The GE C44-9W is one of the most successful present-day diesel locomotive
ever built. Before General Electric unveiled their Evolution Series in
2005, the design had sold nearly 2,500 units to Class Is in
the United States and more than 200 additional models to foreign roads! Much of this model's high sales numbers hinged on one
railroad in particular, the BNSF who
bought well over 1,500 examples (although other Class Is also purchased
100 or more). The success of the model, which replaced the earlier
"Dash 8" line, was due to its reliability, simplicity, and powerful
prime mover all traits which by
the 1990s GE was well known for. Today, just as with EMD's
ultra-successful SD40-2 model, nearly every other locomotive you will
see pulling a Class I freight train is either a C44-9W or similar model
(i.e., ES44AC, C40-9W, etc.).
CSX C44-9W #9014 and a Susquehanna unit lead autotrack train Q249 through Braddock, Pennsylvania on August 9, 1999.
The GE C44-9W, which began production in 1993 was essentially the only
"Dash 9" model produced, the other being the C40-9/W variant built
exclusively for NS (other variants were also built for
foreign lines). However, despite having a smaller locomotive
catalog GE hit a home run with this particular design. The model
followed the earlier "Dash 8" series in the mid-1990s and outwardly, the
two models' carbodies were virtually identical. The locomotive
featured the builder's four-cycle model 7FDL16 prime mover, which could
produce 4,400 horsepower (although it was listed at only 4,390 hp) with a
tractive effort of 105,640 pounds at slow speeds (and 142,000 pounds
The model was also one of the first to be equipped with the relatively
new high-adhesion (or HT-C) truck, which helped to improve wheel-to-rail
contact. The GE C44-9W held the same meaning behind its designation as
earlier models. For instance, the "C" referred to the unit having a C-C
truck setup (three axles per truck) while the "44" referred to it having
4,400 horsepower. Of note, the horsepower rating of between 4,000 to
4,400 has since become the operating norm for railroads. The high
horsepower competition between GE and Electro-Motive Division during
this time proved to be unsuccessful as many came to realize that
6,000 horsepower locomotives were just not very economic.
In any even, the "9" reference simply meant it was a model of GE's
"Dash 9" series and the "W" designation meant it was equipped with the wide, safety cab.
UP C44-9W #9652 pops out of Tunnel #10 at Tehachapi Loop near Walong, California as it leads an intermodal freight eastbound on August 8, 2007.
By the latter 1990s General Electric was a renowned and reliable
locomotive builder although arguments remain at which company produces a
better locomotive, GE or EMD (currently, GE's models are hailed as
being more reliable while EMD's have always been regarded for their
ruggedness and longevity). In any event, most roads loved the C44-9W and
from their introduction in late 1993 GE continued to produce them until
late 2004 when they were replaced by the newer Evolution Series (ES).
At this time, GE had sold nearly 2,500 units to nearly every major Class
I which at the time included the Santa Fe (100), later BNSF
(1,697), CN (228), Chicago & North Western (130),
SP (101), BC Rail (14), Quebec North Shore & Labrador
Railway (11), and UP (40).
A beautiful panoramic view of Tehachapi Loop at Walong, California as BNSF C44-9W #5024 and a quartet of help work a stack train on August 7, 2007.
Additionally, foreign lines to purchase the model included Estrada de Ferro
Carajás and Ferrovia Norte do Brasil S/A of Brazil (both of which
bought 84), as well as Fortescue Metals Group and Hamersley Iron/Pilbara
Iron of Australia (which purchased 77 combined). As you can, the
model's top buyer was BNSF. However, some Class Is were more interested
in GE's alternating current AC4400CW model being cataloged at the same
time. This locomotive was purchase by far more lines and sold much
better than the C44-9W. Its success lay in its AC traction motors
that were much more efficient offering far superior tractive effort
making them ideal for use in heavy drag service. In any event, today
almost all of these locomotives produced by GE remain in revenue service
on the major systems.