California's Railroad to the U.S. 1861 - 1996

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Model Train Help EBook

Relevant EMD NW\SW History

in relation to Modeling the things.

I'll include bits of info here to help with modeling the SW's, possibly updating this as required, any updates will be noted in the 'What's New' page.


First a bit of background. 'S' originally stood for Six Hundred as in horsepower (as applied to the SW1), and 'N' stood for Nine Hundred, however, this was ignored for later models, and SW\NW simply became designations. The 'C' and 'W' stood for 'Cast' and 'Welded' frame respectively.


I had interpretated them to be what could be referred to as the 'stepwell gusset'. Rob Jacox, who has been researching EMD switchers felt they were something else. After much re-interpretation of the NW2 article in a 1979 Model Railroader, I would tend to agree with Rob; see images below from Rob:

detail image of SW1500 with falsie detail image of SW1500 with no falsie

The cast frame either required or had anyway, and they were a cosmetic thing to make the welded frame look like the cast frame; Rob wrote "they were applied to welded switcher frames up until April 1949, generally with the change from Phase IV (double-taper hood, split louvers) to Phase V (single-taper hood, split louvers)".

Stepwell Gussets:

The shape varies, likely due to the type of trucks fitted, some are larger than others, or from shop forces making repairs? The SP SW1200's all seem to have a straight triangular shape, which is a lot easier to fabricate, especially as you have to make four, if you intend (or need) to replace these.

I replaced the ones on my Athearn SW7 to SP and SSW SW1200 conversions, by cutting out the cast in ones, and making new ones from 40 thou. styrene. The SW 1200 plans from the MR Cyclopedia on page 45, provided me the size to make them, and these seem to match the SP and SSW units I based my models on. I chose 40 thou. as the handrails will mount in these. The angled side of the falsies were thinned down, so as to look like they were made from thin sheet-metal, yet remain substantial enough to hold the handrail

EMD Switcher Hood Styles as related to the NW2's

Drawing of NW2 two step Hood TaperDrawing of NW2 single Hood Taper

The major visual change between the Phase IV and Phase V NW2's was the part of the Hood in front of the cab. Phases I to IV had a two-step taper down to the cab front, Phase V NW2's had but a single taper as in all the later SW type models.


  • Model Railroader December 1979 pages 72-78 - "Build an NW2 in HO Scale" by Andy Sperandeo
  • Extra 2200 South Jul/Aug 1973 - "All about SW's"
  • Our GM Scrapbook by Kalmbach (OOP)
  • MR Cyclopedia page 45 - SW1200 plans

SP NW2 Info Page

SP SW1200 Info Page

SSW SW1200 Info Page

Additional Information on this page contributed by Bruce Conklin and Rob Jacox.

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Sunday, June 03, 2001 9:26:40 PM