The EMD NW2 actually began production a few years before the Electro-Motive Corporation (EMC) became an official division of General Motors. At the time of the switcher's construction, then-EMC was fast becoming the industrial leader of diesel locomotive manufacturing having released its popular FT cab model that same year. That particular locomotive would silence steam power in main line service nearly single-handedly. For Electro-Motive, it seemed every model it marketed throughout the 1940's and 1950's proved successful, thanks predominantly to its 567 prime mover. The NW2 would go down as one of EMD's most popular line of small switchers. Overall, more than fifty Class I railroads would purchase more than 1,100 EMD NW2's by the time its ten-year production was concluded in the late 1940s! Today, several of these resilient switchers carry on and can still be seen in industrial applications, small short lines, and tourist lines. Its rugged design is a testament to the engineers and the folks at EMD involved in the model's creation.
Another of EMC's original models was the NW, with the "N" originally referring to nine-hundred horsepower and "W" standing for welded frame. However, by the time the NW2 model was developed its letter designation reference was dropped and simply referred to the model's name, as it could produce 1,000 horsepower using the company's new 12-cylinder, 567A model prime mover. The EMD NW2 featured the same, sloped frame near the cab and was just as short at only 44-feet in length. It came equipped with the standard B-B truck arrangement although now EMC/EMD switchers used GM-produced traction motors (model D37) and not those from General Electric, which could produce 31,000 pounds of continuous tractive effort and 62,500 pounds starting.
For a locomotive that only weighed 124 tons and was just over 44 feet in length, this was quite powerful. Likely due to successful testing with early EMC switcher locomotives like the original NW or SC/SW models, and now with the backing of General Motors, sales for the EMD NW2 quickly took off. Not only were the little switchers ideal for any setting and application (industrial, yard duty, light branch work, etc.) but they were also inexpensive allowing both small and large roads to purchase them. EMD also offered a cow-calf version of the NW2 known as the TR, TR2, and TR3. The first and final models (TR, TR3) sold only to the Illinois Central (3 sets) and Chesapeake & Ohio Railway (2 sets). However, the TR2 was fairly successful selling 36 sets amongst the Belt Railway of Chicago, Milwaukee Road, Burlington, Chicago & North Western, Chicago Great Western, Illinois Central, and Southern. The "B" unit was simply a cabless NW2 offering extra horsepower and tractive effort.
Production on the EMD NW2 began in late winter, 1939 and by the end of its production run in December, 1949 some 1,145 units had been built (including "calf," or B, units) for over fifty Class Is and more than eighty railroads in all! It should be noted that the NW2 was popular with industries as companies like Wheeling Steel, Republic Steel Corporation, and especially the Phelps Dodge Corporation all purchased the locomotive. Additionally, it attracted interest from the U.S. Navy, which purchased five for various applications. Two years after the NW2 was developed EMC and the Winton Engine Company became an official division of General Motors on January 1, 1941.
Today, the versatility and reliability of these small switchers speaks for itself as many NW2s remain in use in all types of applications. Those that are officially preserved include (listed are original railroad and number) AT&SF #2404, Frisco #261, CN #7944, C&O #5208, CB&Q #9227, GTW #7914, GN #5336, LST&T #101, Ma & Pa #81, Milwaukee Road #1649, Katy #1029, Indiana Northern #100, NYO&W #116, Reading #103, Espee #1905 and #1951, TH&B #51, UP #1011/#DS-1000/#DS-1001/#DS-1011, and W&LE #D3. For information about EMC's various switchers please refer to the chart below.Home › Diesel Locomotives › EMD NW2