The GP20 was a trendsetter, popularizing two features that would become virtually standard on American diesels: a low short hood that gave the engineer a wide panoramic view, and turbocharging.Introduced by the Electro-Motive Division of General Motors in 1959, the GP20 was the first of EMD's hugely popular "Geeps" (GP, or "general purpose" diesels) to feature a low short hood in front of the cab as standard equipment. The high short hood of previous Geeps - with a lot of metal between the crew and any potential collision - had felt familiar and safe to engineers who only recently graduated from steam power, and were used to looking out past an engine's nose to see the track. The unobstructed view from the cab of the GP20, however, was not hard to get used to.
Turbocharging was a way to get more power output from the same size diesel motor. Fairly early in the history of internal combustion motors, designers found that increasing the pressure of the incoming air produced an increase in horsepower, sometimes as much as 50%. In the beginning, this was accomplished with a mechanical air compressor, or blower, geared to the motor - which, however, put an extra load on the motor.
Much later, someone thought to put a turbine in the exhaust pipe of an engine, and use exhaust gases to spin the turbine and power an air compressor, basically for free. What finally got EMD to try turbocharging on its diesels was a push from a major customer, the Union Pacific, which began experimenting with turbochargers in the mid-1950s. Our model of this landmark locomotive features twin motors and traction tires for pulling power to rival the prototype; full 1/48 O Scale dimensions; variable-intensity Proto-Smoke diesel exhaust; remote-controlled couplers; LED headlights; air horn, bell and freight yard sounds; and the throb of an EMD 16-cylinder model 567 diesel motor - so named because each of its cylinders displaced 567 cubic inches, more than an entire Corvette V-8.
Did You Know?
With its corporate symbol The Thoroughbred adorning 4,100 locomotives, the Norfolk Southern Railway is one of two Class 1 railroads that dominate rail transportation east of the Mississippi (the other being CSX Transportation). Formed in 1982 with the merger of the Southern and Norfolk & Western railroads, the NS serves 22 states and the District of Columbia, and includes trackage once plied by Conrail, Virginian, Wabash and Nickel Plate locomotives.