Saturday, August 27, 2016

Locomotive Classifications

CN 3014, classed as EF-644t
Following on my recent post about railfan names for locomotives, I was asked on Instagram what the cryptic letters on CN locomotives meant.

CN Locomotive Classifications

The CNRHA's CNCylopedia has a great page that describes what these cryptic designations are. In truth they make a lot of sense. I won't go into great detail here - you should check their page out - but I'll give some examples.

CN 3014 (an ET44AC): "EF-644t"
  • E = Built by General Electric
  • F = Freight locomotive
  • 6 = Six axle locomotive
  • 44 = 44xx horsepower (4400 in this case)
  • t = Order sequence (normally starts at "a")

CN 6025 (an SD40u): "GF-630c"
  • G = Built by General Motors
  • F = Freight locomotive
  • 6 = Six axle locomotive
  • 30 = 30xx horsepower (3000)
  • c = Part of third order

CN 8011 (an SD70M-2): "GF-643d"
You get the idea.

The interesting part here is that the manufacturer designation "SD70M-2" is also listed at bottom left. I can't recall seeing that on any other CN locomotives besides the SD70M-2 units.

CN 8239, photo by Greg Brewer
CN 8239 (an S-12): "MS-10p"
  • M = Built by MLW
  • S = Switcher locomotive
  • 10 = 1000 horsepower
  • p = Order number

Note that it doesn't include the number of axles.

CN 203 (a slug): "GY-00b"
  • G = Built by General Motors
  • Y = Yard use
  • 00 = No horsepower (it's a slug, it doesn't have a prime mover)
  • b = Order number

CP Locomotive Classifications

CN and CP have very different systems. Compare CN 3014 at top, and CP 3014 below.
CP 3014, classed as GP38 or DRS-20b
CP's system is simpler than CN's.

  • DRS=Diesel Road Switcher, DRF=Diesel Road Freight, or DS=Diesel Switcher
  • xx=First two digits of horsepower
  • y=order letter (optional)
Also note that CP doesn't always put a class designation on its locomotives. I have photos of numerous CP locomotives with only the unit number on the cab with no classification at all.

CP 3014 (a GP38AC): "DRS-20b"

  • DRS = Diesel Road Switcher
  • 20 = 2000 horsepower
  • b = order number

It looks like someone labelled it as a GP38-2 initially.

CP 1540 (a GP9u): "DS-17"

  • DS = Diesel Switcher
  • 17 = 17xx horsepower (1750)
No order letter here!

It's very common for CP to show the locomotive type as well as the CP designation.

CP 6000 (SD40-2): "DRF-30"

  • DRF = Diesel Road Freight
  • 30 = 3000 horsepower

CP 8946 (ES44AC): "DRF-44"
  • DRF = Diesel Road Freight
  • 44 = 4400 horsepower

What other railway(s) have their own classification schemes?

PS I'm stevetraingeek on Instagram if you want to touch base!


Unknown said...

Going to the thing with the SD70M-2, I think I have seen CN SD70ACe's with the locomotive name printed on it. I'll see if I can dig up an image.

Shane said...

You might find this interesting concerning the CN 6000's model.


Unknown said...

On CN, there is a letter you forgot. H for hump. I picked this off of CN 7513: GH-20b

G - EMD Locomotive
H - Hump
20 - 2000 HP
b - 2nd Order

Chris BIGDoer Doering said...

Great explanation. I know the trackside guides, or some book I have, goes into that, but not in such detail. Thanks! It all makes sense now.

Canadian Train Geek said...

Hi Taylor, I didn't provide an exhaustive list of CN classifications as the CNRHA page does a great job doing that.

Canadian Train Geek said...

Thanks, Chris! I'm glad it made sense.

Canadian Train Geek said...

Thanks Shane, unfortunately that domain doesn't seem to exist any more.

Shane said...

Hi Steve. Sorry, the site was being transferred to a new host. I believe the Q designation was because the locomotives were equipped with Q-Tron computers. The locomotives were remanufactured or "rm". They have a remanufactured ID plate attached to the frames just like the GP9rm's.


Michael said...

I remember when I was reading a train book years ago and the author kept referring to locomotives by these numbers, which I found odd. This post clears things up nicely. Thanks for sharing.

GP9Rm4108 said...

A note to add is this way of identifying engines means absolutely nothing to the vast majority of people on the trains, save for the odd rail buff and some of the old guys that still care to remember what they mean.

Most guys can't even tell you the manufacturers model designation.

Shane said...

You're right, though I'm not sure why even a rail buff would care. The only useful information in these codes for the crews is the horse power.

These codes are for CN mechanical. They use them to catalogue the fleet.

Canadian Train Geek said...

I agree that the crews don't care about the codes. My understanding is that most refer to them by the number series.

These codes are referred to in employee timetables on occasion, for example "heaviest engine permitted to operate MR-16a class". They are also listed in the equated tonnage rating tables but usually have the locomotive number with them.

Shane said...

That's correct Steve.

I think you need a new time table if you're showing MLW restrictions. :)

Canadian Train Geek said...

Ha ha good point :)

Kimchiman said...

Glad I read this, and 5hsnks for posting the explanations. Been driving for Hallcon Crew Transport, out of Boston Bar lately, and have been wondering what the numbers meant.

Canadian Train Geek said...

You're welcome, glad it helped!