EMD "SW8" Locomotives: Specifications, Roster, And History

The EMD SW8 was built just prior to the SW7's end of production.  Ironically, while the model was the latest version in Electro-Motive's switcher line it was less powerful than its predecessor.  However, it did feature an updated version of EMD's model 567 prime mover (the 8-cylinder, 567B) although outwardly remained virtually identical and practically the same length. The SW8 sold relatively well (although not as well as either the SW1 or SW7) to both large and small railroads, as well numerous industries. With the opening of Electro-Motive's Canadian subsidiary, General Motors Diesel in 1949 the new manufacturer sold a handful of SW8s to northern roads.  GMD was located in London, Ontario and out-shopped its very first locomotive, Toronto, Hamilton & Buffalo GP7 #71, in August, 1950.  The resiliency of EMC/EMD's SW series is something to behold, as the SW8, like nearly all of its counterpart models, remains in operation throughout North America.  

It can be found in service ranging from short lines and industrial settings to pulling excursion trains.  Notable locations of preserved SW8's include Wabash #132 (presented as Delaware, Lackawanna & Western #500) at Steamtown in Scranton, Pennsylvania and Southern Pacific #4618 (featured as SP #1123) at the Center For Transportation & Commerce in Galveston, Texas.

Electro-Motive SW8 #105 (originally built as a DH2, a diesel hydraulic test-bed unit later converted to a standard diesel-electric) served as the plant switcher in McCook, Illinois. It is seen here on October 6, 1962 during EMD's 25,000th locomotive celebration. Roger Puta photo.

The EMD SW8 began production in September, 1950, shortly before the last SW7s were built in January, 1951. Outwardly, the SW8 was, again, not drastically different from the SW7 or even the NW2. It featured General Motors' model D37 traction motors which could produce a modest 36,000 pounds of starting tractive effort (57,000 pounds continuous) and overall weighed just 115-tons (which was actually nine tons lighter than the SW7). The SW8's carbody, as with earlier models, featured the now classic tapered hood in front of the cab although one visual difference was that it included only one centered exhaust stack (the SW7, NW2, SW1, and later models almost always had two). 

Boston & Maine SW8 #804 is tied down with its caboose at the weed-choked yard in Lincoln, New Hampshire on September 29, 1968. Roger Puta photo.

Internally, the EMD SW8's one noticeable difference was its model 567B prime mover, then the newest engine EMD had developed. The eight-cylinder engine could produce 800 horsepower, which was a step down from the 1,200-horsepower SW7. Still, while the SW8 had fewer sales than its predecessor it attracted many different lines from Class Is to short lines and industries. Some buyers ranged from large systems like the Wabash, Southern Pacific, New York Central, and Rock Island to small lines like the Roscoe, Snyder & Pacific Railway, Wichita Falls & Southern Railroad, and Colorado & Wyoming Railway.

Chicago West Pullman & Southern SW8 #44 moves a cut of cars through 104th Street in the Windy City during March of 1964. This switching road's entire fleet consisted of Electro-Motive products (SW1s, SW8s, SW9s, and NW2s), save for a few Alco S2s. Roger Puta photo.

Additionally, industries like Wheeling Steel (who bought numerous examples of EMD's various switchers), Pittsburgh Coke & Chemical Company, and Columbia Iron & Steel all purchased the SW8. Again, these wide range of buyers can be explained by the intended use EMD designed the locomotive which included yard duty, light branch line work, and shuffling cars through industrial settings. The SW8 had a four-year production run and when the last model was outshopped in January, 1951 EMD had built some 374 units, which included those constructed by General Motors Diesel of Ontario, Canada (which had been established only in 1949) and 12 sets of cow-calf TR6s. Buyers from GMD included Algoma Central, Algoma Steel, Canada & Gulf Terminal, Canadian National, Canadian Pacific, Dominion Foundries & Steel Company, Dominion Iron & Steel, Essex Terminal Railway, Steel Company of Canada, and Wabash again (for use on its line between Detroit and Niagara Falls in Ontario).

This photo of Lehigh Valley SW8's offers a good perspective of a standard variant (#107) and one which has been modified with dynamic brakes (#273). The units are seen here at Newark, New Jersey on November 8, 1969. Roger Puta photo.

EMD SW8 Production Roster

Owner Road Number(s) Quantity Date Built
Aliquippa & Southern Railroad800-80231953
Atlantic Coast Line50-59101952
Bamberger Railroad601-60221952
Boston & Maine800-80781953
Canton Railroad40-4341952-1954
Cedar Rapids & Iowa City Railway (Crandic)91-9331953
Chicago & North Western80111952
Chicago River & Indiana Railroad9600-960121950
Chicago, St. Paul, Minneapolis & Omaha (C&NW)126-12941951
Chicago, West Pullman & Southern42-4651951-1952
Cincinnati Union Terminal30-3781951-1952
Colorado & Wyoming Railway201-212121951-1952
Columbia Iron & Metal Company111953
Cuyahoga Valley Railway85511953
De Queen & Eastern RailroadD-311951
Detroit, Toledo & Ironton900-90121952
Donora Southern Railroad802-811101951
Electro-Motive (Demo)105, 500, 800-80131950-1953
Great Northern98-99, 101, 80141950-1953
Illinois Terminal72511950
Kansas City Terminal Railway6111952
Lake Terminal Railroad821-82441951
Lakeside & Marblehead Railroad13-1421952
Lehigh Valley128-129, 250-276291950-1953
Louisiana & North West40-4121950
Ludington & Northern Railway1611952
Merchants Despatch Transportation Company1511953
Moneseen Southwestern Railway22, 2621950-1952
New Orleans Union Passenger Terminal1-331953
New York Central9602-9627261952-1953
Nickel Plate Road107-11481952
North Louisiana & Gulf Railroad37-3821953
Pittsburgh Coke & Chemical Company411952
Poplar Ridge Coal Company80111951
Reserve Mining Company1200-120121952
Rock Island811-838281950-1953
Roscoe, Snyder & Pacific Railway20011953
South Shore Railway1211953
Southern Pacific4604-4623201954
Steelton & Highspire Railway2611953
Tennessee Coal & Iron Railroad750-754, 77061950-1951
Texas & New Orleans (SP)12-1651953
Texas & Pacific Railway (MP)811-81881952
Tremont & Gulf Railroad75, 7721952
U.S. Army2000-2040411951
U.S. Steel Corporation10911951
Unity Railways5311953
Wabash Railroad120-121, 125-126, 128-13291950-1953
Wheeling Steel Corporation1152-115321950
Wichita Falls & Southern Railroad801-80221953
Woodward Iron Company60-6121951-1952

Lehigh Valley SW8 #251 and a mate roll across Communipaw Avenue in Jersey City, New Jersey on November 8, 1969. Roger Puta photo.

As for the cow/calf TR6 just twelve sets were built; one demonstrator (that went to Southern Pacific), eight for the Oliver Iron Mining Company, and three more to SP. Once again, the reliability and versatility of the SW series has been well represented in the SW8 as numerous models continue to perform admirably in all types of settings. Places you can still find SW8s in service include the North Shore Railroad, Strasburg, Larrys Truck & Electric, Reading & Northern, Madison, Moldok, Berkshire Scenic Railway, Stelco Inc., Maryland & Delaware, Mansbach Metal Company, Johnson County Airport Commission, Relco Locomotives, Colorado & Wyoming Railway, and the Chicago Terminal. 

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