EMD "SW1000" Locomotives

Last Revised: December 21, 2021

By: Adam Burns

The EMD SW1000 was the first model the builder produced originally designed to use its new model 645 prime mover. Built during the mid-1960s it was essentially a second-generation unit.

The model featured classic SW series styling (although slight changes were made to the overall carbody) and size with reasonable power.

Unfortunately, EMD found it tough to sell the SW1000, as many found the more powerful SW1500 (built during the same time as SW1000) more to their liking (additionally, sales for switchers began to decline in the 1960s as lines found that their older first generation units could be reassigned to secondary and yard duty).

Interestingly, despite only a little more than 100 SW1000s built several remain in operation on short lines and in industrial services.  

You can even find them in continued service on Class I's, such as BNSF Railway.  As a result, of the more than 100 examples built between 1966 and 1972, there are none known yet to be preserved at either a museum or in operation with a tourist line.  This will likely change, however, in the future as units are retired and replaced.

Burlington Northern as the largest buyer of SW1000's, acquiring 43 in the early 1970's. Here, #386 is carrying out switching chores at Vancouver, Washington on May 23, 1984. Doug Kroll photo.

The SW1000 began production in the summer of 1966 offering a new prime mover and slightly updated carbody.

The builder stuck with the typical overall length found in other SW models at just over 44-feet (although the locomotive was about four inches longer than previous designs).

However, while the taper near the cab remained, the hood featured harder lines with less beveling and a wider, boxier cab that no longer included an arched roof. The design also went back to a single, conical stack, as had been used on the earlier SW8 model.

The SW1000 featured EMD's new model 645 prime mover (the 645E) that was an eight-cylinder engine cable of producing 1,000 horsepower.

Once again EMD kept the model light at 115 tons and using General Motors' new model D77 traction motors the unit could produce a respectable continuous tractive effort of 36,000 pounds continuous and 57,500 pounds starting (the same as the SW900). 

Of note, 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.

This dated back to the days of the Electro-Motive Corporation, which had debuted the switcher series in the latter half of the 1930s.

Sales for the EMD SW1000 never came around and while it had a relatively long production period, by the time the last unit rolled out of LaGrange, Illinois in October, 1972 just 114 had been built with another 5 constructed for foreign companies.

Surprisingly, despite the unit's poor sales performance its reliability and versatility had not diminished as you can still find the SW1000 operating in numerous settings all across the country.

Interestingly, the company's Ontario plant, General Motors Diesel, did not take any orders for the SW1000. However, five units were sold to foreign companies in Jamaica and Mexico.

Two years after the release of the SW1000, EMD cataloged the SW1001, which remained in production for nearly twenty years. This model was a bit more successful but nothing all that spectacular (especially for their standards of the time).

The final model that proved truly successful for the company was the aforementioned SW1500, which sold nearly 1,000 examples.

Additionally, EMD found quite a bit of interest with its MP15 series, the final switcher model it has ever cataloged do date, which ended production in 1987.

EMD SW1000 Production Roster

Owner Road Number(s) Quantity Date Built
Appalachian Power Company111969
Armco Steel CorporationB8111966
Birmingham Southern Railroad10-1781967-1971
Burlington Northern375-394, 427-449431970-1972
Central Foundry Division, General MotorsNo Number11972
Corn Products Corporation68-6921966-1969
Cuyahoga Valley Railway105011966
Denver & Rio Grande Western140-149101966-1968
Detroit Edison Company21611967
Duluth & Northeastern Railroad3511967
E. I. du Pont de Nemours & Company106-10721966-1967
Eastman Kodak Company811968
Great Lakes Steel Corporation5811971
Hampton & Branchville Railroad12011967
Houston Belt & Terminal Railway40-4231968
Inland Steel Company115-11841966-1967
Jones & Laughlin Steel Corporation102-10321967-1969
Mobile Chemical Corporation211966
New Orleans Public Belt Railroad101-10661971
Public Service Company Of Indiana111969
Wisconsin Electric Power CompanyNo Number11968
Youngstown Sheet & Tube Company905-914101967-1969

Another scene along the Birmingham Southern finds SW1000's #213 and #210 head westbound from Ensley Yard, on their way to Fairfield, Alabama on March 1, 2012. Doug Kroll photo.

In any event, aside from the fleet still operated by BNSF Railway, today you can find SW1000s in operation with Terrace Bay Pulp, Cloquet Terminal Railroad, National Railway Equipment, GATX Locomotive Group, Webb Asset Management, Coors Brewery, Tennessee Valley Authority, Railserve, Inc., East Tennessee Railway, United States Steel, Algoma Steel.

So, as you can see, there are several units still out there to see in operation and given the longevity of all of EMD's switchers many SW1000s will likely remain in service for decades to come.

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