by Kelly Thompson/photos as noted
It’s 4:30pm on a Sunday. The sun is out, and the weather is unseasonably warm for a southern Indiana February day. An occasional gust of wind sends branches swaying as dead leaves free fall toward the ground. For a couple minutes, silence sets in until the sound of a Nathan K3 shoots through the air. In the distance you hear the rumble of an EMD 710 engine getting closer and closer. You look up onto the 1905-built Shuffle Creek Viaduct and you finally get a glimpse of what you came to see, an SD9043MAC in bright red and white paint. Indiana Rail Road (INRD) SD9043MACs have been a staple since the railroad first bought them in 2008. If you ask any railfan in the Midwest about some “must-see” operations in the region, INRD and its big 90s always seem to come up. Unfortunately though, all good things must come to an end. With INRD purchasing 10 ex-Norfolk Southern SD70M locomotives, we’re down to the eleventh hour to enjoy the unusual SD9043MACs.
A Brief History of the SD90
The 1990s would start with a bang for EMD. In 1992, Electro-Motive Division of GM introduced the SD70 locomotive to the market. In 1993, it introduced a wide cab variant, the SD70MAC. Instead of sitting back and enjoying the short-term success, EMD would keep the ball rolling. But what could it do to top the SD70MAC? Behold the SD90MAC. With high-tech features such as steerable trucks and a 265H engine capable of producing 6,000 hp, the EMD SD90MAC looked to go head-to-head with GE’s 6,000-hp locomotive, the AC6000CW. Union Pacific jumped on board right away with the original version in 1995, ordering 22 SD90MACs. EMD would have problems at once with the 265H engines, resulting in many of the first SD90MACs to come with the 4,300-hp EMD 710G engine. These would be the first classified as SD9043MAC locomotives.
ABOVE: The sun is setting on southwest Indiana as INRD SD9043MAC 9010 coasts through the small town of New Lebanon, Ind., on April 22, 2021. Kelly Thompson photo
In 1996, EMD was fully producing the 265H engine which would go into the remaining SD90s. Union Pacific would order 40 more SD90s and Canadian Pacific would jump in to buy four. These units would be designated as SD90MAC-H locomotives since they would get the 265H engines. Some of the later-produced engines from this run would get upgraded cabs and improved rear hoods for better cooling, resulting in an SD90MAC-H II designation.
The 265H engine proved to be problematic for these locomotives, as the 6,000-hp engines would struggle from crankshaft and overheating issues. While the SD90MAC-H engines were flops, the SD9043MACs held their own and Union Pacific would eventually order 187 of them. Canadian Pacific would order 61 in total and CIT Leasing would buy 40. Today, the SD9043MACs are few and far between. Union Pacific sold off 100 of its 90s to Norfolk Southern, 40 more to Canadian Pacific, and retired the rest that haven’t been sold. Canadian Pacific had its original fleet rebuilt and the 40 it bought from UP look to also be rebuilt except for a handful of floaters put into active service. Most of the CIT Leasing fleet has been returned after the engines became outdated. Yet there is still one railroad in the Midwest that maintains a fleet of these giants…