EMD "SW900" Locomotives

Last revised: January 19, 2022

By: Adam Burns

The SW900 was built directly after earlier models had completed production such as the SW9, SW8, and SW1.

Also, beginning with the SW900, EMD began using the number designation of the model to refer to its horsepower rating instead of simply using it to list its sequential order in the series.

The SW900's horsepower rating was not as high as its predecessor's, the SW9, which probably explains, partly anyway, why it had fewer sales. Still, nearly 400 were built for dozens of different roads and industries.

As with every other model in the SW series, the SW900's reliability and versatility has allowed it to continue to find use in several industrial and short line applications even today. 

To date there are officially three examples known preserved:

  • Baltimore & Ohio #9408 at the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad Museum in Baltimore, Maryland (built as B&O #633 in the summer of 1955).

  • Cuyahoga Valley Railroad/New York Central #8630 at the Midwest Railway Preservation Society (manufactured in 1956) in Cleveland, Ohio.

  • Coors Brewery #988 at the Colorado Railroad Museum in Golden (built as Chicago, Rock Island & Pacific #550 in January, 1957).
Lancaster & Chester SW900 #91 is tied down in Lancaster, South Carolina on October 3, 2004. David Simmons photo. American-Rails.com collection.

The SW900 began production in December, 1953 and again carried the builder's traditional carbody styling with a tapered hood near the cab and just a short, 44-feet in length.

Outwardly, the SW900's one striking visual difference from other models is its single, tong-shaped exhaust stack. Interestingly, this design was only featured on the SW900 and SW1200, as no other model in the SW series carried such a configuration.

The SW900 came equipped with EMD's model 567C prime mover which, as mentioned earlier, could produce 900 horsepower (a slight downgrade from the SW9's 1,200 horsepower).

The model featured a new traction motor, General Motors' model D37B, which could produce 36,000 pounds of continuous tractive effort and 57,500 pounds starting (also a downgrade from the SW9's 62,000 pounds). 

Lehigh Valley SW900M's #120 and #122 work the Tifft Street Yard in south Buffalo, New York on August 1, 1975. Doug Kroll photo.

Sales for the EMD SW900 were respectable but not nearly as high as the earlier SW9.

It seems that EMD's 1,000-1,200 horsepower models were the perfect fit for railroads, as they nearly always saw the highest numbers (likely due to the fact that the extra horsepower not only allowed the locomotives to shuffle more cars but also be used in occasional freight operations).

In any event, the SW900 would still find a variety of buyers with several Class Is, short lines, and industries purchasing it.

By the time the SW900 hit the market in late 1953 EMD's reputation for building high quality switchers, and diesel locomotives in general, was well-known.

Once again EMD did not disappoint with the model as it remained a reliable and versatile locomotive that was easy to maintain and could operate about anywhere with a weight of just 115-tons.

A pair of Canadian National SW900's (#7604 and #7602), along with yard slug #312, are seen here in Winnipeg, Manitoba in October, 1971. CN acquired a substantial fleet of these switchers throughout the 1950's. Roger Puta photo.

Interestingly, EMD had intended to also build another cow/calf model with the SW900, as it had with most other earlier designs (up to that point it offered a version ranging from TR through TR6).

However, either the builder could not gain any interest in the locomotive or did not believe many sales would transpire (few of the TR models actually sold many sets) and ultimately decided not to offer the TR9 model.

Of note, the company's Ontario division, General Motors Diesel, was also able to sell a batch of SW900s, nearly 100.

The GMD models were purchased by Algoma Steel, Aluminum Company of Canada, British Columbia Electric Railway, Canadian Pacific, Canadian National, McKinnon Industries, Midland Railway Company of Manitoba, and Steel Company of Canada.

EMD SW900 Production Roster

Owner Road Number(s) Quantity Date Built
Alabama By-Products Corporation90011956
American Steel & Wire Company3-641958
Armco Steel CorporationB-80, 1203-1214131957-1965
Baltimore & Ohio625-63391955
Birmingham Southern Railroad91-9551958-1959
Buick Motor Division (General Motors)792, 81821954-1955
Buffalo Works (Republic Steel)373-37421956
Canton Railroad44-4851956
Cedar Rapids & Iowa City Railway (Crandic)9411959
Champion Papers Corporation311957
Chicago & North Western144-14521960
Chicago Great Western511957
Cleveland Union Terminal (NYC)9628-963031954
Cleveland Works (Republic Steel)345, 347-34941956-1959
Colorado & Western Railroad21411957
Colorado River & Western Railroad20111954
Corinth & Counce Railroad901-90221960-1961
Cuyahoga Valley Railway960-96121956
De Queen & Eastern RailroadD-411954
Detroit Edison Company21411956
Electro-Motive (Demo)6534-653521955-1957
Feather River Railway1211959
Fernwood, Columbia & Gulf Railroad90011957
Grand Trunk Western7225-7232, 7262-7268151956-1958
Granite City Steel Company90011957
Great Lakes Steel Corporation6-721956
Hanna Furnance Company1711957
Hercules Powder Company6111961
Inland Stone & Chemical Company1011961
Jacksonville Terminal Company37-3931954
Lancaster & Chester Railway90-9121965
Lehigh Valley106-107, 110, 120-127, 130121955-1957
McLouth Steel Products Corporation6-721954
Missouri Portland Cement Company111958
Monessen Southwestern Railway28-3031955-1965
New York Central9631-9646161955
Northern Pacific10011957
Pickering Lumber Company101-10441956-1959
Philadelphia, Bethlehem & New England Railroad51-5221955
Raritan River Railroad1-661954
Reading10-15, 1501-1515211956-1963
River Terminal Railway90-100111955-1958
Rock Island550-563, 900-914291958-1959
Sand Springs Railway100-10231956-1957
Santa Fe650-65341957
Simpson Logging Company90011955
Southern Pacific4624-4633101954
Steelton & Highspire Railroad21, 2721955-1956
U.S. Steel Corporation15711957
U.S. Sugar Corporation154-15631955-1956
Valdosta Southern Railroad95511958
Virginia-Carolina Chemical Company111965
Woodward Iron Company6211955
Warren Works (Republic Steel)354-35961956
Waterloo Railroad1-441957
Youngstown Sheet & Tube Company900-90451956-1965

Rock Island SW900 #907, built new in 1959, rests in Seneca, Illinois on January 28, 1967. Roger Puta photo.

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 1969, some 371 had been built (including 97 built at General Motors Diesel.

Today, you can still find SW900s (aside from those preserved) in operation on the Wilmington & Western, Armco Steel, Southern Railway of British Columbia, Lancaster & Chester, Cargill, Aberdeen, Carolina & Western, Ellis & Eastern, Juniata Valley, Adrian & Blissfield, Huntsville - Madison County Airport Authority, CMI Steel, Milford-Bennington Railroad, Richmond Pacific, Fisher Farmer's Grain & Coal, and a number of privately owners. 

  1. Home
  2.  ›
  3. Diesel Locomotives
  4.  ›
  5. EMD SW900


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!