Great Northern EMD NW3 No. 181 preserved at the Whitefish Amtrak station.

(Sturmovik at English Wikipedia, CC BY-SA 3.0 <>, via Wikimedia Commons)



The EMD NW3 was a 1,000 hp (750 kW) road switcher diesel-electric locomotive built by General Motors Electro-Motive Division of La Grange, Illinois between November 1939 and March 1942. A total of seven were built for the Great Northern Railway, the sole original purchaser; they were originally numbered Nos. 5400-5406 and later renumbered Nos. 175-181.

The locomotive fundamentally consists of an NW2 hood, prime mover (a V12 EMD 567 diesel engine) and main generator on a long frame with road trucks (Blomberg Bs). The extra length was used for a large cab and an additional, full-width hood section, which contained a steam generator for passenger service. The boiler's exhaust was in the front center of the cab, between the front windows and exiting at the middle of the roof front.

The locomotives were delivered in GN's black diesel paint scheme of the time, but were later repainted in the bright, orange and green "Empire Builder" scheme. The short exhaust stacks as delivered were at some point replaced by standard conical EMD switcher stacks.

The first four locomotives were traded in by GN to EMD on new locomotives in 1965. The remaining three locomotives were sold to other railroads: No. 179 was sold to A.E. Staley Co. of Morrisville, Pennsylvania, keeping the same number; then locomotive No. 179 was purchased by Locomotive Trouble Shooters, from Fairless Hills, PA 19030 and the engine was replaced, No. 180 was sold to the Clinchfield Railroad as their No. 361; No. 181 went to Anaconda Aluminum as their No. 100. The Clinchfield locomotive was scrapped; the Anaconda Aluminum unit is on display at the Whitefish, Montana depot in its GN "Empire Builder" colors, locomotive No. 179 was still in service in Morrisville, Pennsylvania until 2019 when it was scrapped.


Clinchfield EMD NW3 361 at Erwin, Tennessee, date and photographer unknown.

(Craig Graver, Public domain,



Type and origin
Power type: Diesel Electric
Builder: Electro-Motive Division
Model: NW3
Build date: November 1939 - March 1942
Total produced: 7
​• AAR B-B
Gauge: 4 ft 8+1⁄2 in (1,435 mm)
Trucks: Blomberg B
Prime mover: EMD 12-567
Engine type: V12 Two-stroke diesel
Aspiration: Roots blower
Cylinders: 12
Locomotive brake: Straight air
Train brakes: Air
Performance figures
Maximum speed: 80 mph (129 km/h)
Power output: 1,000 hp (750 kW)
Operators: Great Northern Railway
Numbers: 5400–5406; later 175–181
Retired: 1965–1968
Disposition: One preserved, remainder scrapped


Anaconda Aluminum EMD NW3 at Columbia Falls, Montana, July 27, 1976. Photographer: Ed Fulcomer.

(Craig Graver, Public domain,