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EMD's "SW900" Locomotives

Last revised: February 1, 2024

By: Adam Burns

The SW900 was a variant of the SW8, essentially a de-rated version (8 cylinder) of the company's more powerful SW7, SW9, SW1200, and SW1500.

By the 1950s, Electro-Motive was such a dominant figure in the diesel locomotive market that the builder was cataloging a variety of switchers and road-switchers in various horsepower settings and wheel arrangements.

Generally, the company saw success with nearly every model it released, although there were exceptions.  In the switcher arena EMD (and all manufacturers) soon realized railroads (and industries) gravitated more towards variants offering at least 1,000 horsepower.

Such models provided more versatility and could even handle light freight duty assignments when needed.  As such, the less powerful SW8, SW900, and SW600 witnessed fewer sales.


67900091283761254512t51g716u1869707.jpgSanta Fe SW900 #650 is seen here, circa 1966. The AT&SF rostered only a very small fleet of these units, #650-653, acquired in 1957. Photographer unknown. American-Rails.com collection.

History and Background

The SW900 entered production in the United States in January, 1954 while the first examples rolled out of London, Ontario at General Motors Diesel a month earlier (December, 1953).

The model again carried the builder's traditional carbody styling with a tapered hood near the cab and standard length of just over 44 feet.  It came equipped with an 8-cylinder, model 567C prime mover.

Outwardly, the SW900's one visual difference was a single, conical exhaust stack.  This design was featured on all of EMD's 8-cylinder switchers and could also be found on the SW900, SW1000/SW1001, and SW600 (6 cylinder).

The model was equipped with General Motors' latest traction motor, the D37B, which could produce 36,000 pounds of continuous tractive effort and 57,500 pounds of starting effort. 

697023942735623h42683528960278.jpgRaritan River Railroad SW900's #4 and #5 are busy at work in Parlin, New Jersey, circa 1958. These were acquired new in October of 1954. Meyer Pearlman photo. American-Rails.com collection.

Sales for the SW900 were respectable but lagged behind the SW9, largely due to its lower power rating. It seems that EMD's 1,000-1,200 horsepower models were the perfect fit for what customers were after, as previously noted.

Nevertheless, the SW900 still found a variety of buyers with several Class Is, short lines, and industries purchasing it. By the time the switcher hit the market in late 1953, EMD's reputation for building high quality switchers, and diesel locomotives in general, was already well established.

Once again Electro-Motive did not disappoint as the SW900 remained a reliable and versatile locomotive that was easy to maintain while its light weight (115 tons) allowed it to handle a variety of track conditions.

Interestingly, EMD had intended to also build a cow-calf variant of the SW900, as it had done with the TR through TR6 series.

However, lukewarm sales that saw only 85 of these sets built (and two additional calves), ultimately convinced the builder to abandon the concept by the mid-1950s.

Data Sheet and Specifications

Entered Production1/1954 (McLouth Steel #6)
Years Produced (U.S.)1/1954 - 10/1965
Years Produced (Canada)12/1953 - 3/1969
EMD ClassSW900
Engine567C (8 Cylinder)
Engine BuilderEMD/GM
Length44' 5"
Height (Top Of Rail To Top Of Cab)14' 6 1/2"
Width9' 11 1/2"
Weight230,000 Lbs
Fuel Capacity600 Gallons
Air CompressorWXO (Gardner-Denver)
Air Brake Schedule26L (Westinghouse)
Truck TypeGRS Rigid Bolster, Drop-Side Equalizer (AAR Type-A) or Flexicoil
Truck Wheelbase8' 0"
Wheel Size40"
Traction MotorsD37B (4), EMD/GM
Traction GeneratorD15C, EMD/GM
Auxiliary GeneratorEMD/GM
MU (Multiple-Unit)Optional
Dynamic BrakesNo
Gear Ratio62:15
Tractive Effort/Starting57,500 Lbs
Tractive Effort/Continuous36,000 Lbs at 11.0 mph
Top Speed65 mph

Production Rosters

(Total Built = 241)

Owner Road Number Serial Number Order Number Completion Date Quantity
McLouth Steel6-719296-1929742471/1954-2/19542
Buick Motor Division (General Motors)7921949742651/19541
Cleveland Union Terminal (New York Central)9628-963019518-1952042683/19543
Southern Pacific4624-462519526-1952742734/19542
De Queen & EasternD-41952865295/19541
Jacksonville Terminal37-3919561-1956342746/19543
Southern Pacific4626-463319641-1964842766/19548
Colorado River & Western20119701429812/19541
Monessen Southwestern Railway281970243123/19551
Buick Motor Division (General Motors)8181970343032/19551
Raritan River Railroad1-619922-19927428310/19546
Baltimore & Ohio625-65320384-2041243015/1955-7/195529
U.S. Sugar Company154-15520553-2055443048/1955-9/19552
Simpson Logging Company9002060943055/19551
Woodward Iron Company622063343088/19551
Sand Springs Railway100-10120891-2089243212/19562
New York Central9631-964620935-20950432212/195516
River Terminal90-9720954-2096143231/19568
Pickering Lumber Company1012124643374/19561
River Terminal982147243231/19561
Pickering Lumber Company1022148343374/19561
Cuyahoga Valley960-96121596-2159743422/1956-4/19562
Electro-Motive (Demonstrator)*653421726653411/19551
Republic Steel Corporation (Cleveland Works)347-34921809-2181143458/19563
Republic Steel Corporation (Warren Works)3542181243468/19561
Republic Steel Corporation (Warren Works)355-35921813-2181743478/1956-9/19565
Alabama By-Products Corporation9002185443528/19561
Canton Railroad442190543536/19561
U.S. Sugar Corporation1562214043597/19561
Republic Steel Corporation (Buffalo Works)373-37422548-2254943679/19562
Canton Railroad452265043709/19561
Detroit Edison Company21422705437210/19561
Grand Trunk Western7225-723222871-22878437710/19568
Youngstown Sheet & Tube900-90122879-2288043789/1956, 1/19572
Canton Railroad46-4823075-23077438312/19563
Granite City Steel9002317543864/19571
Granite City Steel9012317643874/19571
Santa Fe650-65123196-2319775485/19572
Fernwood, Columbia & Gulf Railroad9002329843904/19571
Champion Papers Corporation32330443924/19571
Chicago Great Western52335775517/19571
Santa Fe652-65323403-2340475485/1957-6/19572
Rock Island550-563**23436-2344975431/1957-11/195814
Rock Island900-91423450-2346475764/1959-11/195915
Hanna Furnace172347443946/19571
Waterloo Railroad1-323475-2347743956/19573
Armco Steel12032352643973/19571
Colorado & Western2142353743986/19571
Lehigh Valley130, 12523538-2353975455/1957, 8/19572
Lehigh Valley110**2354075503/19571
Sand Springs Railway1022378244037/19571
Armco Steel12042379044056/19571
U.S. Steel15723938440711/19571
Birmingham Southern92, 9523986-2398775581/19582
Electro-Motive (Demonstrator)***65352400765356/19571
Lehigh Valley107**2448275633/19581
Lehigh Valley1232448475646/19581
River Terminal1002448644171/19581
Missouri Portland Cement12457344185/19581
American Steel & Wire3-424577-2457844194/19582
American Steel & Wire5-624731-2473244216/19582
Grand Trunk Western7262-726824973-24979442411/19587
Valdosta Southern95525072757012/19581
Pickering Lumber Company103-10425342-2534344274/19592
Cedar Rapids & Iowa City942544344308/19591
Birmingham Southern942544675798/19591
Republic Steel Corporation (Cleveland Works)34525461443111/19591
Feather River Railway122550444329/19591
Armco Steel120525677443311/19591
Birmingham Southern91, 9325894-2589575895/19602
Lehigh Valley1212591775906/19601
Chicago & North Western144-14526019-2602075914/19602
Corinth & Counce Railroad9012615744429/19601
Hercules Power Company612634944443/19611
Corinth & Counce Railroad9022677344467/19611
Reading Railroad1501-150626804-2680976057/1961-8/19616
Reading Railroad1507-151026810-2681376089/1961-10/19614
Inland Stone & Chemical Company102683044489/19611
Armco Steel1206-120927921-2792444541/1963-10/19634
Reading Railroad1511-151528417-28421766512/19635
Armco Steel121028553445610/19631
Armco Steel12112895244613/19641
Armco Steel12122959144668/19641
Monessen Southwestern Railway2929625446711/19641
Armco Steel121329861447112/19641
Armco Steel12143025644783/19651
Armco SteelB-803062244838/19651
Virginia-Carolina Chemical Company130742448610/19651
Monessen Southwestern Railway303075144879/19651
Youngstown Sheet & Tube90230758448810/19651
Lancaster & Chester Railway90-9130759-30760448910/1965-11/19652
Youngstown Sheet & Tube903-90430992-30993448810/19652

*   Became River Terminal #99.

**  These were de-rated to 600 horsepower, essentially SW600's.

*** Became Waterloo Railroad #4.


(Total Built = 19)

SW900's completed from trade-in units, reusing the same serials as their predecessors.

Owner Road Number Serial Number Order Number Completion Date Heritage Quantity
Lehigh Valley124, 120783, 77375239/1955-10/1955Ex-Lehigh Valley NW1's #124 and #120.2
Steelton & Highspire2761775249/1955Ex-South Buffalo Railway SC #51.1
Philadelphia, Bethlehem & New England51-52648-649752511/1955Ex-Philadelphia, Bethlehem & New England NC's #208-209.2
Reading10-15629, 701-70575291/1956-8/1956Ex-Reading SW's #10-15.6
Great Lakes Steel6-7670-67175308/1956Ex-Great Lake Steel SW's #6-7.2
Lehigh Valley127, 126, 122782, 781, 78575315/1956-9/1956Ex-Lehigh Valley NW1's #122 and #126-127.3
Steelton & Highspire21632753510/1956Ex-Philadelphia, Bethlehem & New England SC #204.1
Lehigh Valley106695753610/1956Ex-Lehigh Valley SW #106.1
Northern Pacific10073275391/1957Ex-Northern Pacific NW #100.1

General Motors Diesel (GMD)

 (Total Built = 97)

Owner Road Number Serial Number Order Number Completion Date Quantity
Canadian National8535-8542A561-A568C17312/1953-1/19548
Canadian National8543-8559A572-A588C1731/1954-5/195417
Canadian Pacific6710-6720A670-A680C1852/1955-4/195511
British Columbia Electric900A738C1896/19551
Midland Railway of Manitoba1A846C2005/19561
Steel Company Of Canada78-79A888-A889C2025/1956-6/19562
Steel Company Of Canada80-81A890-A891C2046/19562
British Columbia Electric901-902A892-A893C2056/19562
Steel Company Of Canada82A950C2026/19561
Aluminum Company Of Canada1003A1090C2233/19571
British Columbia Electric903-904A1165-A1166C2278/19572
Canadian National7233-7242A1185-A1194C22911/1957-12/195710
Canadian National7243-7261A1374-A1392C2411/1958-5/195819
British Columbia Electric905-908A1476-A1479C2483/1958-4/19584
Steel Company Of Canada83-88A1823-A1828C26911/1959-1/19606
Steel Company Of Canada89A2058C2966/19641
British Columbia Hydro & Power Authority909A2059C2976/19641
Algoma Steel51A2060C2986/19641
Steel Company Of Canada90A2078C3051/19651
Steel Company Of Canada91A2089C3073/19651
Steel Company Of Canada92A2110C3101/19661
McKinnon Industries47074A2175C3167/19661
Steel Company Of Canada93A2210C31910/19671
British Columbia Hydro & Power Authority910A2245C3216/19671
British Columbia Hydro & Power Authority911A2334C3273/19691


(Total Built = 14)

Owner Road Number Serial Number Order Number(s) Completion Date Quantity
Orinoco Mining Company (Venezuela)1090-109123248-23249701465-7014663/19572
Orinoco Mining Company (Venezuela)109223398701465-7014983/19571
Orinoco Mining Company (Venezuela)1093-109626037-26040702559-7025629/19604
Southern Peru Copper Company (Peru)9-1026616-26617700022-7000235/1961-8/19612
Liberian-American Mining Company (Liberia)201-20526774-26778700159-7001639/19625


  • Foster, Gerald. A Field Guide To Trains. New York: Houghton Mifflin, 1996.
  • Hayden, Bob. Diesel Locomotives: Cyclopedia, Volume 2 (Model Railroader). Milwaukee: Kalmbach Publishing Company, 1980.
  • Marre, Louis A. Diesel Locomotives: The First 50 Years, A Guide To Diesels Built Before 1972.  Milwaukee: Kalmbach Publishing Company, 1995.
  • Pinkepank, Jerry A. Diesel Spotter's Guide.  Milwaukee: Kalmbach Publishing Company, 1967.
  • Solomon, Brian.  EMD Locomotives.  Minneapolis: MBI Publishing Company, 2006.

In addition to the 260 units completed at Electro Motive those manufactured in Canada and for other countries included:

  • General Motors Diesel in London, Ontario outshopped another 97 examples.  

  • There were also 14 other export examples produced for industrial operations in Venezuela, Peru, and Liberia.

  • Finally, EMD completed 19 rebuilds as SW900's from earlier switcher variants.

The SW900 had a very long production run and when the final model rolled out of LaGrange, Illinois bound for short line Lancaster & Chester in early 1965, some 390 had been built altogether.


Wes Barris's SteamLocomotive.com is simply the best web resource on the study of steam locomotives. 

It is difficult to truly articulate just how much material can be found at this website. 

It is quite staggering and a must visit!