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WalthersMainline HO scale EMD SD60 diesel locomotive

Read this review from the December 2017 Model Railroader
WalthersMainline HO scale EMD SD60 diesel locomotive
Separate plastic details include fan grills and handrails.
The combination of a die-cast metal frame, all-wheel drive, and helical gearboxes make the WalthersMainline SD60 an exceptionally smooth and power puller.

An accurately proportioned body and exceptional pulling power highlight the WalthersMainline SD60. The model features many tooling and other updates since its previous release as a Proto 2000 model, including new truck sideframes.

WalthersMainline locomotives don’t have all the factory-installed detail parts of a top-of-the-line WalthersProto locomotive, but they do share the same powerful mechanism. Our test sample also came factory-equipped with a dual-mode SoundTraxx decoder that helped the SD60 rumble to life on our layout.

The prototype. With more than 1,000 units produced between 1984 and 1995, the SD60 ushered in a new generation of diesel-electric locomotives for General Motors’ Electro-Motive Division. The locomotive used an all-new diesel engine, the 16-cylinder 710G, to produce 3,800 hp. The SD60 also featured a microprocessor control system.

Almost as popular as the standard, or “spartan,” cab version, a wide-nose “North American cab” version was introduced in 1989. These units were designated SD60M. Isolated cab (also called WhisperCab) SD60I versions were introduced in 1993. (Walthers is also producing an HO scale SD60M; see the photo in News & Products on page 10.)

Many SD60s and its variants remain in Class 1 service today.

The model. From 1987 to 1989 EMD delivered 63 SD60s, including five SD60Ms, to the Soo Line. Our review sample models Soo Line no. 6036, part of a 21-unit order of standard-cab SD60s delivered in March 1989. This order received the Soo’s red and white “hockey stick” paint scheme.

The model’s dimensions match those of a prototype drawing in EMD’s SD60 Series (Diesel Era, 1996). This includes having the correct scale 40" diameter wheels. Placement of engine access doors, air intake grills, and most of the other molded detail on the plastic body shell also match these drawings.

Specific to the Soo prototype, the vent on the fireman’s side of the cab was moved forward to allow more room for the road number. On the model this vent is in the stock rearward position.

All the cab windows feature clear glazing, and the windshields have molded windshield wipers. The water level sight glass on the long hood also features clear glazing.

Separate detail parts include the plastic three-chime air horn and see-through radiator grills on top of the long hood, as well as properly positioned brake cylinders on the sides of the newly tooled HT-C truck sideframes. The handrails and stanchions are formed from flexible plastic to resist breaking.

As part of the WalthersMainline series, the SD60 doesn’t have factory installed grab irons, m.u. hoses, or other prototype-specific details such as a rooftop beacon or antennas. However, Walthers thoughtfully added drill starter points for the grab irons, which makes adding these details a much easier task. Various manufacturers sell HO grab irons and other diesel detailing parts at

The lettering and paint scheme mostly match prototype photos and a color drawing in the Spring 2004 issue of The Soo (The Soo Line Historical & Technical Society). The top of the model’s short hood is black, which doesn’t match the prototype information I found. Soo SD60s in this livery usually had strips of black anti-skid material placed along the leading edge and one side of the toilet access hatch.

The model doesn’t have ditch lights, so it represents the prototype early in its career. According to photos, no. 6036 received ditch lights by 1991.

Mechanism. After removing the draft gear boxes and two screws behind the locomotive fuel tank, I carefully lifted off the body shell. Cutouts in the die-cast metal chassis reveal the can motor and brass flywheel, as well as the drive shafts that transfer power from the motor to truck-mounted gearboxes.

One of the biggest improvements over the old Proto 2000 release, the Walthers mechanism uses helical gears, where the gear teeth are angled rather than straight across. This virtually eliminates any gear noise that could distract from the locomotive sound system and provides exceptionally smooth performance.

The SoundTraxx decoder is screwed to the top of the chassis. Wires from each end connect the board to light-emitting diodes at each end of the chassis that illuminate the front and rear headlights and number boxes. A well-enclosed round speaker is mounted vertically just behind the cab.

The WalthersMainline SD60 features well-defined molded detail and separate handrails made of flexible acetal plastic that resists breaking.

Performance. The HO scale SD60 weighs nearly 11⁄2 pounds. That weight, coupled with all-wheel drive, translates into pulling power. The model’s drawbar pull is equivalent to 74 free-rolling HO scale freight cars on straight and level track. On our Milwaukee, Racine & Troy layout, the SD60 hauled 16 cars up a steady 3 percent grade without slipping.

During DC and DCC speed tests, the model started moving at 4 scale mph without any hesitation. The top speed of the prototype is 70 mph, which the model matched during its DCC speed tests. The model was a bit faster under DC control, attaining 80 scale mph with 12V applied to the track.

The model easily hauled scale 50-foot cars through 18" radius curves and no. 5 turnouts. All-wheel electrical pickup kept the lights and sounds steady.

DCC operation. The SoundTraxx decoder includes many of the effects found in a fully featured Tsunami version. User-triggered effects include the bell, long and short horn, and headlight control. Unlike the Tsunami, the decoder doesn’t feature a dynamic brake fan, coupler, or independent brake.

I could easily adjust most aspects of the decoder’s performance with configuration variables (CVs). I programmed the decoder’s long address to match the locomotive number, and added acceleration and deceleration momentum. The decoder also supports both preset and custom speed table selection as well as function mapping.

For example, out of the box the headlights operate according to the direction of travel. For more prototypical operation I remapped the front and rear headlights for independent ON/OFF control.

I also appreciated that the individual effect volume levels are adjustable. I left the engine sound at the factory default, but set the air horn at its maximum level. To my ear all the sound reproductions, including the Leslie air horn and the EMD 710 diesel engine, sounded like their prototypes.

I set up a multi-unit consist featuring two WalthersMainline SD60s and an Athearn SD40-2. The decoder supports CVs 21 and 22, which allowed me to set up function control under the advance consist address.

A full list of the supported CVs and the factory default values is available at

DC sound. When operated with a DC power pack, sound effects are more limited. The prime mover ramped up or down with the throttle. Under about 20 scale mph, the bell sounded. The appropriate whistle signal sounded for each direction change and when the locomotive stopped. Sounds were momentarily interrupted whenever the direction switch was flipped.

With its accurate proportions and smooth performance, the Walthers HO scale SD60 is a six-axle workhorse that would look right at home on layouts set in the 1980s to present day.


Price: $199.98 (DCC sound), $129.98 (DC, no sound)

Wm. K. Walthers Inc.
P.O. Box 3039
Milwaukee, WI 53201

Era: 1984 to present day (1989 to 1991 as detailed and decorated for Soo no. 6036)

Road names (multiple road numbers)
SD60 (spartan cab):
Soo Line, Canadian National, Chicago & North Western, CSX, Norfolk Southern, and Union Pacific
SD60M (wide cab): Burlington Northern, Burlington Northern Santa Fe, Conrail, CSX, Norfolk Southern, and Union Pacific. Undecorated version also available.

• All-wheel drive and electrical pickup
• Die-cast metal chassis
• Five-pole skew-wound motor with brass flywheel
• Nine-pin DCC socket (DC version)
• Proto-Max metal knuckle couplers at correct height
• RP-25 contour metal wheels in gauge
• SoundTraxx dual-mode decoder (DCC version only)
• Weight: 1 pound, 7.4 ounces

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