The new Electro-Motive Corporation (EMC) began marketing its own line of
switchers in 1936, followed by General Electric a few years later, and
Alco in 1940. For EMC, which later became General Motor's
Electro-Motive Division (EMD), it was not new to the concept of diesel
powered locomotives. The new builder had worked with the Chicago, Burlington & Quincy and Budd Company in helping to develop the Pioneer Zephyr streamlined trainset that awed the public on May 26, 1934. It was powered by a 660-horsepower prime mover built by EMC's subsidiary division, the Winton Motor Carriage Company. The manufacturer's early switcher models were assembled through 1938 and carried designations such as "SC," "NW," and "SW." In the case of GE, it began building and marketing several small switchers that were simply listed by their tonnage; 23-tonner, 44-tonner, 70-tonner, etc.
Finally, Alco offered its own variants known as the "S" series ranging from the S1 of 1940 through the S6/T6 of the late 1950s/1960s. (For a time, Fairbanks Morse also cataloged a pair of switchers, the H10-44 and H12-44 built between 1944 and 1961. They sold quite well despite FM's inability to seriously compete in the market.) For GE, it saw moderate interest in its switcher line over the years selling its versions to a variety of buyers from railroads to private industries. Interestingly, while Alco struggled to remain competitive in the diesel market by the 1960s its switchers were well liked as the company produced thousands, the most successful of which was the S2 selling 1,500 examples. During the 1940s it even led the market, as well as with the early road-switcher, the RS1 of 1941.
Unfortunately, as the years progressed industry leader EMD took over this coveted spot. During the late 1930s GM's new locomotive division moved into its own plan in La Grange, Illinois at which time it began releasing new models powered by the parent's new model 567 prime mover. The first designs were the NW2 and SW1 of 1939. Just as with the popular FT cab units these switchers began selling very well with nearly 2,000 examples sold between those two variants alone. In the following years EMD continued to release popular switcher models like the SW7, SW9, SW1200, SW1500, and MP15 series. These were built through the 1980s and by that time there were only two builders left in the market. By then, interest switchers had waned with so many now in service and a high level of reliability.
Even today, decades since they were outshopped one can still find early
SW1s and NW2s in regular service. Additionally, major Class Is still
roster various MP15 models and SW1500s for yard service. In recent
years there have been some new switchers built, although not by the
major manufacturers; in the 2000s RailPower (now a division of RJ
Corman) released a line of gensets. There have also been several
switchers rebuilt into either gensets or overhauled for improved
performance. It seems that while we may not see new switcher models
cataloged anytime soon, classic examples in service for years now will
still be around for many more. To read more about switchers from various builders please visit the Diesel Locomotives section of the site, which can be reached from the top of this page.
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