s and SD60Ms.

    Note: The considerable variety of body styles and detail differences in UP's SD60M fleet makes a good selection of photographs essential if modelling a loco using an RPP kit.

    Collector Quality Models

    Collector quality brass models of SD60s and SD60Ms have been imported by Overland Models.


    no author listed. "EMD's SD60 Series", a 'Diesel Era' magazine special, Withers Publishing, 1996, ISBN 1-881411-08-7

    Many thanks to Alex Cavalli for the use of all of the photos in this article.

    [ last updated 31st Dec 2003 ]