EMD "SW1200" Locomotives

Last revised: May 15, 2022

By: Adam Burns

The SW1200 was the final model the builder would produce using its model 567 prime mover (all future models used the model 645).

The switcher was also the last model utilizing the traditional carbody and rounded-cab roof-line. Beginning with the SW900, EMD featured the model's number designation to refer to its horsepower rating rather than simply using it to list its sequential order in the series.

Once again, the model proved railroads tended to like a small switcher with a bit more horsepower as the SW1500 went to become Electro-Motive's most successful in the SW series. 

By the time production had ended more than 1,000 of these locomotives rolled out of EMD. 

Today, just as with virtually every other model in the series, SW1200's can continue to be found hauling freight for short lines and used in industrial settings, along with also pulling excursion trains. 

There are currently three units that are officially known to be preserved; Canadian Pacific #1229 at the Alberta Central Railway Museum, CP #8120 at the Lake of the Woods Railroaders Museum, and Lake Superior Terminal & Transportation #105 at the Minnesota Transportation Museum. 

Penn Central SW1200 #9199, still in its New Haven paint (built as #659) lays over in Maybrook, New York in the fall of 1970. Note Penn Central U25B #2672 in the background, also still in its New Haven paint (built as #2512). American-Rails.com collection.

The SW1200 began production in January, 1954 around the same time as its less powerful counterpart, the SW900. The model used EMD's 567C prime mover (some late model designs in the 1960s used the builder's final version of the 567, the 567E).

The 12-cylinder engine could produce a hefty 1,200 horsepower, which apparently is something many very much liked as EMD's higher-horsepower small switchers tended to sell much better.

Using General Motors' newer model D37B traction motor the SW1200 could produce a respectable 36,000 pounds of continuous tractive effort and overall weighed just over 122-tons (a bit heavier than the SW900).  

Baltimore & Ohio SW1200 #9618 wearing the Chessie System livery; October 13, 1976. Location not recorded. American-Rails.com collection.

Sales for the EMD SW1200 quickly took off and with the builder's reputation at the time for being the best manufacturer of diesel locomotives sales remained steady through the 1950s and into the 1960s.

Just as with other SW series models, numerous Class Is, shortlines, and private industries purchased the switcher since they could be used in all types of applications from light branch line work to industrial duties.

However, what allowed the model to sell so well was its 1,200 horsepower rating, giving many railroads the versatility to use it pulling heavier freight trains.

Unfortunately, for EMD it would change the carbody of its SW1000 model for the worse in the late 1960s, much to the chagrin of industries who found it incapable of fitting within the tight quarters on their property.

Rio Grande SW1200 #135 lays over in Salt Lake City, Utah, circa 1975. Robert Eastwood, Jr. photo. American-Rails.com collection.

As such, the SW1001 variant was designed using the frame of the SW1200.   After EMD released the SW9 it abandoned cataloging its cow/calf TR series although it contemplated doing so with the SW900 of 1953 but ultimately decided against doing so.

In any event, the SW1200 would also not be offered in a cow/calf variant mostly because interest in the setup had waned following the SW9.

Production on the switcher continued through May, 1966 and when the last unit was outshopped some 1,056 units in total had been produced, which included 287 models built by General Motors Diesel of London, Ontario.

Norfolk & Portsmouth Belt Line SW1200 #103 was photographed here by Joe Kmetz in Norfolk, Virginia on October 6, 1979. American-Rails.com collection.

Buyers of the GMD SW1200 included Roberval & Quebec Iron & Titanium, Saguenay Railway, Essex Terminal Railway, Dominion Foundries & Steel, Canadian Forest Products, and the two largest buyers Canadian Pacific (72 units) and Canadian National (208 units). 

Some of the industries to pick up the SW1200 included Wheeling Steel, Weyerhaeuser Timber, Woodward Iron, Simpson Logging, Republic Steel, Oliver Iron Mining, Midland Electric Coal Company, Great Lakes Steel, Commonwealth Edison, and Coos Bay Lumber Company.

Among all of them these companies purchased more than 100 examples of the locomotive. It was the most purchased EMD switcher for industries as its power and agility made it ideal in such settings.

EMD SW1200 Production Roster

Owner Road Number(s) Quantity Date Built
Aliquippa & Southern Railroad1201-1213131954-1957
Ashley, Drew & Northern Railway176, 17821955, 1963
Baltimore & Ohio9614-962181957
Bauxite & Northern Railway1111954
Bellefonte Central Railroad562411956
Belt Railway Of Chicago524-52631963
Birmingham Southern Railroad200-20121957
Chicago & Illinois Midland18-2361955
Chicago & North Western310-321121960-1962
Colorado & Southern Railway (CB&Q)156-16051959
Commonwealth Edison1611964
Conemaugh & Black Lick Railroad120-12121956
Coos Bay Lumber Company1201-120331954
Cuyahoga Valley Railway1280-128671956-1965
De Queen & Eastern RailroadD-511960
Denver & Rio Grande Western130-139101965
Elgin, Joliet & Eastern300-30781960
Florida East Coast Railway229-23571954
Fort Worth & Denver Railway (CB&Q)607-61041959
Grand Trunk Western1505-1508, 1511-1519, 1269-1270, 7017-7019181955-1960
Great Lakes Steel Corporation16, 39-53161956-1965
Great Northern29-33, 10061955-1957
Houston Belt & Terminal Railway33-3751966
Illinois Terminal775-786121955
Inland Steel Company88-98, 103-114231956-1965
Kansas City Terminal Railway70-79101964
Lake Superior Terminal & Transfer (GN)10511957
Louisville & Nashville2297-230041957
Midland Electric Coal Company120111957
Milwaukee Road1637-1642, 2020-2061481954
Minneapolis, Northfield & Southern30-3561962-1965
Missouri-Kansas-Texas Railroad (Katy)1-6, 43-4481957-1962
Missouri Pacific1100-1166, 1175-1201, 1255-1259, 1263-12791161963-1966
New Haven640-659201956
New Orleans Public Belt Railroad71-7221957
Norfolk & Portsmouth Belt Line Railroad101-115151956
Northern Pacific119-177591955-1958
Oliver Iron Mining Company940-94891954
Pacific Power & Light Company1011965
Patapsco & Back Rivers Railroad125-134101956-1957
Peoria & Pekin Union Railway50011965
Philadelphia, Bethlehem & New England Railroad39-4351956-1957
Point Comfort & Northern Railway411955
River Terminal Railway63-6421959
Republic Steel Corporation362, 89521956-1959
Reserve Mining Company121211962
Richmond, Fredericksburg & Potomac81-8551965
Rock Island920-936171964-1965
Rockdale, Sandow & Southern Railroad811955
Sandersville Railroad20011964
Santa Fe2439-244131959
Simpson Logging Company1200-120121956
Soo Line321-32881954-1955
Southern Pacific1597-1623271964-1965
St. Louis Southwestern Railway (Cotton Belt/SP)1062-1073, 2289-2293171964-1966
Steelton & Highspire Railroad4411956
Terminal Railroad Association Of St. Louis (TRRA)1219-1243251955-1965
Texas & New Orleans (SP)113-118, 123-128121954-1957
Texas & Pacific (MP)1290-1299101966
Tooele Valley Railway10011955
U.S. Steel CorporationSX-1, SX-221957
Wabash Railroad375-37951954-1957
West Virginia Northern5211960
Weyerhaeuser Timber Company30411955
Wheeling Steel Corporation1250, 1254-125971954-1955
Wisconsin Central Railway (Soo)2120-212781955
Woodward Iron Company5211955

Inland Steel SW1200 #110 was photographed here at the company's Indiana Harbor Works in East Chicago, Indiana on September 5, 1987. American-Rails.com collection.

Today's this powerful and versatile switcher is still quite common in industrial settings and hauling freight on shortlines.

Places you can still find in regular service include Simpson Lumber (which still owns its original two units), Nimishillen & Tuscarawas Railway, BNSF Railway, Lancaster & Chester, St. Maries River Railroad, Eastside Freight Rail, Port Jersey Railroad, United States Steel, ArcelorMittal, Patriot Renewable Fuels, Crab Orchard & Egyptian, Meridian & Bigbee, Indiana Harbor Belt, Ray-Carroll Co-op, Watco, Cedar Rapids & Iowa City Railway (Crandic), CHS Northwest Grain, Canadian National (through ownership of the Elgin, Joliet & Eastern), DTE Transportation Services, and the Black River & Western. 

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