It is an upgrade of the original GP38, and has more features like with every other EMD "Dash 2" series locomotive has.
There were 2222 GP38-2s built, and many still exist and are still currently in service.
The EMD GP38-2 is the upgraded version of the GP38 which is part of EMD's "Dash 2" line of upgraded diesel locomotives. . It was produced shortly after the SD40-2's introduction.
Many were purchased by American railroads such as Conrail, and Union Pacific. There are several hood variants. Such as a "high-hood", which was ordered from the Norfolk and Western, and Southern Railroad in the U.S; to which they all soon became part of Norfolk Southern after both railroads merged.
They are one of the most commonly used diesel locomotives throughout North America, and can often be seen switching, or shunting freight cars in yards, delivering local freight, or used as spare units on mainline trains.
GP38 -Pre "Dash 2" upgrade; original version.
GP38-2B - Rebuilt, cabless GP38-2.
GP38-3 - Rebuild from various "GP Series" (General Purpose) units, yet retains the 'GP38' name (aside from the GP38-3 also referring to an upgraded version of the GP38-2.)
GP38-2LW - Canadian Safety Cab Version
GP38AC - AC-alternator version of the GP38
GP38-2CNG - NS is currently converting one GP38-2 to run on CNG, and one other unit (a GP38AC) to serve as its tender. Expect debut in early 2014.
Several rebuilt passenger versions exist as well.
The mostly reliable feature for differentiating a GP38-2 from a GP38 is the radiator water-level gauge below the forward radiator on the right-hand side. Save BN's early orders, a latched battery box cover (next to the short hood) is another detail.
- UP GP38-2 #580 is one of the several GP38-2's used as a snow plow unit which is equipped with a flanger and special gear for scraping, plowing, and removing snow on the UP's Donner Pass line.
- The Monongahela Railroad shortline owned some of the heaviest GP38 and GP38-2 units ever built, which rode on thicker, frames.
Team Fortress 2; a multiplayer videogame produced by Valve, has a locomotive model resembling a GP38-2.