The locomotive was equipped with two 150 hp (110 kW) Cummins diesel engines, each driving a generator which, in turn, drove one of the two traction motors, one per truck. In early models, the second axle on each truck was driven with side rods. Later models had chain drives inside the trucks that served the same purpose.
A traditional train air brake was optional, but all came with two compressors (one per engine) and a straight-air independent (locomotive) brake. The cabs were spacious for the size of the locomotive, and both the engineer's seat and the fireman's seat were raised two feet on platforms (under which was the brake equipment, if applicable), so as to afford better views during switching.
The GE 45-ton was extremely versatile and many variants existed. It has a high weight to power ratio, and has excellent traction, rated to be able to pull 20 loaded freight cars on level track. They were built with a short wheelbase for use in industrial plants, yards, and other places where clearances were tight. Although intended as switchers, they sometimes served mainline duties, although nearly all had an imposed speed limit of 20 mph (32 km/h) due to the double reduction gearing of their traction motors.
They can also be found in museums, such as the North Carolina Transportation Museum, the Southeastern Railway Museum, and the Fox River Trolley Museum of South Elgin, IL, which operates the Aurora, Elgin & Fox River Electric Company. The Texas Transportation Museum also owns a 45-ton, listed on their website as a 44-ton. The Rochester & Genesee Valley Railroad Museum, as of 2012, restore RG&E #1941, a demonstrator used by GE at Lee, MA. It was donated to the museum in 1991 by Rochester Gas and Electric. The Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority has one numbered LM-2 used as a maintenance of way (MOW) and rescue locomotive for its Broad Street Subway line. Edmonton Transit also uses one of these locomotives, numbered 2010, for MOW tasks. The South Carolina Railroad Museum has No 82, a side-rod 45-ton, built for and used at Naval Shipyard Charleston, South Carolina, prior to going to the museum. It is currently being restored to full operation. The Delta Valley and Southern 50 is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Its present location is unknown. The Henry Ford Greenfield Village operates the former Naval Weapons Station Charleston No. 1, previously located at the base outside of Goose Creek, South Carolina. It is used to shuttle supplies for their steam locomotives from the Canadian National tracks to the village rails. The Siouxland Historical Railroad Association owns and operates a former US Marine Corps 45-ton locomotive. The Railroad Museum of New England/Naugatuck railroad owns a side-rod equipped 45-tonner which was built in 1942 (#15807) for the Rohm & Haas Chemical Co. as #RH-1. Donated 1993 by Cold Metal Products, it was repainted orange by RMNE and numbered 42, for its year of construction. Currently the locomotive is stored out of service. The Carthage, Knightstown & Shirley Railroad has two GE center cab locomotives in service, a chain-driven 45-tonner built in 1951 and primarily used at Grissom Air Force Base in northern Indiana, and a side rod-driven 44-tonner built in late 1946 for a gravel rock quarry in Richmond, Indiana.