Often forgotten due to their brief stint as an independent diesel locomotive manufacturer and before becoming an official division of General Motors, was the Electro-Motive Corporation's short catalog of switchers, which it built during the latter half of the 1930s and included four different series. During just a three-year stretch EMC out-shopped more than 100 examples of its switcher line during the late 1930s ranging among four different models; the SW, NW, SC, and NC. Interestingly, General Motors continued half of EMC's original switcher lines of which the SW series was so successful that it remained in production through the 1970s! Today, EMC's heritage not only survives in the locomotive designs it inspired, which remain in operation, but also its name which carries on as Electro-Motive Diesel, Inc.
What is today known as Electro-Motive Diesel has a history dating back to the early 20th century. EMD originally began as the Electro-Motive Corporation, a privately owned company being based out of Cleveland, Ohio that built inexpensive motorcars beginning in 1922. With its purchase by General Motors in 1930 and more resources at its disposal, EMC also began developing lightly-powered switcher locomotives for use in industrial and light branch operations. EMC switcher locomotives would eventually become the standard upon which other manufacturers designed similar models with a end-set cab followed by a short hood which housed the prime mover, and featuring a B-B truck arrangement (or two axles per truck).
EMC's first model was known as the "SC" built between May, 1936 and early 1939 at the company's new LaGrange, Illinois production facility. The letter designation simply stood for six-hundred horsepower with a cast frame. The SC model was quite short at only about 44-feet in length and was powered by Winton's 201-A prime mover (which powered all of EMC's early switchers). Interestingly, the SC model and most early EMC switcher locomotives were equipped with traction motors built by General Electric, who roughly thirty years later would be competing with EMD. The SC was rather unsuccessful selling just 43 units. However, having been built in 1936, even the diesel locomotive as a switcher was a relatively new concept within the railroad industry. For instance, successful similar models built by Alco like the RS1 and S1 were not debuted until 1940 and 1941. While the SC sold poorly it was tested by several Class Is like the New York Central, Jersey Central, Missouri Pacific, and Santa Fe.
EMC's other 600 horsepower model was the famed SW. The original SW model was virtually identical to the SC except that it featured a welded frame (hence the "W" designation) instead of a cast frame. The model was built at the same time as the SC and sold a bit better at 76 units with several additional railroads trying the model. These two early models which were reliable and useful in yard, industrial and branch line settings, along with the many Class Is which tested them explains why future versions like the NW2, SW9, and others were so successful.
The two other models EMC developed included the NC and NW, and their variants. Built during the same time period as their counterparts, their designations meant the same with "C" and "W" standing for cast and welded frame. The "N" referred to nine-hundred horsepower. These two models were not nearly as successful as the SC and SW, although their future successor, the NW2 sold more than 1,000 units. These four models (of which EMC sold a total of 175 examples) would be the only EMC switcher locomotives developed as two years later, on January 1, 1941 the Electro-Motive Corporation and the Winton Engine Company officially became General Motors' Electro-Motive Division. This division also spelled the end of the Winton 201-A prime mover as all future EMD locomotives used the model 567, which was already in use on early E and F cab units. Today, you can still find a few examples of these early EMC switcher locomotives preserved around the country. For technical data regarding EMC switcher locomotives please click here. Also, for information about EMC's various switchers please refer to the chart below.
EMC Switcher Locomotives
|Model Type||Units Built||Date Built||Horsepower||SC||43||1936-1939||600||SW||76||1936-1939||600||NC||5||1937-1938||900||NC1||5||1937||900||NC2||2||1937||900||NW||8||1937-1938||900||NW1||27||1937-1939||900||NW1A||3||1938||900||NW4||2||1938||900|
For more reading about early EMC switcher locomotives consider Mike Schafer’s Vintage Diesel Locomotives which looks at virtually all of the classic builders and models from Alco PAs to early EMD Geeps. If you’re interested in classic EMDs, or diesels in general, this book gives an excellent general history of both. You might want to also consider the book EMD Locomotives from author Brian Solomon. Solomon's book highlights the history of EMD from its earliest beginnings in the 1920s, to its phenomenal successes in the mid-20th century, and finally its decline into second spot behind General Electric in the late 20th century and eventual sale by General Motors in 2005. The book features 176 pages of EMD history and is filled with excellent photography and illustrations. If you're interested in perhaps purchasing either (or both) of these books please visit the links below which will take you to ordering information through Amazon.com, the trusted online shopping network.