Lagniappe Favorites Collection

General Purpose


The GP came into being because of a postwar demand for a locomotive with characteristics not quite met by any existing EMD model. The railroads wanted a handy all-round unit, simpler and less expensive than the regular passenger and freight locomotives. Such an engine would be able to drop a train on the main line, do some work on a sidetrack, go back and pick up the train, and get it in the clear to carry out a meet order. It would be able to handle way work around a station, which meant that it would have to go easily in both directions, without inconvenience to the man in the cab. It might be hooked onto a work train or a wreck train. Though EMD had developed freight, passenger, and specialized locomotives that could do most of the work of the railroads, none of them could economically meet all these demands.

Franklin M. Reck, 1954

Built by General Motor's Electro-Motive Division, the GP7 and GP9 models were four-axle (B-B) road switcher diesel-electric locomotives between October 1949 and May 1963. Known among many as "Geeps", these General Purpose models were the first EMD road locomotives to use a hood unit design instead of a car-body design like the F and E units. This design proved to be more efficient than the cab unit design: the hood unit cost less to produce, was easier and cheaper to maintain, and had much better front and rear visibility for switching service. Power for both models was provided by an EMD 567 16-cylinder engine which generated 1500 or 1750 horsepower, respectively. The Geeps were offered with or without control cabs and steam generators, or could be ordered long or short hood forward. In total, nearly 7000 units were produced for North American customers, and many still survive and operate today.

All Geep images in this collection were taken by John or Ralph Hawkins, unless otherwise noted.

General Purpose 7

  • builder:Electro Motive Division
  • model:GP7
  • type:B-B road switcher
  • built:Oct 1949 - May 1954
  • production:2610 US, 112 Canada
  • engine:EMD 567B (16 cyls, 1500 hp)
  • engine range:275-800 rpm
  • displacement:9072 cu in
  • cylinders:8 1/2" x 10" each
  • aspiration:roots type supercharger
  • wheelbase:40'
  • size:55'11" long, 15' high, 10'3" wide
  • weight:246,000 lb
  • fuel capacity:1600 gals
  • generator:EMD D-12-B
  • traction motors:(4) EMD D-27-B
  • notes:
  • 3 louvers below cab
    2 vertical rows of louvers on long hood

General Purpose 9

  • builder:Electro Motive Division
  • model:GP9
  • type:B-B road switcher
  • built:Jan 1954 - Dec 1959
  • production:3436 US, 646 Canada
  • engine:EMD 567C (16 cyls, 1750 hp)
  • engine range:275-835 rpm
  • displacement:9072 cu in
  • cylinders:8 1/2" x 10" each
  • aspiration:roots type supercharger
  • wheelbase:40'
  • size:56'2" long, 15.5' high, 10'3" wide
  • weight:259,500 lb
  • fuel capacity:1100 gals
  • generator:EMD D-12-B
  • traction motors:(4) EMD D-37-B
  • notes:
  • 1 or no louver below cab
    no vertical louvers at end of long hood

Model GP7

Model GP9



The Geep. What's more symbolic of mid 20th century American railroading than the ubiquitous model 7 and 9? Looking back over my formative years, I cannot help but feel that these first two General Purpose models formed a solid backdrop to nearly all my railfan memories. A great many of these units were still running on a great many of the shortlines and regionals I chased and shot in my youth. And when you add in the Illinois Central Gulf, Seaboard, and Santa Fe rebuild programs ... it was General Purpose of one derivation or another all over the place. Still, you cannot beat the classic and straight-forward lines of the unadorned, factory Geep 7. It is a locomotive that looks like what it was built to do: anything and everything. As this page attests, my father captured a great many 7s and 9s tied up overnight on the Louisville & Nashville and Southern locals in and out of Huntsville, Alabama, during his decade there. As for me, I've always liked the shortline haulers: Alabama & Florida, Meridian & Bigbee, Wiregrass Central -- and even more recently, pikes like the Maine Central and the Ashland in Ohio. Who would have imagined that a piece of general purpose machinery, designed and out-shopped in the middle of one century, could still be found making money for its owners in the first quarter of the next century?

Links / Sources

This page was updated on 2015-11-24