Early EMC Switcher Locomotives

Last revised: March 6, 2022

By: Adam Burns

Often forgotten due to their short stint as an independent manufacturer was Electro-Motive Corporation's (EMC) brief catalog of switchers. 

These critters, built in the latter 1930s in four configurations (NC, NW, SC, SW), grew in popularity during their brief production run.

In just four years (1935-1939), EMC sold some 130 examples in either 600 or 900 horsepower with cast or welded frames, to both Class Is and private industries.

Today, EMC's heritage survives as Electro-Motive Diesel, Inc. a division of Progress Rail Locomotives (a Caterpillar company).

While Electro-Motive products have long been recognized for their reliability and longevity, perhaps that was best exemplified in its switchers. 

Incredibly, some SW1s survived on Class Is until the 1990's!  Today, you can still find early variants like the NW2, SW7, SW8, and others at work on short lines or pulling leading tourist trains. 

Chicago & North Western SW1 #1279 is busy at work in Green Bay, Wisconsin adding a diner and a pair of coaches to the "Shoreland '400'" in September 1963. Roger Puta photo.


EMC Switchers History And Background

What is today known as Electro-Motive Diesel has a history dating back to the early 20th century.  EMD began as the Electro-Motive Corporation, a privately owned company based out of Cleveland, Ohio that was founded on August 31, 1922.

During these early years EMC manufactured a successful line of inexpensive motorcars for the railroad industry. 

Recognizing the company may be on to something, General Motors acquired EMC in 1930 and began development on light diesel switchers and testbed main line models.

To provide a power plant for these locomotives, GM acquired the Winton Engine Company on June 20, 1930.

EMC's basic switcher was emulated by all other manufacturers; an end-set cab followed by a short hood with the entire locomotive riding on four axles (B-B trucks).

EMC's first models were the "SC" and "NC": testbeds debuted between February and October, 1935 while production models began rolling out of the company's new LaGrange (McCook), Illinois facility in May, 1936.

The letter designation stood for the following:

  • Six-hundred horsepower with a Cast frame
  • Nine-hundred horsepower with a Cast frame

  • Six-hundred horsepower with a Welded frame

  • Nine-hundred horsepower with a Welded frame

As Brian Solomon notes in his book, "EMD Locomotives," while welded frames were readily available in the mid-1930s, some railroads still preferred cast frames and as such EMC offered the option until 1939.


Monon NW2 #17 is shoving on a boxcar and caboose at what appears to be Hammond, Indiana in September, 1963. Roger Puta photo.

This philosophy can be traced back to the steam era where most new locomotives were built with cast frames. 

Despite the inherent advantages of welding, particularly in the areas of cost and decreased weight, much of the industry remained resistant to change.

As such, some railroads continued requesting cast frames in these early switchers. The original SC and NC variants sported frames of 44 feet, 4 5/8 inches and powered by Winton's 201-A prime mover.   

This basic configuration became standard for all future Electro-Motive switchers through the SW1200, a model that remained in production until 1966.


SC Data Sheet (Pre-Production)

Entered Production2/1935 (Delaware, Lackawanna & Western #425)
Years Produced2/1935 - 3/1935
EMC ClassSC
Engine201-A (8 Cylinder)
Engine BuilderWinton
Horsepower600
RPM750
Length44' 5"
Height (Top Of Rail To Top Of Cab)14' 4 5/8"
Width10' 0"
Weight180,000 Lbs
Fuel Capacity600 Gallons
Air Compressor3C2C (Westinghouse)
Air Brake Schedule6-BL (Westinghouse)
TrucksB-B
Truck TypeRigid Bolster, Drop-Side Equalizer (Pre-AAR)
Truck Wheelbase8' 0"
Wheel Size40"
Traction Motors287E (4), GE
Traction Generator480, Westinghouse
Auxiliary GeneratorGeneral Electric
MU (Multiple-Unit)No
Dynamic BrakesNo
Gear Ratio68:15
Tractive Effort/Starting50,000 Lbs
Tractive Effort/Continuous43,000 Lbs at 11.0 mph
Top Speed50 mph

SC Data Sheet (Production)

Entered Production5/1936 (Santa Fe #2301)
Years Produced5/1936 - 1/1939
EMC ClassSC
Engine201-A (8 Cylinder)
Engine BuilderWinton
Horsepower600
RPM750
Length44' 5"
Height (Top Of Rail To Top Of Cab)14' 4 5/8"
Width10' 0"
Weight180,000 Lbs
Fuel Capacity600 Gallons
Air Compressor3C2C (Westinghouse)
Air Brake Schedule6-BL (Westinghouse)
TrucksB-B
Truck TypeGRS Rigid Bolster, Drop-Side Equalizer (AAR Type-A)
Truck Wheelbase8' 0"
Wheel Size40"
Traction Motors287E (4), GE
Traction Generator480, Westinghouse
Auxiliary GeneratorGeneral Electric
MU (Multiple-Unit)No
Dynamic BrakesNo
Gear Ratio68:15
Tractive Effort/Starting50,000 Lbs
Tractive Effort/Continuous34,000 Lbs at 11.0 mph
Top Speed50 mph

SW Data Sheet

Entered Production12/1936 (Elgin Joliet & Eastern #204)
Years Produced12/1936 - 1/1939
EMC ClassSW
Engine201-A (8 Cylinder)
Engine BuilderWinton
Horsepower600
RPM750
Length44' 5"
Height (Top Of Rail To Top Of Cab)14' 4 5/8"
Width10' 0"
Weight180,000 Lbs
Fuel Capacity600 Gallons
Air Compressor3C2C (Westinghouse)
Air Brake Schedule6-BL (Westinghouse)
TrucksB-B
Truck TypeGRS Rigid Bolster, Drop-Side Equalizer (AAR Type-A)
Truck Wheelbase8' 0"
Wheel Size40"
Traction Motors287E (4), GE
Traction Generator480, Westinghouse
Auxiliary GeneratorGeneral Electric
MU (Multiple-Unit)No
Dynamic BrakesNo
Gear Ratio68:15
Tractive Effort/Starting50,000 Lbs
Tractive Effort/Continuous34,000 Lbs at 11.0 mph
Top Speed50 mph

NC/1/2 Data Sheet

Entered Production10/1935 (Philadelphia, Bethlehem & New England #55)
Years Produced10/1935-9/1937
EMC ClassNC/1/2
Engine201-A (12 Cylinder)
Engine BuilderWinton
Horsepower900
RPM750
Length44' 5"
Height (Top Of Rail To Top Of Cab)14' 4 5/8"
Width10' 0"
Weight198,000 Lbs
Fuel Capacity600 Gallons
Air Compressor3C2C (Westinghouse)
Air Brake Schedule14EL (Westinghouse)
TrucksB-B
Truck TypeGRS Rigid Bolster, Drop-Side Equalizer (AAR Type-A)
Truck Wheelbase8' 0"
Wheel Size40"
Traction Motors726C (4), GE
Traction Generator542, Westinghouse
Auxiliary GeneratorGeneral Electric
MU (Multiple-Unit)NC: No, NC1/2: Yes
Dynamic BrakesNo
Gear Ratio68:15
Tractive Effort/Starting60,000 Lbs
Tractive Effort/Continuous43,000 Lbs at 11.0 mph
Top Speed50 mph

Philadelphia, Bethlehem & New England #55 was an early experimental NC unit and the only one of its type constructed.  The switcher was completed at Pullman's plant in Chicago.

There were few differences between the NC1 and NC2 variants, largely in the area of wiring in addition to MU capability.

NW/1/1A Data Sheet

Entered Production9/1937 (Santa Fe #2350-2352)
Years Produced9/1937-1/1939
EMC ClassNW/1/1A
Engine201-A (12 Cylinder)
Engine BuilderWinton
Horsepower900
RPM750
Length44' 5"
Height (Top Of Rail To Top Of Cab)14' 4 5/8"
Width10' 0"
Weight198,000 Lbs
Fuel Capacity600 Gallons
Air Compressor3C2C (Westinghouse)
Air Brake Schedule14EL (Westinghouse)
TrucksB-B
Truck TypeGRS Rigid Bolster, Drop-Side Equalizer (AAR Type-A)
Truck Wheelbase8' 0"
Wheel Size40"
Traction Motors (NW)362 (4), Westinghouse
Traction Motors (NW1)287D (4), GE
Traction Motors (NW1A)D37 (4), GM/EMC
Traction Generator (NW)480, Westinghouse
Traction Generator (NW1/A)General Electric
Auxiliary GeneratorGeneral Electric
MU (Multiple-Unit)No
Dynamic BrakesNo
Gear Ratio68:15
Tractive Effort/Starting60,000 Lbs
Tractive Effort/Continuous43,000 Lbs at 11.0 mph
Top Speed50 mph


SC Production Roster (Pre-Production): Total Built = 2

Owner Road Number Serial Number Order Number Completion Date Quantity
Delaware, Lackawanna & Western425516E1242/19351
Delaware, Lackawanna & Western426517E1243/19351

Both units were sold to Patapsco & Back Rivers Railroad as #106 and #109.  They were subsequently reengined by P&BR shop forces with an 8-cylinder, 600 horsepower 567B in 1962.  #109 later became Bethlehem Mines #109.

SC Production Roster (Total Built = 43)

Owner Road Number Serial Number Order Number Completion Date Quantity
Atchison, Topeka & Santa Fe2301601E1365/19361
Inland Steel Company40602E1406/19361
Inland Steel Company42603E1506/19361
Chicago River & Indiana (New York Central)567-573604-610E1397/19367
Boston & Maine1103-1105611-613E1418/19363
Chicago Great Western5-7614-616E1428/19363
South Buffalo Railway51-52617-618E14911/19362
River Terminal50619E1478/19361
Canton Railroad20620E1561/19371
Philadelphia, Bethlehem & New England (Bethlehem Steel)204-205632-633E15412/1936-1/19372
Patapsco & Back Rivers Railroad51-53634-636E1551/19373
Minneapolis & St. LouisD-438637E1994/19381
Inland Steel44638E1612/19371
Atchison, Topeka & Santa Fe2151-2153639-641E1727/19373
Missouri Pacific9000-9003710-713E1647/19374
Grand Trunk Western7800-7801756-757E1964/19382
Boston & Maine1106-1108758-760E2047/19383
Central Railroad Of New Jersey1005-1008761-764E2281/19394

SW Production Roster (Total Built = 73)

Owner Road Number Serial Number Order Number Completion Date Quantity
Elgin, Joliet & Eastern204627E1531/19371
Elgin, Joliet & Eastern200628E15312/19361
Reading10629E19211/19371
River Terminal51630E1592/19371
Chicago & Eastern Illinois100631E1931/19381
Elgin, Joliet & Eastern205652E1531/19371
Baltimore & Ohio2653E15212/19361
Philadelphia, Bethlehem & New England (Bethlehem Steel)206654E1541/19371
Chicago & North Western1201655E2331/19391
Chicago & Eastern Illinois101656E1931/19381
Elgin, Joliet & Eastern203657E15312/19361
Inland Steel43658E1612/19371
Elgin, Joliet & Eastern201659E15312/19361
Rock Island511660E1943/19381
Elgin, Joliet & Eastern202661E15312/19361
Rock Island512-513664-665E1943/19382
Great Lakes Steel6-7670-671E1674/1937-5/19372
Rock Island500-502672-674E1685/19373
Chicago, Burlington & Quincy9130675E1845/19371
Rock Island504-506676-678E1685/1937-6/19373
Buffalo Creek Railroad40679E2311/19391
Pennsylvania3908680E1706/19371
Steelton & Highspire Railroad32681E1758/19371
Chicago, Burlington & Quincy9133-9134, 9132682-684E18410/19373
Rock Island503, 507-509685-688E1686/19374
Inland Steel45-46689-690E1697/19372
Rock Island510691E1768/19371
Elgin, Joliet & Eastern206-208692-694E1779/19373
Lehigh Valley106-107695-696E1798/19372
Chicago, Burlington & Quincy9135697E18410/19371
Patapsco & Back Rivers Railroad61-62698-699E1748/19372
Chicago, Burlington & Quincy9131700E18410/19371
Reading11-15701-705E19211/19375
Rock Island514-517706-709E1943/19383
Rock Island518716E1943/19381
Rock Island520717E2057/19381
Union Terminal Of St. Joseph5718E2097/19381
Rock Island521-526719-724E2057/19386
Rock Island527-528733-734E2057/19382
Rock Island519747E2057/19381
Lehigh Valley108748E2077/19381
Minneapolis & St. LouisD-838749E2139/19381
Buffalo Creek Railroad41750E2311/19391
Union Terminal Of St. Joseph10751E22412/19381
Lehigh Valley109-110752-753E21511/19382
Lehigh Valley111754E22312/19381

NC/1/2 Production Roster (Total Built = 12)

Owner Road Number Serial Number Order Number Completion Date Quantity
Great Northern5101647E1861/19381
Philadelphia, Bethlehem & New England (Bethlehem Steel)208-209648-649E1717/19372
Youngstown & Northern201-202650-651E1665/19372
Birmingham Southern71-75 (NC1)642-646E1483/19375
Missouri Pacific4100-4101 (NC2)714-715E1657/19372

NW Production Roster (Total Built = 8)

Owner Road Number Serial Number Order Number Completion Date Quantity
Atchison, Topeka & Santa Fe2350-2352725-727E1739/19373
Philadelphia, Bethlehem & New England (Bethlehem Steel)210-211728-729E1719/19372
Kansas City Terminal60-61730-731E22112/19382
Northern Pacific100732E22212/19381

NW1 Production Roster (Total Built = 27)

Owner Road Number Serial Number Order Number Completion Date Quantity
Elgin, Joliet & Eastern400-401771-772E17811/19372
Lehigh Valley120-121773-774E18012/19372
Chicago, Burlington & Quincy9200-9201775-776E18511/1937-12/19372
Great Northern5102777E1871/19381
Rock Island700778E1953/19381
Chicago & North Western901779E2341/19391
Rock Island701780E1953/19381
Lehigh Valley126-127781-782E1985/19382
Lehigh Valley124-125783-784E1975/19382
Lehigh Valley122-123785-786E1804/19382
Lehigh Valley128787E2087/19381
Minneapolis & St. LouisE-538788E2036/19381
Rock Island703-704789-790E2067/19382
Rock Island705-707825-827E2068/19383
Rock Island702828E2068/19381
Minneapolis & St. LouisE-738829E2108/19381
Lehigh Valley129-130830-831E2118/1938-9/19382

NW1A Production Roster (Total Built = 3)

Owner Road Number Serial Number Order Number Completion Date Quantity
Wisconsin Central (Soo Line)2100-2102841-843E22712/19383

Sources:

  • Foster, Gerald. A Field Guide To Trains. New York: Houghton Mifflin, 1996.

  • Hayden, Bob. Diesel Locomotives: Cyclopedia, Volume 2 (Model Railroader). Milwaukee: Kalmbach Publishing Company, 1980.

  • Marre, Louis A. Diesel Locomotives: The First 50 Years, A Guide To Diesels Built Before 1972.  Milwaukee: Kalmbach Publishing Company, 1995.
  • Pinkepank, Jerry A. Diesel Spotter's Guide.  Milwaukee: Kalmbach Publishing Company, 1967.

  • Solomon, Brian.  EMD Locomotives.  Minneapolis: MBI Publishing Company, 2006.


Baltimore & Ohio Chicago Terminal SW1 #8416 goes about its business with a cut of cars in East Chicago, Indiana during January, 1965. Roger Puta photo.

As Gerald Foster notes in his book, "A Field Guide To Trains," Electro-Motive would drop the "NW" line entirely in 1949 with all future models manufactured as the "SW" series.

The meaning of S was subsequently changed and instead of referring to a horsepower rating now signified the locomotive as a Switcher.

Nearly all of EMC's early switchers featured electrical components (such as traction motors) outsourced from either General Electric or Westinghouse.

However, General Motors was sinking serious resources into its own line of such components and the final NW's (NW1A) built in late 1938 for Wisconsin Central/Soo Line boasted the company's all new D37 traction motor.

In addition, the following SW1 and NW2 not only featured all GM-produced electrical equipment but also the builder's original 567 and 567A prime mover, a power plant that took the industry by storm.

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