General Electric's 45/50-Tonner

The above scene was captured at the U.S. Gypsum quarry in Alabster, Michigan on 24 May 1967. (R. Craig photo)

General Electric's 45-Ton locomotive was designed primarily for industrial users, as such the federal government's "90,000 Pound" law of 1937 had no applicability. The earliest version of the four-axle locomotive was built in 1939 and featured a thin-plate frame and two side-rod trucks; it weighed 43 tons. The following year, the builder standardized on a thicker frame for center-cab switcher construction in the 44-ton to 80-ton range. It should be noted that the 45-ton model was the only GE locomotive to commonly feature side-rod driven trucks which employed only a single traction motor; buyers of later 45-ton versions had the option of internal chain-driven trucks. As the locomotive model evolved during the production, period, a number of subtle changes occurred. Some of the revisions are identified herein later. The number of access ladders and their placement was often a customer preference, thus they are not a reliable spotting feature.

Total GE production of the 45-tonner reached slightly less than 350 units; the first of the 360-400 horsepower models appeared late in 1940. During WWII, a large number of 45-tonners were gobbled up by the U.S. Military, including many with "drop-cabs" for low clearance.

The 50-tonner can sometimes be more difficult to determine. Early versions of the model employed a narrow metal frame skirt between the trucks. In later years, the frame skirt was lost and a thin bedplate added beneath the hoods and cab footprint. The side-rod trucks were common-place, but not exclusive.

Here are a few tips on how to readily identify GE's 45/50-ton industrial switchers. Please note the years of production are arbitrary and provided only as a means of categorizing various models.

Pre-WWII Model

Wabash #51

St. Thomas, Ontario (3 September 2003)

Rabo Sabo photo **

ACF Industries #Y69

St. Louis, Missouri (9 April 1971)

R.R. Wallin photo **

Spotting Features - 43-Tonner
  1. Thin frame deck
  2. Headlight mounted above windshields
  3. Small lip on cab and and hood roofs
  4. Narrow hood with small screened grille
  5. Front handle rail extends from sides of hood
  6. Square cab windows
  7. Side-rod trucks
  8. A single ladder each side centered on truck

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Spotting Features - Earliest 45-Tonners

  1. Thicker frame
  2. Shorter cab with slightly rounded cab windows
  3. Headlight mounted high on nose
  4. Exhaust stack in front of cab
  5. Small lip on cab and and hood roofs
  6. Radiator shutters instead of screens
  7. Handrail entire width of locomotive
  8. Side-rod trucks
Center Cab (Post 1946)

Aurora Elgin & Fox River #5

Elgin, Illinois (20 October 2018)

Robby Cragg photo

IMC #1

Orrington, Maine (5 October 1970)

George Turnbull photo **

Penn Dixie no-#

Petoskey, Michigan (August 1969)

P. Dennis Custer **

Spotting Features
  1. Standard frame
  2. Headlight relocated above shutters
  3. Smooth corners on cab and hoods
  4. Exhaust stack in front of cab
  5. Small deck with handrail extending entire width
  6. Small "deck" (not present on 44-tonners)
  7. Side-rod (or chain-drive) trucks
Post 1989 Center Cab

Lehigh Portland Cement no-#

Miami, Florida (19 June 1971)

Photographer Unknown **

Spotting Features

  1. Thin raised deck platform
  2. Narrower hoods with shutteers
  3. four low vents on each side of hood
  4. Squarish cab with small windows above hoods
  5. Small deck with handrail extending entire width
  6. Engine exhaust moved well forward on top of hood
  7. Side-rod (or chain-driven) trucks
Drop Cab

U.S. Air Force

Kansas City, Missouri (6 November 1966)

Mac Owen photo **

Spotting Features

  1. Closely resembles 44-tonner, but weights 45-tons
  2. Dropped cab with no windows above hoods
  3. Exhaust stack in front of cab
  4. Shutters at front of hoods
  5. Standard equalized trucks
  6. Handrail supports protrude from hood
  7. Air compressor box in front of cab on footboard

Southern New York at )neonta, New York (13 May 1967)

Raymond Muller photo **

General Electric #7 at Pittsfield, MA

George Turnbull photo **

St. Lawrence Cement

Orrington, Maine (5 October 1970)

Matt Herson photo

Spotting Features: Pre-1939 50-Tonner
  1. Very Boxy appearance
  2. Large cab with side windows only
  3. Multiple sets of louvers on hood sides and front
  4. Open frame-trucks with friction bearings
  5. Large headlight mounted on hood
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  8. Spotting Features: Post 1940 50-Tonner

    1. Closely resembles a 45-tonner
    2. Short frame skirt (2-1/2 tons) between trucks (see GE #7 photo)
    3. If no frame skirt, a thin bedplate beneath hoods and cab
    4. Side-rod (or Chain-driven) trucks
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    Spotting Features

    1. Shares the same car-body as the 45-tonner
    2. No frame skirt between trucks
    3. 1" (approximate) bedplate between frame deck and the Cab and hoods
    4. Side-rod trucks, or standard equalized as seen on St. Lawrence Cement

Notes and Reference sources:
  • Critters, Dinkies and Center Cabs by Jay Reed
  • The Second Diesel Spotters Guide by Jerry A. Pinkepank
  • Locomotive Encyclopedia (1950-1952) by Simons-Boardman
Formatted by: R.Craig

New: 1 October 2019

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