The EMD (Electro-Motive Division) GP59 is a type of four-axle, 12-cylinder, 3,000hp diesel locomotive built from 1985 to 1989. Only 36 were built exclusively for Norfolk Southern (NS), who was the only customer interested in the model.
NS GP59 4610

NS #4610: the original Southern Railroad (SOU) heritage unit, idling with its fresh coat of "Operation Lifesaver"-sponsored paint.

It is essentially the 12-cylinder version of the GP60. In part of following EMD's naming tradition, the GP59 followed the preceding GP49, GP39-2, and subsequent GP39 in the company's 12-cylinder subline.

All are still currently in service with NS, though 12 units have been rebuilt into "GP59E" Tier 2/Tier 3-compliant road switchers (including the three former "Aero cab" demonstrator units, which now have "Admiral Cabs").

An additional six Tier 3-compliant GP59ECO units were also built in October 2016. Five are rebuilt from varied NS GP59 units, though one (NS #4662) is a former SOU GP50. Two of said units are also rebuilt from NS #4610 (the orignal Southern Railroad heritage unit), and the Transcaer unit (NS #4611).

History Edit

In the mid-1980's, EMD suffered major drawbacks with the subsequent failures of the "50 Series" line-up. To make up for their initial losses, the debut of the new 710 prime-mover was an attempt to help rebound the company's reputation for an otherwise mediocre performance of the "50 Series" models in contrast to the increasingly-successful "40 Series" models built years prior. Despite the declining popularity of the four-axle road diesel market and the increasing popularity of higher stroke cycles for engines, EMD pushed their 12-cylinder GP59 before the debut of the six-axle SD60 and subsequent 16-cylinder GP60 in favor of attracting more customers to the mid-horsepower range, as well as picking-up on the otherwise lackluster sales of the preceding GP49. In a final attempt to further gain the attention of railroads craving horsepower, EMD boosted the output of the previous 12-645F3B-equipped, 2,800hp GP49 to 3,000hp thanks to the new 12-710G3 engine.

NS #4608: one of the three former "Aero Cab" EMD demonstrator units sold to NS prior to being rebuilt into a GP59E.

Like their GP60 demonstrator relatives, the first three GP59 units were built with aerodynamic cabs ("Aero cabs") in an effort to reduce aerodynamic drag while operating at high speeds. While EMD made it clear that the aerodynamic styling of the "60 Series" models was merely an experimental phase and would not be included with the production units, the most radical changes and advancements that were offered with the "60 Series" line were on the inside. Hidden behind the electrical cabinet doors on the rear wall of the cab, the GP59 concealed a trio of microprocessors that monitored and managed a host of engine, cooling system, and control functions. A hallmark of the line, and a defining detail of third-generation diesel-electric locomotives, on-board microprocessors replaced hundreds of wiring circuits, dozens of relays, and all but one module card in what many observers consider to be one of the most significant technological advances since the dawn of dieselization.

Unfortunately, after numerous tests and demonstrations, the model only caught the attention of Norfolk Southern, and failed to attract more potential buyers. In October 1986, a year after their demonstration tour, EMD 8-10 were acquired by NS and renumbered NS 4606-4608 (following their GP39X demo units). Three years later, a single order of 33 more units were delivered to the railroad three years later. NS 4609-4641 emerged out of EMD's London, Ont. facility (GMD/GMDD London) following the relocation and outsourcing of jobs from the company's LaGrange plant as a result of parent company management.


The GP59E ("E" for "Eco") is a type of rebuild of the original GP59 developed by NS. Between 2013 to 2014, 12 units were rebuilt to follow the US EPA's "Tier 2" policy (while also following Tier 3), and were also updated to include a number of modern features found on most modern

NS #4650 (formally NS 4607, nee EMD #9).

locomotives such as:
  • EM2000 microprocessor control system
  • repowered with EMD 12N-710G3B-EC prime-mover
  • equipped with locomotive cab signalling
  • automatic fuel starters
  • automatic engine starters
  • NS-designed split-cooling system meant to recirculate heat and air further reducing emissions
  • equipped with electronic braking system
  • equipped to operate as master for NS 610 series RP-M4C road slugs

All three of the former EMDX demonstrator units (EMD 8-10) have since been rebuilt with "Admiral Cabs", and have a reduced fuel capacity (units 4650, 4651, and 4653 have a capacity of 3,100 gallons, while the remainder have 3,500).


Model GP59 GP60 GP60M
Production Dates 1985-1989 1985-1994 1990

Total Built

36 294 63


59' 9" 59' 9" 59' 9"
Wheel Arrangement B-B B-B B-B
Engine 12-710G3 16-710G3 16-710G3
Horsepower 3,000 3,800 3,800
Alternator AR15 AR17 AR17
Traction Motors D87B D87B D87B/D87BTR
Weight x 1,000lbs. 260,000 270,000 282,000

Spotting FeaturesEdit

Although outwardly identical to its 16-cylinder counter-part, the 12-cylinder GP59 can be distinguished by a few notable exceptions:

  • Presence of six engine doors for 12-cylinder engine as opposed to eight for a 16-cylinder engine
  • Seven handrail stanchions along the frame versus ten on the GP60.
  • Numbered in the 4600-series

Trivia/Facts Edit

Like most earlier GP60 units (and the subsequent demo units), the first three GP59's were built with a more rounded styling of dynamic brake grids rather than the more boxy, angular style.

NS #4610 was dressed as "SOU 4610" (a heritage unit) from 1992 to 2012. It currently wears an "Operation Lifesaver"-sponsored scheme, and is one of the many units known to wear said livery on the railroad's roster.


Sources Edit