“Standard” Locomotive Cab Variations

Because while writing about wide nose variations I realized there also didn’t really exist such a catalog of non-wide cabs. Conventional road-switchers only!

Except for the railroad custom jobs at the end, standard cabs are not being built new since the 1990s. However, so many were sold over the years that they remain ubiquitous in all situations other than the lead unit on a mainline train: trailing power, locals, switching; not to mention museum-pieces.


Early high nose

The classic, original EMD look of the 1950s. Used on early road-switchers such as the GP7, GP9, GP18, etc.

GP7 (Sean Lamb)

Early low nose

Used on a very small number of GP9s, and then on GP18, GP20, etc. The factory low nose sloped downward from back to front. I have seen divided and undivided windshields, not sure if both are original or not.

Low-nose GP18 (Montgomery County Planning Commission)
GP18 (Sean Lamb)

Early, chopped nose

Most of the low-nose first generation EMD’s are the result of modification by the owners. These vary wildly in appearance depending on who rebuilt them and when.

GP10 – rebuilt GP9 (Mose Crews)
GP7 (Paul Rome)


Unique design, never used again, but serving as a transitional model between the generations before and after.

GP30 (Harvey Henkelmann)

If you think that looks unusual, check out the high hood version:

High-Hood GP30 (Richard Gibson)

Standard, aka “Spartan” Cab

This is the normal basic EMD cab, the face of US railroading for decades. Introduced with the GP35 in 1963 and used up through the SD70.

GP35 at the 1964 World’s Fair (Chuck Zeiler)

Final models (SD70s, some SD60s and GP60s) have a housing on the side of the nose for the “ICE” (Integrated Cab Electronics).

SD70 (source)

Standard, high nose

Associated with Southern and N&W. Considered more crashworthy than the low version. (It was also cheaper for a long time) These kept their high short hoods well into the NS era.

GP38-2 (Paul Leach)

The Snoot

Elongated nose to hold early radio control equipment. Used only on SD40-2 – taking advantage of the model’s long frame.

SD40-2 (Sylvester Herrera)


Used only for demonstration units, this is the standard cab with the edges rounded off.

GP59 demonstrator (Tom Golden)


GE’s standard cabs had generally stubbier noses than their EMD counterparts.

There are probably more variations than shown here, but one so rarely encounters older GEs that I’ve never had a reason to try to learn more about it than this.

Early version, low nose

Characteristic of U-boats, Dash-7s. Short, “round but square” nose, rounded roof.

C30-7 (Ricardo Frontera)

The side view shows how short the nose really is:

C30-7 (my own photo)

Note the first model, the U25B, had a longer nose than its successors.

U25B (credits/license)

Early version, high nose

Southern ordered their GE’s with a high nose, because of course they did.

B23-7 (Bernie Feltman)

Hunchback cab

Transitional design used on early Dash-8s. The nose is more like the next version, but the round roof is still round. Notice the roof is lower than than body behind it.

C32-8 (Andrew Koenigsberg)

Late version

Seen on Dash-8s and the small number of Dash-9s that were not built with wide cabs. The roof is angled instead of round, and matches the height of the overall body. The nose has sharper angles and is not as blunt as the Dash-7 version.

C40-9 with air “top hat” air conditioner (John Mueller)
B40-8 (credits/license)


All of these are museum pieces now, but relevant in the history of road-switcher design.

1st version

Used on RS-1, RS-2, RS-3, etc., all the way back to 1941. These were by far the most popular ALCO models, so this is the look usually associated with the builder. The short hood is the same height as the long hood, but the cab is notably taller than both.

RS-1 (credits/license)

Later models are “rounder” than the RS-1.

RS-3 (credits/license)

1st version, chopped

No low-nose alternative was offered for these early ALCOs. But like their EMD counterparts, they ended up getting chopped every which way, resulting in a snoot almost like an SD40-2.

Chopped RS-1 (Bob Krug)
Chopped RS-1 (Allan Williams)

2nd version, high

Starting with the RS-11 they made the hood as tall as the cab, and changed the shape of the nose.

RS-11 (Sean Lamb)

2nd version, low

The lowered version of the same nose as above. There appear to have been both one- and two- window variants.

RS-11 (Jeff Pfeiffer)

The length of the nose compared to its height is truly crocodilian, especially on the 6-axle RSD-15. The “Alligator” is disproportionately famous for a model that sold only in the double digits.

RSD-15 (James Huff)

On the even less successful RS-27, they shortened the nose down to a mere stub of its former self.

RS-27 (Drew Jacksich)

Century cab

The Century Series featured a totally new look. They simplified the look of the nose, and angled the front windows. Most models had a very short GE-like nose. The C420 had a different, longer nose than the others.

C424 (Roger Puta)
C420 (credits/license)

Santa Fe CF7 Cab

The CF7 program to rebuild F-Units into a road-switcher involved an oddly proportioned parody of the standard EMD cab. Both rounded and angular roofs were used.

CF7 (Roger Puta)
CF7 (Marc Grinter)

NS Admiral Cab

This is used by NS for some of their rebuilds. It is similar to the EMD standard cab, but with sharper edges, higher number boards (which go above the roof), and windows angled outwards (from bottom to top).

SD40-2 (Don Woods)

CSX “Dash 3” Cab

Some of CSX’s rebuilds use this blocky design which is very controversial among railfans.

SD40-3 (Brian Gessel)

Similarities to the cab used on various NRE Genset models have been noted, but they are not so identical as to suggest that CSX simply bought the cabs from NRE.

3GS21B (credits/license)

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.