EMD "SW1500" Locomotives

Last revised: March 6, 2022

By: Adam Burns

The SW1500 was constructed directly after the SW1200 and was the builder's second model to employ its upgraded model 645 prime mover.

As with the SW1000 (which was the first to use the 645 engine), the SW1500 featured a bulkier carbody and was a bit heavier from earlier models although its intended use remained the same, working light branch lines or in industrial settings.

With the horsepower rating, weight, and top speed the switcher was essentially a road switcher (it offered nearly the same ratings as the GP7 released a decade earlier).

Once again railroads found the SW1500 to their liking and many Class Is purchased the model, very likely due to its extra horsepower allowing it to be used in numerous applications. 

Today, SW1500's remain quite common doing the tasks to which they were originally intended for on large and small railroads around the country.

Additionally, there are none known to yet be preserved although this will certainly change as some units are retired in the future (whenever that may be).

A pair of Penn Central SW1500s on a caboose hop head back to Frontier Yard in Buffalo, New York on July 5, 1976. Doug Kroll photo.

The EMD SW1500 began production in July, 1966, succeeding its predecessor model the SW1200. Using EMD's 12-cylinder, 645E model prime mover the SW1500 was the most powerful of the SW line producing 1,500 horsepower.

It weighed slightly more than most SW models at 124 tons and using EMD's model D77 traction motors could produce 38,000 pounds of continuous tractive effort (62,000 pounds starting), a bit more than most other switchers in the line.

The Electro-Motive Division had originally intended the SW1500 to feature standard AAR switcher trucks. However, many railroads requested their orders include Flexicoil trucks to allow for faster operating speeds (thus making them more useful in regular freight service). 

Union Pacific SW1500 #1227 at Roseville, California; August 4, 2001. Bryan Copple photo. American-Rails.com collection.

Once again a more powerful switcher was to railroads' liking and the EMD SW1500 sold quite well. Between June, 1966 and January, 1974 EMD produced more than 800 SW1500s, and as usual railroads large and small purchased the switcher along with many industrial operations.

The SW1500 continued to carry the classic carbody style that defined the SW series with a short frame of just over 44-feet with a tapering of the hood near the cab and two conical exhaust stacks.

As with the SW1000 the SW1500 featured less beveling and a wider, boxier cab that no longer included such an arched roof. From a visual standpoint the switcher just looked "beefier" than predecessor designs.  

It should be noted that an additional 60 SW1504s were built for Mexican railroad Ferrocarriles Nacionales de México in 1973.

The only difference with the variant was that it came equipped with Blomberg trucks instead of Flexicoil trucks, which were standard on the SW1500.

Overall, it is rather fascinating that there was so much interest in the SW1500 by railroads and industries.

By the late 1960s with the introduction of new second-generation road switchers that were more efficient and more powerful than the first-generation designs many railroads simply found that using the latter units in secondary services (such as branch line and yard duties) was just as practical as spending money on brand new switcher models used for the same service. 

EMD SW1500 Production Roster

Owner Road Number(s) Quantity Date Built
Alcoa Terminal Railroad911970
Alton & Southern Railway1500-1517181969-1971
Angelina & Neches River Railroad150011972
Apalachicola Northern Railway712-71981969-1970
Armco Steel Corporation701-70551972-1973
Ashley, Drew & Northern Railway15011970
Belt Railway Of Chicago530-53231967-1968
Burlington Northern310-324151973
Cambria & Indiana Railroad15-1621968
Chattahoochee Valley Railway10111966
Chicago Short Line Railway30-3121968-1971
Electro-Motive (Demo)106-11491966-1971
Essex Terminal Railway10711971
Georgia Power Company1402, 140521971-1973
Houston Belt & Terminal Railway50-5231969
Illinois Terminal1509-151571970
Indiana Harbor Belt9200-9227281966-1970
Indianapolis Union Railway22-26, 29-3291966-1972
Inland Steel Company119-12571968-1973
Georgia Power Company1401, 1503-150431969-1971
Georgetown Railroad101011971
Great Northern200-209101967
Houston Belt & Terminal Railway53-5531971
Howe Coal Company1-221970
Kansas City Southern1500-1541421966-1972
Kentucky & Indiana Temrinal Railway67-68, 70-83161966-1974
Lake Erie, Franklin & Clarion Railroad23-2421971-1972
Longview, Portland & Northern Railway13011969
Louisville & Nashville5000-5029301970-1972
Minneapolis, Northfield & Southern36-3721966
Minnesota Transfer Railway300-30671967-1970
Minntac Division, U.S. Steel949-95461972
Mississippi Export Railroad6411973
Missouri Pacific1518-152141972
Missouri-Kansas-Texas Railroad (Katy)50-5561967-1968
New Orleans Public Belt Railroad151-15331971
Patapsco & Back Rivers Railroad160-16121969
Penn Central9500-9583841971-1973
Pittsburgh & Lake Erie1534-1563, 9280-9289401971-1973
Richmond, Fredericksburg & Potomac1-8, 9191966-1967
Rock Island940-949101966
Roscoe, Snyder & Pacific Railway500, 60021969-1970
Sandersville Railroad100, 30021967-1970
Southern Pacific2450-2480, 2493-2510, 2523-2578, 2591-26892141967-1973
Southern Railway2300-2347481968-1970
St. Louis San Francisco Railway (Frisco)315-360461968-1973
St. Louis Southwestern Railway (Cotton Belt/SP)2481-2492, 2511-2522, 2579-2590361968- 1971
St. Marys Railroad50311971
Tennessee Copper Company10811970
Tennesse Eastman Company111973
Terminal Railroad Association Of St. Louis (TRRA)1501-1517171967-1972
Terminal Railway Alabama State Docks681-68221968
Toledo, Peoria & Western303-30641968-1970
U.S. Pipe & Foundry Company51-5441972
Union Railroad1-991972-1973
Vermont Railway50111966
W.R. Grace & Company101-10221968-1969
Western Pacific1501-150331973
Weyerhaeuser Timber Company306-30721968-1972
Winifrede Railroad1311967

Conrail SW1500's #9556 and #9574, along with GP9u #7592, have just cutoff from train YBFY10 at Fort Erie, Ontario on July 25, 1987. The consist had originated across the Niagara River at Frontier Yard in Buffalo, New York. Doug Kroll photo.

Major railroads at the time like the Penn Central, Southern, SP, Frisco, Burlington Northern, and others all purchased the SW1500.

However, several smaller lines did as well along with industries such as Weyerhaeuser Timber, U.S. Pipe and Foundry, Tennessee Eastman Corporation, U.S. Steel, Inland Steel, Howe Coal, W.R. Grace Chemical, and Armco Steel.

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